Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ukrainian Football Fans Rally in Support of the Pavlichenko Family


Written for Global Voices. Posted Nov. 27, 2012.

On Sunday, November 25, over 4,000 football fans organized a demonstration in Kyiv, demanding the release of the Pavlichenko family[uk].
Dmytro Pavlichenko and his son Serhiy, fans of FC Dynamo Kyiv [uk], were found guilty of the murder of a Kyiv Shevchenko District Court Judge Serhiy Zubkov. In the past few months, Ukrainian and European fans have organized [uk] a series of unprecedented actions in their support.

Ukrainian football fans demand freedom for the Pavlichenko family during the Nov. 25 rally in Kyiv. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (25/11/2012).
The Pavlichenko case
Prior to the murder of the judge, the father of the Pavlichenko family, Dmytro, had been involved in a court case against a Dutch construction company that planned to build new real estate in place of his family’s house in Kyiv. Although a legal owner of his house, Dmytro was charged with illegal construction of additional accommodation. Eventually, he lost the case, and the Pavlichenko family was forcefully evicted from their home shortly before the New Year’s Eve of 2011. The court decision was passed [uk] by Judge Serhiy Zubkov.
In March 2011, Judge Zubkov was found dead in his apartment building. Shortly after the incident, Dmytro Pavlichenko and his son Serhiy were accused of the judge’s murder. Despite mostlycircumstantial evidence [uk], both were found guilty. Dmytro Pavlichenko was sentenced to life in prison, while his son got a 13-year prison sentence.
Reactions
The case received unprecedented publicity due to activism of football fans who united to demand justice for the Pavlichenko family.
A special website - TheyAreNotKillers.com [uk, ru, en] - was set up. Below is the background storyfrom the website, told from the point of view of Dmytro Pavlichenko's youngest son, Ivan (in Ukrainian, with subtitles available for Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish):
Over 90 actions in support of the Pavlichenkos were carried out by football fans in more than a dozen countries.
Activists also created special groups on a popular social networks Vkontakte (here and here [ru], with over 14,000 members total), and on Facebook (Freedom Pavlichenko [en, ru, uk]).
LiveJournal user alex-serdyuk expressed [ru] a common sentiment:
Украинское правосудие в действии. У семьи обирают квартиру в пользу непонятной фирмы, глава семьи — Дмитрий Павличенко — не сдается, созывает пресс–конференции, обратился с просьбой к Президенту Украины наказать коррумпированных чиновников и вернуть принадлежащее ему жилье. В марте 2011–го года судья Шевченковского районного суда Сергей Зубков, вынесший вердикт об отчуждении квартиры у семьи Павличенко, был найден мертвым в подъезде своего дома. […] Буквально через два дня киевлянина Дмитрия Павличенко и его сына Сергея арестовали по подозрению в убийстве судьи. Старшему Павличенко дали пожизненное, младшему — 13 лет лишения свободы. Причем свидетели их не узнали, улик прямых нет, у Дмитрия Павличенко есть алиби.
Ukrainian justice system in action. A family has their apartment taken away for the benefit of some shady firm; the head of the family – Dmytro Pavlichenko – does not give up, he organizes press-conferences, calls on the President of Ukraine to punish the corrupt authorities and return his rightly-owned home. In March of 2011, Shevchenkivsky District Court Judge Serhiy Zubkov, who passed a verdict of expropriating Pavlichenko’s apartment, is murdered in his residential building. […] Just two days later, Kyiv residents Dmytro and Serhiy Pavlychenko are arrested as murder suspects. Pavlichenko Sr. receives a life sentence and Pavlichenko Jr. – 13 years. And the witnesses did not recognize them, there is no direct evidence, Dmytro Pavlichenko has an alibi.
The November 25 protest
On November 25, supporters of the Pavlichenkos organized their biggest action to date – a march of thousands of people through the center of Kyiv (photosvideo). The action was supported by the Belarusian [ru] and Russian [ru] football fans.
LiveJournal user from Lviv, r_drogobych, explains [uk]:
Не одній сотні невинних людей наша гнила феміда вже поламала життя, і за них, в кращому разі крім родичів, не має кому вступитись. Даний випадок трохи вирізняється з переліку інших оскільки молодший Павличенко являється футбольним фанатом і вболівав за столичне Динамо. З моменту ув'язнення Павличенків до СІЗО фанати ДК почали звертату увагу громадськості на цю справу. Малювались банери, влаштовувались акції, писалось в інтернеті. Але з огляду на відсутність доказів вини Павличенків, і навіть навпаки наявності доказів зворотнього (свідок який бачив вбивцю впритул не впізнав жодного Павличенка) якось сподівались, що суд винесе виправдальний вирок, або хоча б відправить справу на дорослідування. Але зараз, коли вже останні ілюзії про якусь справедливість в цій країні розвіялись, акції в підтримку Павличенків переходять в наступну фазу. […]
Our rotten femida [Themis, justice] has broken the lives of hundreds of innocent people. At best, they have had only their relatives to stand by their side. This case is a little different because the younger Pavlichenko is a football fan and supports the capital’s [football club] Dynamo. From the moment of the Pavlichenkos’ [preliminary arrest], Dynamo Kyiv’s fans have been drawing the public attention to the case. [They] made banners, organized actions, wrote [about it] online. Taking into account the absence of evidence of the Pavlichenkos’ guilt and, instead, an abundance of proofs of their innocence […] everybody hoped for their acquittal or at least that the court would send the case back for additional investigation. But now, as the last illusions of having at least some justice in this country have been dispelled, the actions in support of the Pavlichenkos have entered their next phase. […]

