Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



“They Can Shoot Any Second”

Aharon Granot, Kiev

The temperature is way below zero in Kiev’s Independence Square, but that hasn’t stopped half a million people from pitching tents in their months-long, often violent anti-government vigil. While Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s guns were aimed at the crowds protected by tires and sandbags, Mishpacha’s Aharon Granot camped out with the opposition and saw who really loves and hates the Jews.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The forces are pitted against each other on Groshevskugo Street in downtown Kiev, where the president’s residence, the parliament, and other Ukrainian government institutions are concentrated. Outside, frigid temperatures of minus 20 are gripping the country. On the snow-covered hills above us, the Berkut — the special defense forces of the Ukrainian government — stand with their weapons drawn, prepared to descend upon the protesters with the full weight of their wrath.

The protesters of the opposition, protected by helmets and protective vests, say they have no live ammunition, but the clubs and shields that they “borrowed” from the police can wield a mighty blow. Up to now, the police claim they haven’t used live ammunition against the demonstrators either, although in circumstances that have yet to be clarified, several people were killed by live shots — with both sides blaming each other.

“Be careful,” warns Sergei Tinkevich, our contact in the opposition. “They’re liable to open fire at any moment.” Nineteen-year-old Sergei, head shaven and face masked, clad in khakis and high boots, isn’t the kind of guy a Jewish-looking visitor would want to meet in a back alley. But he escorts us efficiently through the piles of tires and sandbags that separate the troops on the hill from the protesters, introducing us to his comrades as Israeli journalists. Given the spate of anti-Jewish attacks inUkrainein the last months, I would have thought that would be the worst way to describe us. Instead, the rebels actually smile. 

If there is anything the Ukrainian rebels wish to prove to the world, it’s that they’re not anti-Semitic despite their reputation, which they claim is government-incited. 

As we take a short break by one of the barricades, warming ourselves around a fire burning inside a barrel, Sergei tells me, “You should know that we very much admire you for coming. There are not many journalists who are willing to enter the heart of the danger zone, especially in such cold.” Around the heated barrel, the protesters don’t seem to care about our religious affiliation, as long as we present their cause to the outside.

Still, I can’t resist challenging Sergei with a direct question. “We heard that thugs from among your ranks were responsible for beating a yeshivah student.” As I speak, Gershon Beloritsky, a Jewish lawyer and my translator for the day, seems to grow paler. The Jewish community here can’t afford to take sides, and it looks like I asked one question too many.

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Using Our Free Will Effectively
Yonoson Rosenblum The image we carry of ourselves is key
Pitcher-Perfect
Eytan Kobre The ripple effects of one Jew’s kiddush Sheim Shamayim
Living the High Life
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger It is exhilarating to matter, to be truly alive
It’s Time for Us to Speak Up
Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie We must speak out proudly for the values of Yiddishkeit
Kiruv Is Not Dead
Rabbi Meir Goldberg Do these sound like uninspired or closed students?
Frosting on the Cake
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman “Let’s not let a missing chocolate cake ruin our siyum!”
A Warm Corner in Flatbush
Yosef Zoimen It was a simple shul with a choshuve leader
Out of Control
Jacob L. Freedman “That’s illegal, Dr. Fine. I can’t have a part in this”
Song of Reckoning in the Skulener Court
Riki Goldstein “It’s awe-inspiring to watch the Rebbe sing this song”
“U’teshuvah, U’tefillah, U’tzedakah”
Riki Goldstein Throughout the Yamim Noraim, three words accompany us
The Rebbe Held His Gaze
Riki Goldstein A moment etched in Reb Dovid Werdyger’s memory forever
The Road Taken
Faigy Peritzman In the end it’s clear who really merits true happiness
Sincere Apology
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A heartfelt and complete apology can turn things around
Power Pack of Mercy
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz The 13 Attributes of Mercy are “an infinite treasure”
The Appraiser: Part II
D. Himy M.S. CCC-SLP, and Zivia Reischer “Eli needs to see people who struggled to achieve”