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For last month and a half, attention of the whole Ukraine has been focused on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square in Kyiv. Someone supports the idea of Maidan, someone treats it with indifference, someone criticizes. However, what about those, who have become hostages of circumstance, regardless of their civic position, simply because they live or work in the city center? Pharmacies and shops, cafes and restaurants work around the square. Parents have to drive their children to schools. Pensioners have to come out to buy drugs and products.
ForUm decided to find out is there life outside Maidan, and what does it look like.
Thus, life runs its course in the central part of Kyiv. Nothing reminds of the events, taking place in the central square, in a five-minute walk from Maidan. Preparations for the New Year go on. In the windows of the apartments there have already appeared garlands and homemade snowflakes. People lead a normal life: someone walks a dog, someone strolls, someone is in a hurry to take a child to a music class.
All these people have their own views about the current events. For example, Valentyna, a resident of one of the houses in the Shovkovychna Street, says that this is her third revolution and she treats the current one with understanding. "I think it's okay. Nothing terrible happens. People do not make a mess, do not disturb tenants," she said.
Iryna and Tetiana, two friends living in Luternaska Street, are happy with the events. "You know, we have already got bored with familiar work and home life. It is at least a kind of variety," Iryna says. "I live alone, so I invite protesters to stay over night in my apartment. I also bring food to activists. Everything works in the area. No changes have occurred in common terms. And barricades and road closures do not bother me," Tetiana tells us, smiling.
Unlike them, Kateryna is not very glad about the protests. "Since we live here, we feel pressured with all the events happening in the center. I understand people who are now in Maidan, but barricading the entire neighborhoods seems odd to me. I think it will bring nothing, but instead creates a lot of inconvenience to people who live here. When barricades were dismantled for the first time, it was well-timed for my family. My mother fell ill, and an ambulance managed to arrive quickly," she says.
Pensioner Liudmyla watches what is happening from her windows in Kyiv center. Every morning she goes to Khreshchatyk Street to feed the pigeons. According to her, the birds know her and always fly towards. But the protests have brought inconvenience in her usual, hasteless life. "It is difficult, uncomfortable and noisy. I can’t go to store as before. Everything is blocked. The arch near my house was blocked. However, there is a passage now, but you still have to go round. I failed to buy bread for a few times. When it is brought to store, it is immediately taken for sandwiches to Maidan. Moreover, there are no benches in Khreshchatyk. And I always sit down to rest there, coming back home," woman complains, sighing.
A taxi driver, whom ForUm correspondents met in one of the Khreshchatyk courtyards, is also displeased with what is going on. "I have no work. Foreigners, whom I usually drive, do not want to come to Ukraine because of all this confusion. The whole center is blocked and you need to go a roundabout way to get here. However, a rate has not changed. So now a few want to go to the center," the man says.
A valet, working in the same yard, supports the taximan. "Before the protests, the yard was busy with the parked cars. Now only the residents of these houses leave their cars here. Of course, it’s good for the residents, but we have no work," he laments.
The political events have also affected one of the most popular holiday destinations for Kyiv residents - Mariinsky Park. Now you could hardly see here pairs of lovers, young mothers with their children or strolling old people.
Only the Falun Dafa persistent adepts continue meditating there. Probably, the Eastern philosophy has its effect.
Benches have also become a rarity in Mariinsky Park. As you know, they were used to build the barricades.
A few meters from the Mariinsky Park we still manage to meet a mother with a child. They have just come out for a walk and are heading towards the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. "We had to change our route. You know, it's good to live in the center, but probably the center is for people without small children. Every day I become more and more convinced in this. All the familiar places, where we used to go for a walk to, are occupied with protesters. We do not go to the park, and even the playground is full of "big kids". Children can’t also be taken to Khreshchatyk Street as the smell is unbearable there. I speak from the point of view of a mother, who has a small child. A child should walk in the fresh air, run, not sit in one place. And now it is hard to do. Maybe if I lived in a residential area, I would have a different opinion," a young mother reflects.
