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Expert Comment: Protests in Western Ukraine

Simon Piasecki - Lviv Friday 21 February 2014

Professor Simon Piasecki, Head of Dance, Drama and Performance Studies at Liverpool Hope, on the recent troubles in Kiev.

In the continuation of performance storytelling workshops, I intended to bring newspapers to the students this morning and explore the notion of Lyotard's incredulity of Grand Narrative by removing real stories to the travesty of myth, changing place, character and magnifying events. Uncomfortable indeed it is that these newspapers bear the ruination of the bloodiest day so far in Kiev.

I spent the very early morning watching the news, concerned for the continued safety of my own family in Lviv, Ukraine, where my cousin is one of the main news photographers. It's a helpless feeling then, as I recognise the spread of protest into these other large cities of Western Ukraine.

In truth this tension is nothing new for Western Ukrainians - I remember my great aunt relating to me the alleged murder of my uncle years following his shooting of a Hero of the Soviet Union carrying the red flag up the town hall in Rynok Square, as the Russians swept back into the city in the wake of German occupation. She herself had suffered slave labour under the Gestapo and survived, only to be raped by the Bolsheviks in the park. She also related to me the clearing of the Jewish quarter, the terrible punishment of partisans by the NKVD, the crucifixion of a beloved local priest on the door of the church following his acts of compassion; I could go on.

But when I stood with my son, looking out over the sunny cityscape of Lviv from the town hall (pictured), just a year ago, all of these events seemed difficult to grasp in the reality of its gentle buzz and, as I thought, because they felt from a time before my time. Yesterday, however, we witnessed civilians in Kiev neatly shot and killed, crawling and dropping one after another, and I still cannot grasp it. Nothing to do with the removal of history or any grand narratives we place upon it, then; just the horrible and frightening fact of an event in its present awful reality. Nothing grand - just very, very frightening.

Many of us wish an end to the strangling corruptions of power in Ukraine, but I hope and pray for a cessation of this present violence in the cities where it was already a deeply tragic memory of the past.

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