February 15th, 2014
An orthodox priest offering services from within the Euromaidan encampment here invited me to witness a baptism in a tent standing within the shadow of the Monument to Berehynia, usually not otherwise accessible to passers-by; guards mark the entrance. Although I was scheduled to attend, achieving access that morning was difficult as the person who introduced me to the priest initially was not available, and the guards had rotated since this meeting, so I stood at the entryway while doing my best to explain my intentions. Eventually, the priest was alerted to come around, and took me inside.
After an invitation to sit at a long table, where three older men sit and discuss serious matters, I am offered tea, sweets, bread, butter, and a number of other Ukrainian delicacies. I eat a small amount and thank them in my awful Ukrainian – “DYAH-koo-yoo“.
Shortly after my arrival, Euromaidan volunteers – perhaps members of “self-defense”, a combat group organized within the movement to provide defensive and security services – enter the tent and politely ask me to move. It is common, presently, to see official members of this movement dressing and acting more like some type of military, yellow-blue ribbons around tied around their arm.
The boy to be baptized – Timofy – had arrived with his parents and god-mother (within Orthodox tradition, a god-parent, or “holy mother” if female, is usually present and holds the child at certain moments in the ceremony). They enter the tent a few minutes later and the ritual begins.
Uniformed members of the Euromaidan movement stand respectfully and observe. Some hold lit candles and cross themselves at certain points during the ceremony.
Afterwards I ask the god-mother why it was decided to baptize Timofy within a Euromaidan tent.
“The situation here at Maidan unites all the people, the whole country” she replies through another photographer, who helps to translate. “And now, in the whole country – not only on Maidan – there is some energy, some aura that I hope can bestow some positive effect on the future of this child”.