Ukrainian football fans march in Kyiv on Nov. 25, demanding justice for the Pavlichenko family. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (25/11/2012).
The event was widely covered by the Ukrainain mainstream and social media. Facebook user Vitaliy Umanets, along with over 200 other users, shared this photo from the march and wrote [uk]:
Надія Є! Молодь вийшла на захист Павличенків!
There is hope! Young people have come out to defend the Pavlichenkos!
Journalist and blogger Ihor Lutsenko also regarded [uk] the event positively and placed it within the new possible trend for civic activism:
Між тим марш на захист Павличенків – найбільша з часів Майдану непартійна акція, чим можна пишатися. […]
Це прогрес, цивілізаційний прогрес країни.
[…]
Успіх тих, хто боровся проти Ахметова, і можливий успіх тих, хто зараз бореться за Павличенків, може, чого доброго, задати політичну моду в країні. Громадяни захопляться організацією масових акцій, почнуть гуртуватися і тисячами виходити на вулиці – о жах! – втративши свою зневіру у публічні акції, перетворяться на… європейців!
In the meantime, the march in defense of the Pavlichenko family is the largest non-partisan action since Maidan [the Orange Revolution], and this is something to be proud of. […]
It is progress, civilizational progress of [our] country.
[…]
The success of those who have fought against [the destruction of historical Andriivsky Uzviz street in Kyiv] and the possible success of those who are now fighting for the Pavlichenkos, might, after all, set a new political trend in the country. The citizens will get a taste for organizing mass actions, will unite and go onto the streets in thousands and – how terrible! – lose their disappointment in public actions and turn into… Europeans!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Czechs, do you know who tidies up your house?"

A Ukrainian friend of mine forwarded me this video yesterday. It is a part of the campaign in defense of rights of Ukrainians that do domestic work in the Czech Republic (most of them are women). According to campaign organizers, Ukrainian women that work in Czech homes usually do not know their rights [ukr] and are frequently mistreated by their employers.

The video portrays a Ukrainian cleaner who is being yelled at by the Czech teenager for misplacing papers from his desk, which results in him being unable to complete his math home work on time. In the end, the cleaning lady picks up his assignments and solves equations in a few minutes. Turns out, she is a math teacher from Lviv. The video ends with a question, “Czechs, do you know who tidies up your house?”


A friend who forwarded it to me said that the video had involuntarily struck a sad chord with her, reminding of the fate of her grandfather’s sister, who’s been taken to Germany for forced labor during the war.  There, she was tending the cattle on a farm until one day she had helped the family’s child to complete a math assignment. After that helping children with their homework became her sole obligation.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ex.Ua, Copyright Debates and Ukraine's "Internet Revolution"


Here's a recap of the whole Ex.Ua ordeal that I have written for Global Voices a few days ago. There were many comments about how this was Ukraine's "Hackers' Maidan", "Internet Revolution" and so on, but I tried to quote some of the more critical reflections in order to shed light on many sides of this complex story.


