Kiev, Ukraine’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti is visually intimidating yet conversely welcoming for a city center that resembles a war zone. Translated into Independence Square, locals simply refer to it as Maidan, a word that has grown to carry with it deep connotations in Ukraine. This is where on November 21, 2013, a wave of revolutionary demonstrations were sparked by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to back out of signing Association and Free Trade Agreements with the European Union.
Core elements of the Association Agreement were signed by the new Ukrainian government earlier this month, less than 4 weeks after “Euromaidan” protestors ousted Yanukovych but for those camped out in Maidan, there is still a long way to go.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about Independence Square is that it is dangerous to walk around.
Maidan is the downtown area of Kiev and people still visit the shops around with coffees from McDonald’s in their hands.
Other elements of the square have their own capitalist interests.
That is not to say there aren’t millions of reminders of the struggle waged and lives lost.
Most of the people I spoke with camped out in Maidan say they will wait until the upcoming presidential elections on May 25, 2014.
Passersby look at the remains of an armored police vehicle destroy during the riots. The asphalt still smelled of gas, which continues to slowly leak out of rusted fuel tanks.
Free soup and bread are available throughout the day, something many of the local poor have come to rely on.
A piano that has been in Maidan since the early days of the revolution, which musicians played during the worst of the fighting.
I was fortunate to capture this talented artist one afternoon. In the video right, people relive tension with the tick tap of ping pong balls on saturated wood.
Flowers in front of a makeshift memorial.
Archangel Mikhail, Kiev’s patron saint, looks over Independence Square.
From somber to festive, the mood here varies.
I was surprised at how large Maidan Nezalezhnosti actually is, about one square kilometer.
The Kiev City Hall has become the de facto headquarters for the Euromaidan demonstrators.
Inside Kiev’s City Hall.
Prayers play outside, several times a day to larger weekend crowds.
Uncertainty is the predominant feeling uniting and flowing out of Independence Square.
Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group numbering close to 245,000 in Crimea, protests its annexation by Russia.
On the left comparisons, on the right, foggy commemorations.
In front of tires, you see people leaving flowers, often with tears in their eyes.
Now, as the waiting game drags on, the movement shifts to the left, center, and increasingly far-right. For now, people wait…
…into the nights.
Flowers are laid by people in Maidan almost constantly throughout the morning and afternoon hours.
A tunnel of tires outline the recent front lines of Maidan.
A Few Of The Pictures I’ve Posted On My Instagram Feed
A service I’m using more often these days where I hope to find you as well.
Everyone in Maidan seems to be snapping a photo.
As you leave Maidan back into the rest of Kiev, life is strangely normal. There is almost no indication to be seen that just a few blocks away, cobblestones, flowers, and garbage form a defensive barrier for a movement which hasn’t ended. Over 100 demonstrators plus 16 police officers have been killed since the begining of Euromaidan in a situation that reminds me of traveling before and behind the protests in Bahrain.
I’ll have a lot more to write about Maidan, eastern Ukraine, and traveling in the country in the coming weeks but for some more insight, you can check out a recap of my live chat answering your questions on traveling in Kiev as Euromaidan continues.