I arrived on Maïdan square at the end of January, just after the violent clashes on Grushevsky Street, a few hundreds meters from the square. A ceasefire had just begun, the tension was decreasing. During the political negotiations, with temperatures reaching -20°C, the protesters were holding their barricades and life was being reorganized.
From my hostel, on the seventh floor of a building overlooking the square, I could hear in the evening the speeches given on the main stage and every hour, the Ukrainian hymn blasting out of the speakers.
That’s where I met those of the 5th Sotnia, a self-defense group of volunteers from all kinds of backgrounds. A generous and just as mysterious donor had paid them nights in the dorms of the hostel. They had been there for about a week.
First I spoke to Maryna, over coffee, then she introduced me to Mykola, an IT teacher, Igor, a young lawyer and assistant to the Sotnik (section chief), Vitali, the funny one, Sasha, from Belarus, who had spent 10 years in prison, and all the others…
Their barricade was a small one, at the corner of the music conservatory, there wasn’t much going on there. In their big shared military tent, they were killing time the best way they could, waiting for an impossible resolution to the crisis. They told me « We’ll stay there until the end, until we win the revolution, we have no other choice. » And they waited in the biting cold.
February – On the 18th, the self defense groups’ march on the parliament turns to bloody clashes with the police. The government forces take back a lot of ground : Grushevsky and Institutska Streets and even a part of Maidan Square. From Paris, I follow the news on the live streams. Is it the end of Maïdan? What’s happening to those of the 5th Sotnia?
I’m on Maidan again the following day. The hostel’s owner has forbidden them to come back, there are security issues. I spend the evening with lights off and many rumors : are there snipers on all the roofs around the square? Impossible to verify.
After another night of waiting for the police to strike, on the morning of the 20th, the protesters charge the government forces.
In the surrounding chaos, while the protesters fall under the sniper bullets, I try to find again those of the 5th Sotnia.