On November 2013, Ukrainians took to the streets to claim a better future. In Maidan, the central square of Kiev, protesters expressed their indignation and outrage at the lack of economic growth, mismanagement and corruption. The wave of violent protest that ensued left injured bodies scattered on the streets and resulted in the deposing of the President, Viktor Yanukovych. Thus, the Euromaidan Revolution, also known as Revolution of Dignity, was established to give back hope and dignity to the citizens.
Between the 12th and 20th of March, the Ukrainian Connection Society organized the photographic exhibition “Ukraine: Inspiring Dignity”, which took place at European Union House. Most of the pictures portrayed people on the streets who were fighting for freedom and identity which were devastated by corrupted government. Spend a few minutes walking around the hall, it is enough for anyone to realize that dignity was the word so well represented in several photographs displayed on the stand board.
For Andriy Vysidalko, dignity is a word which carries a lot of meanings and it would be impossible to express in just a few sentences. Andriy has lived in Ireland for 13 years and he could not turn a blind eye to what is happening in Ukraine. He states: “Concept of Ukraine inspiring dignity…”. After Andriy had taken a deep breath, he continued: “The revolution itself was called Revolution of Dignity. Simply because people rose up against a corrupted regime, which ruled Ukraine a number of years. It represents a struggle for better life. It represents Ukraine identity… at a different level. It represents a culture struggling for a better future.”
The name of the event had real importance. Padraig Purcell, project coach of the Ukrainian Connection Society, stated that the name should represent the brave and values based stand the people of Ukraine took. Padraig pointed out: “When discussing the most appropriate name for the exhibition I initially proposed ‘Ukraine Inspiring Freedom’. Anya [founder of the event] considered dignity was appropriate. So, the two of us came up with ‘Ukraine Inspiring Dignity’.” He adds:“Dignity means the way in which the people in Ukraine went about winning freedom from a very corrupt terror regime. They are very gentle, very calm, very musical and very wise about the way they changed their world and took a dignified step towards freedom. It was not violent in mentality or in actuality. It was a totally different way to do things; a lesson to the people of our world that there is always hope and there is always a better way to achieve goals if people work together for good and each other.”
Far from home since her early twenties, Anya Kozak was one of the founders of the Ukrainian Connection Society. She has lived in Ireland for eight years after being a resident in several countries such as Russia, United States and Sweden. Anya stated that the main purpose of this event was to spread the truth of what happened in Ukraine. She said: “Our main agenda of this exhibition is to spread the truth and tell people, Irish people, foreigners who come to Ireland that Ukrainians got fed up with corruption, went to streets for dignity and they were not leave until their voices were heard by the government.” Anya added : “ It could be seen in history that they had to stay on streets for three or four months in very bitter cold and they stood up for their rights.”
The events had support from the Ukrainian church community, Lithuanian embassy and Ukrainian embassy in Ireland. In addition to this, Anya considered that they also had a lot of support from Irish and Ukrainian people in general. The founder pointed out: “ The Lithuanian embassy got on board with us, they were very interested in sharing this exhibition and spreading the truth and awareness in Europe of what really happened because they went through it a few years back and they understand the situation that the Ukraine is going through now.”
“Ukraine: Inspiring Dignity” represents for Anya an “immense will of power of Ukrainian people”. She remarked: “I am impressed to see my people stand up for their own rights. I have never seen such persistence in any other country. They are ready to lose the most precious gift, which is their lives, to stand up for the rights, to stand up for the rights of their children and to eliminate post-Soviet corruption in Ukraine.”
All these members of Ukrainian Connection Society expressed what many Ukrainians long for their future: a better life. A life in which they can live with dignity, free from violence, fear and corruption.