A life-altering experience
Mark Semotiuk, a 22 year old election observer in the recent Ukrainian elections relates how what he saw at the revolution became a life-altering event in his life. His moving account appears in the Oracle, a University of South Florida newspaper.
Over the holidays I traveled to Ukraine as one of 12,000 election observers for the Dec. 26 presidential elections. Before arriving, I didn't know much.
When all of the votes were counted, Yushchenko won the election by a clear margin. I returned to Kiev, and made my way to see Yushchenko's victory speech.
Standing in the middle of a packed square, I could feel the entire crowd moved almost to the point of tears.
"For 14 years we have been independent and now we are free," he said. It was then that I understood the distinction between independence and freedom. Lives have forever been altered. There is a sense of awe in the people that they have undergone a metamorphosis. And I can attest -- I am a new person myself.
Between Ukrainians, there is a bond that can't be described in words. They understand the responsibility that has been passed on to them by their ancestors, and they are not willing to let go of the past. The shackles of totalitarian rule have been lifted, and it is with pride that they look to the future. They are finally free. And so it is that I sat at Starbucks, part of my usual Sunday routine. Looking through the news, I saw hundreds of thousands of people crowded in Independence Square in Kiev for Yushchenko's inauguration. Some critics argue that this was not a revolution, but a mere transition. Whatever the case, if you still don't believe that the world has changed, I urge you to read the reports of the many people who attended the inauguration.
And if you were to stand in Independence Square, on that day, surrounded by all those people, in a sea of "Orange," reflecting on the costs paid for this freedom, I promise, you would be a changed person too.