Ukraine: Netizens React to Popular File-Sharing Website's Shutdown


On January 31, 2012, Ukrainian Internet users learned that the country’s biggest file-sharing site, Ex.ua [ru], was shut down due to repeated copyright violations. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, among the companies that filed a lawsuit [uk] against Ex.ua were Microsoft, Adobe, Graphisoft and others.
Ex.ua was one of the most popular websites in the country and accounted for 15-25% [uk] of Ukraine’s in-country traffic. It required no paid subscription and attracted millions of users who freely shared pirated video and audio files, games and software.
The news of the site's shutdown caused quite a stir online, with many netizens criticizing the government for going after Ex.ua and calling for its restoration.
Christina Vinovska (@chris_vinovskatweeted a common appeal:
return #exua immediately!
People are protesting against the shutdown of Ex.ua outside the Interior Ministry in Kyiv. Photo by Sergei Svetlitsky, copyright © Demotix (1/02/12).
People are protesting against the shutdown of Ex.ua outside the Interior Ministry in Kyiv. Photo by Sergei Svetlitsky, copyright © Demotix (1/02/12).
While many echoed her plea, others decided to take action both offline (photos of the Feb. 1 protest in Kyiv are here) and online.
Thus, following the release of the online statement about Ex.ua's shutdown by the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry's website went down and remained periodically inaccessible due to “an increased number of visitors and possible DDoS attacks” [uk].
By that time many Twitter, Vkontakte and Facebook users were actively sharing detailedinstructions [ru] on how to overload the servers of selected websites. The target list included websites of Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovych, the pro-presidential Party of Regions, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament, and others.
What seemed to begin as a number of decentralized attempts, quickly turned into a mass organized effort, with Ex.ua supporters forming a “Free Ex.Ua” [ru] group on a popular social network Vkontakte [ru], which gathered over 6,000 members during the first hours of its existence (currently, there are over 41,000 members).
By February 1, the Presidential website was completely down [uk] and the Ministry of the Interior had to announce [uk] that it was going to use its two Facebook accounts until its official website was restored. By mid-day of February 1, Ex.ua had to appeal [ru] to users to stop the attack that succeeded in disrupting the work of nearly all major governmental websites:
Dear users,
Administrators of Ex.ua call on you to stop all illegal activity against governmental websites. […]
At the same time, a heated discussion of Ex.ua’s supposed illegal activity was taking place online.
Facebook user Sergei Sidorenko wrote [ru]:
In response to the mass mourning of the Ex.ua’s untimely death, I would tell you something different from what half of the Internet has been yelling about:
I do not have a single piece of licensed non-free software on my computer
I watch only pirated films
I jailbroke my Apple iPod soon after the purchase
Even the licensed Windows installed on my laptop I soon [removed] and installed a pirated one, because it was more convenient for me
But I have to admit that shutting down Ex.ua was the RIGHT THING. And I don’t understand those who now yell, “Yes, they were pirates, but was that a reason to close them?” […]
Guys, if we want to live a civilized [life], let’s at least not condemn the obvious attempts to establish legality.
In defense of Ex.ua, Yaroslav Fedorak of Blogosphere.com.ua wrote [uk]:
Yes, I really do believe that according to today’s legal framework, file-sharing website Ex.ua was conducting an illegal activity and sooner or later would have been closed. But don’t be too quick to throw stones at me! The problem here lies in the legal framework itself, which is hopelessly outdated and no longer meets the needs of the current super-dynamic and hyper-volatile environment.
Amidst such discussions, it was not long before Ukrainian Internet users began to question whether the authorities themselves were following the letter of the law. Giving in to increased media attention, the Ministry of the Interior had to admit [uk] that it was also using pirated software, while holding negotiations with Microsoft to end this practice. Netizens were outraged.
Yurko Chervony (@skiniktweeted [uk]:
They should first shut themselves down, and not #ex.ua “[The Ministry of the Interior] admitted that half of the software [they're using] is illegal”tinyurl.com/7tjq7c8
Many netizens shared an online comment [uk] by Oleksandr Severyn of Maidan.org.ua:
When marauders fight with pirates, pirates become national heroes
Other netizens, however, believed that the government's action against Ex.ua was motivated not so much by the copyright violations, but by the website hosting [ru] an extremely popular parodyvideo [uk] mocking the Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych.
Pavlo Rizanenko (@rizanenkotweeted [uk]:
Our authorities closed #exua because they did not want to have an uncontrollable information resource on #UaNet [Ukrainian Internet – GV]. Piracy was just an excuse rizanenko.livejournal.com/983.html
Whatever the actual causes of its shutdown, following the unexpected mass reaction of Ukrainian netizens, Ex.ua was back online [ru] as early as February 3, when the investigators concluded [ru] that piracy allegations did not have to result in blocking of the site's domain name.
Many netisens viewed it as a positive case of online consolidation and organization of Ukrainians.
Serge Lavrinchuck (@Lavrinchucktweeted [uk]:
The #EXua story, of course, has its positive sides. When else the Ukrainian people would have united like this to attack government websites?
Numerous observers referred to the attacks as the “online revolution” [ru]. Maksym Savanevsky, editor of the Internet business and SMM website Watcher.com.uawrote [uk]:
What has changed in the society in the past 60 hours.
Most important: the citizens have had a taste of their victory. They have felt that “together they are many, and they cannot be defeated”. It is difficult to recall similar events since 2004 [Orange Revolution – GV].
Yes, the scope was not the same. Yes, everything happened online, inside warm apartments. But it has been a while since the authorities looked so helpless in the face of the people’s simple desire to get something they thought they deserved.
Still, others were critical of the society mobilizing in defense of a pirate website. Jouranlist Serhiy Shcherbyna wrote [ru]:
Where are you, the renowned [citizens], when honest, normal businesses are being bluntly taken from ordinary mid-level entrepreneurs? […] Why nobody touches the Tax Inspection's website for their regular [pressure] on business?
Why would you not [disable] the Interior Ministry's website when people are being killed at [local police stations]? Why would you not [disable] the Kyiv City Administration's website for [icy] roads on which people are breaking arms and legs every day?
Why are Ukrainians able to protest only when their social benefits and [free stuff] are taken away? Freedom of speech, the lawlessness of the authorities, politically-motivated [imprisonments], a half-dead economy and, most of all, a country that is nearing a collapse, all this is not causing such an outrage.
While the online polemics continue and the future fate of Ex.ua remains unclear, as of February 6, the website is operational and works on restoring its full capacity.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Story of Anna Boiko's Life

