After some reader feedback, I’ve decided to make the posts a bit shorter, splitting them into parts. So this is the local news update from yesterday’s post on Daytripping to Dolyna. One day, I will also figure out how to properly format the position of photos so they look good whatever browser or device you’re using!
In an addition to yesterday’s post, an interview with me appeared on a local Ivano-Frankivsk news site. A journalist and politics student started reading the blog and decided to speak to me about it and my impressions of life in Ivano-Frankivsk and Ukraine more generally. The mistakes have now been corrected in the article, so I’m happy to share, even if the photo makes me look like I’ve been the victim of a tabloid newspaper sting!
I reported that two weeks ago there was an attempt by the more radical elements of the protests in the city, Self-Defence and Right Sector, to revive the daily rallies that had typified the early weeks of Maidan. However, this revival has been a resounding failure, with the mass of citizens refusing to accept that Self-Defence and Right Sector represent the community, despite claiming to speak for it. Two weeks on from the revival, at the rally hour of 6pm, the square was empty, bar the Right Sector tent where youths in camouflage gear hang out. Still, the smashed windows of the administration building have not been fixed, while no one from the city administration has seen fit to remove the mainly Right Sector stickers that cover the nameplate by the entrance. Maybe they’ll get round to it by the time the square is renamed ‘Heroes of Maidan Square’ and a monument is erected.
What did bring people out onto the streets of Ivano-Frankvisk, however, was a procession and memorial service marking 40 days since the death of Roman Huryk and others killed on Maidan. In Ukrainian mourning traditions, forty days since a person’s passing are usually marked and this was no exception, except that it brought large numbers on to the streets. Unlike the ninth day after the death, right-wing organisations did not appropriate the event for themselves and instead a broader section of the community was involved, including the military this time. In the evening, students marked the fortieth day with a memorial event by the city’s lake, while on Friday the university organised a memorial event.
Politicians still continue, though to appropriate the ‘revolution’ for their own ends, with Deputy PM and current Ivano-Frankivsk MP Oleskandr Sych deeming the revolution to have been a ‘national’ one, ‘because it was nationwide and incorporated the whole nation.‘ Speaking at the Svoboda congress this weekend, he argued that because ‘the revolution took place under the banner of the Banderite slogan “Glory to Ukraine”‘ it was thus a ‘national revolution’ which needs to be completed. He is thus appropriating the civil revolution for his Party’s own political aims, based in the long-standing nationalist idea of ‘national revolution’ whose chief ideologist is Stepan Bandera, still glorified around the city.
“Banderstadt”, a kind of self-ironising reference to the perception of this city and also Lviv, is also the name of a hotel near the airport. It is where refugees coming to the city from Crimea, largely Tatars, are initially housed. Surely, to avoid any misinterpretation by the Russian media, which like to paint Ukraine as ruled by “Banderites”, a different hotel could have been chosen? Maybe “Nadiya”, which means “hope”?
Sych’s appointment to the cabinet means that on 25 May, when the first round of presidential elections takes place, there will be a by-election in Ivano-Frankivsk. The local mayor is standing as a candidate for the conservative Ukrainian National Party, while student activist Maksym Kitsiuk is also standing. He is from Sevastopol but studied in Ivano-Frankivsk and was badly beaten and hospitalised in December when, quite probably security service approved fighters, attacked him.
In more everyday news, the speedy weakening of the Ukrainian hryvnia is starting to affect spending. At the start of the year, one USD cost just over eight hryvnias, while the difference between the selling and buying rate was rarely more than five kopiyeks. Now, a dollars costs 11.40 and there are 60 kopiyeks between selling and buying. One GBP cost about 13 UAH in January, now it’s over 19. Even Right Sector is feeling the pinch, having to justifying its leader riding about in an armoured car taken from one of Yanukovych’s sons. They also argue that the leader’s life is in danger, so he must have an armoured vehicle.
Right Sector put one of their posters on the central branch of Watson’s, a drugstore, in Ivano-Frankivsk on Friday. For at least three weeks this chain, part of the same group that owns Superdrug in the UK and Rossmann around Europe, was promoting an offer that for this weekend of 28-30 March it will be offering 30% off everything. Not surprisingly, on 28 March all special offers had disappeared and prices on numerous products had risen since the day before. By Friday evening, this central branch was short on stock and queues stretched around the store as customers sought “bargains”. The shelves have been cleared for permanently higher stock.
Supermarket Furshet is advertising that it is still keeping prices based on the 8 UAH to the dollar rate. However, the small print states that this offer is limited to 150 top-selling products. I find it hard to believe that bananas are not among the top 150 things it sells. The price per kilo has gone from about 11.50 to 19, reflecting the collapsing currency’s fall but not their 7.99/$1 promise. You can get lots of varieties of canned Ukrainian-produced fish at this rate – showing just what an empty promise it is.
The Prime Minister promised that pay won’t be cut for state employees, but that it won’t rise either, while inflation will be 12-15% this year. That’s called a pay cut in real terms. So, we’ll see how long everyday life will continue in its usual rhythms before the economic realities really begin to bite in the city and beyond.