Suzy Goodall of Imbler spent several years in Ukraine. Goodall became increasingly aware of the protests by students, professionals and even grandmothers against the government’s corruption. (SUZY GOODALL photo)
Teacher worked in Europe and expanded her circle of friends
IMBLER — Suzy Goodall remembers the protests in the streets of the Ukraine, but, she said, they were nothing like what’s going on there now.
The Imbler woman worked in the former Soviet republic as an educator, teaching in an international school that caters to children of international corporate and embassy workers and children of locals who want a Western-style education. She said there were protests during her time there, but they were civil, 9-to-5 type protests.
“The piece that I don’t think is coming out clearly is this division. The protest tipping point was when President Viktor Yanukovych backed off from joining the European Union,” Goodall said.
“The EU demands high accountability in banking and government funding. As a country you have to be willing to open your book and be part of the picture, but Ukraine has some of the highest graft — illegal use of government, bribes, taking money off the top, illegal contracts — and they don’t even hide it.”
The protests continued Tuesday, culminating in the worst violence in that nation in the last three months, leaving 25 dead and hundreds more injured and raising fears of a civil war.
“During the Russian years there was a famine engineered by Stalin and around 11 million people starved,” Goodall said. “The people don’t have great memories of being under Russian rule.”
There has been a lot of change in the last 19 years since Ukraine gained its independence from Russia, but it’s been a mixed result. Goodall said there is still a tremendous dependence on Russia because under its rule, the Ukraine economy was better.
“It’s very challenging for the traditionalists to say they were better off since they became independent,” she said.
Goodall said when candidates get into government they make money through corruption.
“The protesters’ push to the West was not for democracy, but for more transparent government,” she said.
The government’s questionable legitimacy trickles into daily life. It is hard for citizens to get visas, in part because there is a fear people will leave, and in part because it is profitable to be arbitrary.
“One time you go to get a visa it will cost $100 and another time it could cost $500,” Goodall said.
Police stop people on the street and demand money from them, according to Goodall.
“If you tell them you only speak English and are going to contact the embassy they will leave you alone,” she said.
She said Yanukovych was legally elected, but immediately put his opponent Yulia Tymoshenko in prison on trumped up charges.
Goodall said the rallies began in downtown Kiev and now, looking at maps of Ukraine, she said two-thirds of the government buildings have been taken over by protesters.
With friends all over the world and the immediacy of information exchanged on the Internet, she has kept in close contact with friends she met in Europe.
“In Cairo, Thailand, Bangladesh and Tanzania every day life just goes on for most people,” Goodall said. “In Ukraine, there is monumental dissent, but people are still going to work and school, driving across the city. It’s not like life completely stopped.”
The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would limit the president’s power — a key opposition demand. Parliament, dominated by his supporters, was stalling on taking up a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers.
Police responded by attacking the protest camp. Armed with water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullets, police dismantled some barricades and took part of the Maidan. But the protesters held their ground through the night, encircling the camp with new burning barricades of tires, furniture and debris.
Goodall is an early childhood teacher and became interested in international education. She worked for the U.S. Army in child and youth services in Germany.
“There’s a lot of international contact there because it’s so big everyone flies in and out,” she said.
From there she went to Ukraine.
“There was excitement and talk over joining the EU, but there were protestors in the street since Yulia was jailed,” Goodall said. “They set up tents and posters, music was playing. The opposition party had a strong presence, so you just kind of walked through it.”
Some things are brighter, she said. When she got to Ukraine it was at the beginning of the 2008 recession. She said there is a difference in construction and the attitude on the street is happier, but there is a push for more open government and human rights.
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