That Ukrainians will vote for their freedom this Christmas season is a coincidence of true perfection. For our movement is a triumph, not of mobs but of joyous crowds; of protests, not of looting; of clear purpose, not confusion. As a result, something new will color the habits of those who govern Ukraine from now on: respect for individuals, which is the ultimate check on the abuse of power.
Nothing can ever diminish what was at stake – and the victory that has been won – on the streets of Kyiv. Ukraine’s people have renewed their self-respect through courage and resolution. They have reason to be proud. Self-confidence among the governed and caution among the rulers: these are the psychological springs of democracy and true freedom, and they can never again be diverted in our homeland.
Nobody ever doubted that Ukraine had changed vastly in its twelve years of independence. Yet, caught in the sights of a gun barrel, nobody – not even the brave men and women who camped in their hundreds of thousands in the snow before Ukraine’s parliament – knew with certainty whether those changes had wrenched Ukrainians from the grip of fear and apathy. The success of their defiance shows the power of the idea that bewilders outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and his acolytes: that democracy means taking responsibility for one’s fate into one’s own hands.
The regime clearly expected the crowds that protested the fraudulent election of November 21 to scatter in apathy. They did not. This left the regime to choose between using force to quell the growing resistance or cutting its losses. By refusing to leave the streets and squares of Kyiv, Ukraine’s mass volunteer army of democrats forced our country’s gray old men of the past to retreat into the past.