March 11, 2014
Serhiy Zhadan, Ukranian poet, beaten at protests
by Andrew McGrath
Kharkiv, among other cities across Ukraine, has been the site of a series of protests over the last few months after Ukrainian president
Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the EU under pressure from Russia. Yanukovych fled the country after the protests in the Ukranian capital of Kiev began to get increasingly violent. Kharkiv’s mayor Gennady Kernes disappeared soon afterwards, returning later from a supposed break in Geneva. Protesters had been occupying the regional state administration building in Kharkiv for a week when pro-Russian demonstrators – many of whom are suspected of having been bussed in from Russia – charged the building on Saturday, March 1st, armed with baseball bats.
One of the protesters who was beaten was Serhiy Zhadan, a well-known Ukrainian poet, who frequently writes about life in post-Soviet Ukraine. Zhadan has also written novels such as 2004’s Depeche Mode, set in the early post-communist days of Ukraine.
Pictures of a beaten and bloodied Zhadan began appearing online shortly after the attack, spread by worried fans. Hours later, he announced through Facebook: “Friends, with me everything is okay.” He described the incident, saying the attackers told him to kneel and kiss the Russian flag; he then told the attackers to go fuck themselves.
In April 2011, Zhadan wrote about the differences between Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine, and the rest of the country. While discussing the more passive nature of the people of Donbas towards corruption, he included the following story:
“I happened to hear a more folk version of what is happening from a Luhansk taxi driver who, to my utter bewilderment about why people are silent about falsifications in the last election, said: “Who is there to protest? Anyone who could raise his voice was executed back in 1937.” A valid argument, I thought.”
Zhadan received a concussion, a broken nose, and a myriad of cuts and remains hospitalized in Kharkiv, only two hundred miles north-west of Luhansk. But he has not been deterred. In an email excerpt from the New Yorker’s coverage of Zhadan’s experience, he said, “I don’t want to live in a country of corruption and injustice. I, like millions of other Ukrainians, would like to have a normal measure of power. A dictatorship is not normal, and people who don’t protest injustice, they have no future.”