During her previous visit to Kyiv in 2001, Lea was unable to visit Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) because it was under construction. The timing of that construction seemed a bit peculiar as it occurred in conjunction with growing protests against then-President Leonid Kuchma. The square gained international fame when it served as the central gathering point for the Orange Revolution. Erik watched the peaceful, almost giddy protesters and rousing speeches by the opposition after the flawed presidential election in 2004. Ukrainian citizens occupied the square and streets for weeks, culminating in new elections and the ascent of Viktor Yushchenko to the highest office in the land.
We traveled on the metro from our rented apartment to Maidan and emerged from underground at the perfect time for all of us. While the weather was cloudy and chilly, the rain held off so that Lea could gaze across the expanse and see all of the (terrible) renovations that had prevented her from visiting years ago. Erik heard the siren song of political protest and was drawn to red flags and banners. The Communist Party was staging a counter-protest opposing the elevation of UPA (WWII partisans) to the status of heroes of Ukraine. We have seen the pro-partisan viewpoint in L'viv, with figures like Stepan Bandera held in high regard. Many Ukrainian citizens interpret the history of this movement differently, focusing on its connections to the Nazis and its fight against Soviet soldiers. Since the protesters were mostly old, and many were WWII veterans, their antipathy to UPA was not surprising. Erik listened to the speeches for a while and had a brief chat with an elderly woman who thought he was a journalist ("Young man, take my photo! Yushchenko is a criminal!" After the photo was taken, she asked "what newspaper are you from?" When Erik explained he was not a journalist, she asked "well, do you love fascists?" Satisfied with the answer "No" she returned to her anti-Yushchenko rant.).
Carter was not left out; he too loved Maidan. In addition to feeding birds, Carter has become enamored of fountains. Or, as he calls them, "waterfalls." Maidan has many waterfalls, including a series of steps that double as a fountain. Carter was also incredibly excited to visit the Kyiv zoo. On another day he went with a group of Fulbright spouses and kids who did not want to attend orientation events. While the zoo did not have koalas - one of the two animals that he likes because they "are happy" - the zoo had a hippopotamus - the other animal that is happy.