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Yuri Marchuk, a Ukrainian who was shot twice during the protests in Kiev, recuperated at a military hospital in Koblenz, Germany.

Ben Kilb • New York Times,

Ukraine's wounded ache to return to the action

  • Article by: Alison Smale
  • New York Times
  • April 5, 2014 - 4:56 PM

– Shot twice at the bloody denouement of Ukraine’s revolution, Yuri Marchuk spends his days in the most pristine of hospital wards, gazing out the window at this orderly German city while images of battle churn through his mind.

Marchuk, 36, a self-described nationalist and small-business man, is among several dozen Ukrainians sent to four countries in Europe to recover, physically and mentally, from their wounds.

Their memories bring stark life to the drier language of a report this week by the acting government in Kiev that blamed former President Viktor Yanukovych, his riot police and their suspected Russian assistants for the violence that killed more than 100 people in Kiev in February.

Those who survived could prove to be important witnesses to the events of Feb. 18-21, days in which, Marchuk said, the protesters almost lost control of their Independence Square before pushing back riot police despite deadly fusillades from unseen snipers.

Hoping for a new era

That bloodshed prompted three European foreign ministers to broker an agreement between the protesters and Yanukovych, who fled some hours later as his government crumbled around him.

Marchuk and others who were wounded are being treated in five hospitals in Germany, as well as in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and say that they are chafing at being out of action. They are left hoping against hope that the blood spilled to oust Yanukovych will, after 23 years of rocky independence and flagrant corruption, finally usher in a new era in Ukraine.

“Some people on [Independence Square] were irritated by corruption, some by bribery, some by police injustice, some by absolutely buyable judges,” Marchuk said.

“But for all the people … there was a uniting factor,” he added. “That is ‘dostalo,’ ” he said, repeating three times the Ukrainian word meaning “We’ve had enough!”

Dmitri Herasimenko, 28, an electrician who went each day to the square after work, now nurses serious internal and shoulder wounds that his doctors in Prague say will keep him off work for a year. “My only hope is that we elect the right people to government this time,” he said in an interview last week. “Those who will not steal and then run.”

Violence was necessary

While reports on the unrest in Kiev often depicted peaceful scenes of tens of thousands of people waving flags, some of those hurt said it was always clear to them that violence was needed for real change.

After Marchuk was shot, he was carried to the makeshift medical center at the nearby Hotel Ukraina, then to another first-aid post, then to a hospital. “Later, I understood that many people died because they did not get medical assistance in time,” he said.

While Marchuk was thankful to Germany for his treatment in one of the country’s best hospitals, the army facility in Koblenz, he also says he is disgusted by what he sees as German acquiescence and puny sanctions in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“Germans are used to living by exact rules,” he said, gesturing to the ward, the town and the neat vineyards etched into the Rhine and Mosel Valleys here. “That doesn’t exist in Ukraine. If we had these rules, we wouldn’t have needed to make this revolution.”

© 2014 Star Tribune