New Year and Christmas discounts traditionally begin in December. Usually, you have to stand for half an hour to pay for your long-awaited purchase in Khreshchatyk mass-market retailers. However now, despite the grandiose sales, stores in 50-200 meters from Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square are half-empty. "Only two people have made purchases today. I wish everything was back in its place as soon as possible," complains a seller of one of the retailers, located 30 meters from the barricades.
A guard of the store located almost opposite the Kyiv City State Administration is of the same opinion. "When protests had just started, I supported them. Now I got tired. I understand everything, but I just got tired. If only there was some result," says the man.
A guard of the shopping center located in the middle of Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square disagrees. He likes what is happening around and he is not afraid of crowds in Kyiv. "There is no hooliganism, no thefts. Everything is as usual," he says.
As for luxury clothing boutiques in the Maidan passageway, the current events have not much affected their sales. "We have our regular customers. They do shopping as before. Moreover, now we have sales time. However, some complain about complicated traffic, but it's not a very serious obstacle for them," says a consultant in one of the boutiques.
Now stores are preparing for the holidays – windows are decorated with New Year balls, New Year trees are put, garlands are hung. Although at the beginning of the protests situation in elite boutiques was different - fashionable collections were removed from showcases, security was strengthened, and some stores did not work at all. "This is not surprising. Nobody knew what to expect. Now we have regular schedule," a seller says.
Ambiguous situation is observed in restaurants and public eating places.
Fast food employees are pleased with rallies. It is almost impossible to find a free table there. Administrators are overjoyed at such a large number of visitors. "Yes, we have never had such sales, except for holding Euro," says one of the enthusiastic employees of the fast food, located 200 meters from the KCSA.
Sellers of hot drinks and hot dogs in Maidan do not complain too. Their sales have increased several times. "I do not mind if it lasts forever," jokes a seller.
Employees of elite restaurants in the center are not in joking mood. They have to endure inconveniences. "Well, for the time of protests a lot has changed for me and for the institution. It has become very inconvenient to get to work. There were days when we had to walk from the Poshtova Square. We also have fewer guests, almost no foreigners. Average bill has decreased. Protesters do not afford eating in restaurant, they come to us just to have a warm. In addition, there are problems with a taxi for guests - they do not want to come here for a minimal fare. Last year at this time everything was booked for New Year's corporate parties, and now people are calling to ask whether it is safe here, and that’s it. I do not judge the policy, but in general protests do no good for us," says Alina, administrator of the restaurant located a few meters from the barricades nearby the House of Trade Unions.
Such an opinion is shared by employees of a nightclub in Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square. "When the first action, involving students, begun, we had no serious problems. Well, maybe there were fewer visitors. A couple of weeks ago, everything changed. There are almost no people at all. They are afraid of coming here, as we're in the middle of rallies. In addition, it’s inconvenient as the taxi will not drive through the barricades. My colleagues have different attitudes to Maidan, but everyone wants to earn. And when there are no guests, there are no tips and it makes no sense to work all night long," Oleg complains.
The lack of buyers is felt in Bessarabka market. "You know we have specific customers. Old people from the whole city do not come to us. Our customers are foreigners or those, who live near. Now, there are almost no foreigners. It is very upsetting, as earnings fell," a seller said sadly.
Nearby Bessarabka market, we meet public utilities workers. They work up a sweat. "We always have a lot of work, but lately it has even increased," they answer reluctantly and continue cleaning.
However, street-cleaner Olga disagrees with her colleagues. "I can not say that people in Maidan strongly disturb me. My area of work is in the yards, and they rarely go there. I can not say there’s much litter. Maidan will disperse some day, and I need the regular work," woman opines.
Well, life around Maidan is different. As they say, "War makes some people rich". While the protesters, sitting in tents in Khreshchatyk Street, feel involved in the country’s governance, Kyiv residents try simply to live on.
Daryna Shvartsman, Valentyna Dudko,
photos made by authors