Ukraine: Two Years of Yushchenko's Presidency

Two years ago, Dan and Lesya McMinn of Orange Ukraine were among hundreds of thousands of people who came to Kyiv's Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) on Jan. 23 to listen to Victor Yushchenko's inaugural speech. As many others, they had to overcome quite a few obstacles to catch a glimpse of the event. They took pictures of the crowd and wrote this, among other things, in the captions:

[…] We all had to take these circuitous routes in search of a view because there were so many people we were unable to get close enough to see by walking up the main street.

[…] at one point we scrambled up this icy slope over crumbling ruins. What's life and limb at such a great moment in history?

[…] What was amazing is that the great hordes of us were all wandering along back streets blocked to all foot traffic on a number of sides. That this many people were traveling the side paths can give you an idea about how many were on the major routes.

The second anniversary of Victor Yushchenko‘s inauguration ceremony went largely unnoticed this past Tuesday, overshadowed by the bitter power struggle and a buildup of disillusionment over Yushchenko's “failed presidency,” as Abdymok, a Kyiv-based journalist and blogger, called it in a laconic anniversary posting.

All the way back in August 2006, LJ user didaio pointed out the Ukrainian blogosphere's new tendency to view Yushchenko not as the nation's “hero” but as its “anti-hero” – and on Jan. 23, he happened to be one of a handful of Ukrainian bloggers who bothered to reflect (UKR) on the anniversary and Yushchenko's failure to live up to the expectations:

Two years ago, I stood at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, dressed in an orange raincoat, with orange ribbons tied all over me, full of pride and joy caused by the recent events. Next to me, tens of thousands other Ukrainians had similar emotions. At that time, during the inauguration of the people's President, every one of us hoped for a new life in Ukraine, new standards of living and many other things.

Today, I don't want to analyze everything that happened in the past two years – today, there'll be plenty of articles on that anyway. Moreover, the people's President's actions concerning the bill on the Cabinet of Ministers [which would reduce his powers] will force him to spend much time trying to shake off the title of the all-Ukrainian people's fool.

So instead, I'd like to emphasize the behavior of those with whom I stood shoulder to shoulder at Maidan on Jan. 24 [sic], 2005.

Last week, I happened to hear these words twice – from the people close to me and my acquaintances: “And how many hopes there used to be…” In one case, this was said by a woman who voted for [prime minister Victor Yanukovych] and his Party of the Regions, who used to support [Ukraine's second president Leonid Kuchma] and has worked in the government institutions all her life. And in the other case, this was said by a young guy who voted for Yushchenko, used to be an ardent supporter of the Orange Revolution, but then, in the spring 2006 election, he ran with the [anti-Yushchenko Ne Tak!] bloc and was actively promoting their ideas. These two totally different people said, within a few days of each other, the same thing: “And how many hopes there used to be…”

Turns out that those people who betrayed or had never supported Yushchenko were expecting something from him, and now they blame him for betraying their hopes. There's no need to comment this…

To sum it all up, I'd like to emphasize that it's not Yushchenko who has lost the Orange Revolution, and it's not any other person, but rather ourselves – those people who overthrew Kuchma and led Yushchenko to power. We lost when we switched to our personal affairs, thinking that the revolution had been won. We lost when we looked in awe at the 60-percent support of Yushchenko/[ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko] and chose to ignore the permanent crises. And we'll lose now, too, when we are hiding behind our personal affairs and are trying to [distance ourselves from politics].

I've written these words in my LJ many times already. And I'll repeat them again […] only in order for Ukrainians to understand: we are responsible not just for our own lives, but for the life of our Motherland as well; it's all up to us.

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