Kiersten Powers Kristen Johnson
On May 18th, we had the privilege of attending an annual rally at Maidan Nezalezhonosti (“Independence Square”). This honored those Crimean Tatars who were ordered by the Soviet to leave Crimea on May 18, 1944. This rally is not only in remembrance of those lost in 1944, but also honors those injured or lost during the Euromaidan protests that began in late 2013. Hundreds of Ukrainians were also in attendance, as well as many news reporters and journalists.
Just a few days ago, a Ukrainian singer defeated Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest. This is significant because Jamala, a famous Ukrainian artist, won this award for her song titled “1944”, a ballad about Crimea. She has said to have written this controversial song for her great-grandmother, who was affected by the 1944 Crimea deportation. This having occurred a few days before the annual rally made this year’s Day of Remembrance even more special.
Jamala is not the only Ukrainian who is passionate about Crimea, even 72 years after occurring. Crimeans being deported in 1944 effected countless families in Ukraine. About 238,500 people were deported from Crimea. According to the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Ukraine (MFA), about 46.2 percent of the deportees had died by January 1, 1947 because of starvation and disease. Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader of that time, is the one who ordered for the deportation.
Decades later, Euromaidan occurred in 2013. This happened shortly after the president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, rejected an agreement with the European Union. This protest against civil unrest in Ukraine started on November 21, 2013, and led to many deaths. This very first protest took place in Maidan Nezalezhonosti, which is where we witnessed the Day of Remembrance.
It was absolutely amazing to be able to witness an event so significant to Ukraine’s culture and history.