My mother-in-law called us on Wednesday and told us that she was not getting any news and didn’t know what was going on here in Kiev. (At that time, the news stations couldn’t field enough reporters to cover the news. They were on strike in protest of having to report the party line.) She said that she was going to come here so she could see for herself what was happening.
My mother-in-law lives in a small village about 80 miles from Kiev. The main industry is agriculture though that agriculture is mostly for themselves and for what they can sell in the open air markets of the larger towns in the area. If they need any more money, the men usually go work construction in the larger cities, mostly Kiev. Since they usually need more money than they can get from selling produce in the markets, this means that the men are often gone quite a bit.
Life is hard there. There is no mechanization so any work needing to be done to prepare the soil for planting in the spring or for the harvesting that needs to be done at the end of summer, must be done by hand. Most hand wash clothes with water drawn from a well heated on the stove. There is no indoor plumbing. (When they do think about having indoor plumbing it is mostly to be able to take a bath. Other reasons are further down on the list.) This means that there is always a lot of work to do every day in the village.
My mother-in-law is no exception to this rule. She has work she must do every single day in the village simply to live. But she called up and said she was going to come and get the information for herself. And she came.
I went along with her and my brother-in-law down to the square on Thursday evening. (We had to take the subway because driving and parking downtown has become a bigger nightmare than it usually is.) From the place where the subway car stops to the surface we needed to ride a long escalator. So we rode it.
While riding up, there were some men riding down chanting “YU-SCHEN-KO! YU-SCHEN-KO!” So my mother-in-law joined in in her higher pitched voice, “YU-SCHEN-KO! YU-SCHEN-KO!” From that she went to “Nas bahatu; ta nas ne peremozhesh” rhythmically. It means “We are many; you can’t defeat us!” I am not sure where that came from. I don’t think anyone was chanting it when we rode up but others knew it and started in too. “Nas bahatu; ta nas ne peremozhesh!” (Maybe it’s in the genes?) When we got to the top, there we people in small groups talking to each other and not chanting. My mother-in-law thought this was not right so she walked over to them and started them up, “Nas bahatu; ta nas ne peremozhesh!,” chopping her hand in rhythm.
We walked out onto the square. Actually, we squeezed our way out onto the square from the subway exit. This put us right in front of the stage. She seemed to be in her element then and was getting an idea what was going on at last. I was there for a few minutes but then left to go see what was happening in other areas of the square and to see the tent city they had set up further down the block. When I left her, she was grinning ear to ear.
Yesterday, we got word that she had been with the protestors at the Presidential Administration Building. They were there again as part of the numbers of people who are making their presence felt around government buildings in the downtown area. We were told that she went up to the guards in front of the entrance, guards in full riot gear, masks and shield, in ranks twenty deep. She went up to one and said, “I am a babushka [translated roughly as “grandmother” but used for every older woman grandmother age] from the village. I came here to find out how you are. Are you fine? Are you hungry? Maybe your parents are somewhere worrying about you?
“Babushka has come from the village with some warm socks for you. Maybe your feet are cold and you need some socks?” She talked to this fellow in this way and won him over. He lowered his shield to expose his face and he was grinning at her while she spoke to him.
Today, she was supposed to come over and see us. She likes to do this especially since she has a new grandson she dotes on. But today she can’t be bothered with that sort of thing. She is part of the revolution. Getting out of bed this morning, she went to the store, bought bread and sausage and is on her way down to make sure that the protestors are fed and taken care of.
Before she left, she called her husband in the village. She had been planning on going back home and letting him come to take part but, when she called, she told him “There is nothing for you to do here. There are enough men here already. A woman’s touch is what is needed here to help take care of the people down at the square. So I will stay here. You don’t need to come.” (This is terribly un-PC but that is the way she is and the way of life is in the village.)
My mother-in-law is caught up in the revolution.
And there are large numbers of other babushkas down there on the square. She is not the only one. And they are chanting and cooking, serving food and distributing clothing, making sure that the people down there are taken care of.
Contrast this with the pictures of Yanukovych’s supporters near the train station downtown. There are probably ten thousand of them and they are men; there are no women there to speak of. These men sleep in heated train cars at night, cars provided for them by Yanukovych and his group. (These are government cars, mind you. The trains are owned by the government, government assets.) They get two meals a day prepared for them by other people from other places. And they have access to vodka to round out the accommodations. When they need clothes, people from other places come in and randomly pass out packages of new clothes to them. No care, no warmth and no fellow feeling for these people.
On one day this past week, some of them didn’t get one of their two statutory meals, so they decided they would go down to Independence Square to eat. They walked the three miles or so to downtown and got served by these caring little babushkas. They were made to feel welcome. This is the spirit that has infused this particular revolution.
My mother-in-law is down there right now doing the work of the revolution. She is a revolutionary. But her case may be multiplied many times over by others who feel the same thing and are lead to do something about it. They are down there right now with her at Independence Square.
UPDATE: The chant is "nas bahatu i nas ne podilaty" not what I posted here (though what I posted means the same thing.) I was trying to reconstruct it with my wife since I do not speak Ukrainian and she was not there.