Medical staff attend to Euromaidan protestors warming up by a fire near the barricades.
I hardly expected to be looking forward to seeing John McCain anywhere, much less in Kyiv, Ukraine. Yet here I was last Sunday morning, layering fleece under my jacket and preparing to head down to Euromaidan to hear Senator McCain and his colleague, Senator Chris Murphy, address the protestors gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
"Hear" is the correct verb to choose, as I could barely see the stage, let alone the Senators. With crowd estimates at 200,000 people, I couldn't even get out of the first subway exit I tried. Fortunately, the organization of Euromaidan meant that the crowd wasn't a problem -- the stage's speakers were loud enough that anything said there could be heard across the square, and a jumbotron ensured that my view did not consist entirely of the shoulders of the people in front of me. In fact, the incredible organization of the protests was what struck me the most, even more than hearing a U.S. Senator quote Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.
I had been down to Euromaidan once before, but that trip was an accident, after sunset and during a snowstorm, so perhaps I can be excused for missing the intricate organizational structures behind the barricades. The barricades themselves, of course, have been rebuilt after the police raids on Euromaidan last week, and are now quite tall and formidable.
Protestors have erected a veritable mini-city behind these walls. Groups of demonstrators sat around fires in metal drums, warming up from the cold. Medical personnel, clearly marked with red crosses, attended to them and handed out basic supplies where necessary. Volunteers prepared hot meals at food stations, which protestors queued at in a more orderly fashion than I've seen anywhere else in Kyiv. Some volunteers even walked around Maidan with trays full of hot food and drinks, offering them to passing demonstrators; they wore medical masks to avoid contaminating the food. Other protestors improved on the ubiquitous tents by building wooden shelters, complete with doors. Someone had even set up wi-fi and charging stations.
The massive organizational effort at Maidan dedicated to not just organizing, but feeding and looking after hundreds of thousands of protestors drove home to me, more than any statement by a Ukrainian politician or pop star could, how committed the Ukrainian people are to becoming part of Europe. This sort of mobilization takes unfathomable planning, structure and dedication. There is no way for President Yanukovych and his regime to stand against that kind of willpower and determination. Euromaidan may or may not produce results in the short term -- the political situation is too confused to tell. But the convictions of these Ukrainians are deeply felt, and if not responded to now, will be remembered during the 2015 presidential elections.