I'd like to share a story I wrote for Global Voices yesterday. It is about a blog started by a young architect from Lviv.
Looking back at this post, I only wish there would be more blogs like Olya's and that I find more positive things to write about in 2012.

I would like to tell you about my grandmother – Boiko Anna. She was born and lives in the village of Yaglush in Rogatyn district of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. She is a cheerful, talented, strong person. A person who has been through a lot, who is full of knowledge and memories.
This is how Anna Boiko’s granddaughter, Olya Suprun, starts [uk] her blog called “The Story of Anna Boiko's Life.” Online, Olya shares her grandmother’s memories, including stories from the life of their family and other residents of Yaglush.
Her grandmother’s native village, Yaglush, is located in today’s Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine. This region belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1772, to West Ukrainian People’s Republic for a short period after World War I, to interwar Poland between the 1920s and the late 1930s, to the Soviet and then Nazi forces during World War II, and then again to the Soviets from 1944 until Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

Anna Boiko with her husband Mykhailo. Photo scanned by Olya Suprun, used with permission.
Anna Boiko’s memories recorded by her granddaughter go back as early as 1939 and depict the experiences of Yaglush residents during the times of the region's transfer from the Polish to the Soviet rule, the World War II period, and the subsequent return of the Soviet power. They touch on such painful topics of Ukraine’s history as the Nazi occupation, repressions and deportations of the local population during the early years of communism, the fate of the partisans from theUkrainian Insurgent Army.
This is how Anna describes [uk] the life of the village with World War II looming on the horizon:
The things in politics were tremulous, too, [people] were expecting better times than under Poland, but things did not turn for the better. The arrests and prosecutions began. Several families were deported to Siberia: Zakhariy Zliukovsky, Dutka and a few more families that were resettled here from Poland. The landowner’s land was divided up, and [my] mom got a few hundred [square meters]. But the land was of clay soil and inaccessible in the rain – there was no good road.
[…]
At that time the war with Germans was approaching. I remember it was a Sunday, a bright and sunny day. Grandma was chatting with a neighbor woman in the house. I went to the yard to let the chicken out […]. Suddenly [I heard] a loud roar of thunder – one, then another. I ran to the house and told grandmother, “Grandma, get the hen in, a rainstorm is coming!” Although the sky was clear, without a single cloud and no storm was in sight. Soon mom came home and said she heard in a village that there was a war! It was not thunder, but the sound of bombs falling. From that day on people became very cautious. It was the year of 1941.
Despite her grandmother's difficult childhood, Olya portrays her as a knowledgeable yet curious 75-year-old woman, who writes poetry and memoires, does beautiful embroidery, plays computer games and enjoys cooking. She frequently shares Anna’s poems, recipes and stories of everyday village life, while paying special attention to customs and traditions cherished by its residents.

Traditional dishes made by Anna Boiko for the 12-Dish Christmas Eve Dinner. Photo by Olya Suprun, used with permission.
In one of the posts, Olya admits [uk] to both being new to blogging and to realizing that her blog is rather unusual:
I know this blog is a bit weird and of an unusual format: strange, unknown house in the background, unpopular stories in which it is hard to find some meaning, and, in addition to this, their author – my grandma - is not the author of this blog… but it is neither [meant] for ratings, nor for profit; in order to understand its significance, one must read between the lines…

Anna Boiko reads a blog about herself together with her husband. Photo by Olya Suprun, used with permission.
It seems, however, that the popularity of The Story of Anna Boiko's Life has already exceeded its author’s expectations. In 2011, it was recognized as the best personal blog at Best Ukrainian Blog Awards [uk], and the number of its readers and fans continues to grow.