War in Ukraine: From first Maidan protest to parade: story of a history student
Society18:29 Aug. 30, 2016
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From first Maidan protest to parade: story of a history student

A career path from history student to a participant of the military parade on Ukraine's Independence Day. This is what Vitaliy Kuz'menko has gone through in the past three years

Three years ago a student of a historical department came to Maidan in late November 2013. Vitaliy says he could not stay at home among his books. He came to the main Kyiv square with his friends, young people sat exactly under the Independence Monument. Vitaliy went aside to smoke a cigarette when he noticed the officers of "Berkut" - Ukrainian special purpose police unit - approaching the crowd. Numerous Berkut servicemen attacked the peaceful student demonstration late at night.

Kuz'menko recovered consciousness in a hospital already. He had a broken arm and brain concussion - a result of beating by Berkut. He spent two weeks in a clinic, recovering. With his arm fixed in plaster, Vitaliy returned to Maidan. He spent the bloodiest days of the Revolution of Dignity with his compatriots in the protest camp. When Berkut servicemen approached the International Convention Center "Ukrainian House", he was among the first to rush there. As a professional historian, Kuz'menko wanted to save the funds of Kyiv museum.

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Vitaliy Kuz'menko went to the military commissariat as soon as the war in eastern Ukraine started. At first, the medical commission did not let him serve in the armed forces in view of the previous injuries. Nevertheless, Vitaliy managed to join the army in autumn 2014. He served in the intelligence service close to Mariupol. In the spring of 2016, the soldier eventually made a transfer to inactive duty. In the beginning of August, he was offered to participate in the military parade.

Read more Watch: Independence Day military parade held in Kyiv

Vitaliy graduated from the university during his absence leave from the army. Now he is studying to get a PhD degree. Vitaliy says his historical interests have shifted somehow. Now he is not striving to learn the Middle Ages anymore, but concentrates mainly on contemporary Russian imperialist policy. Vitaliy stresses he is ready to defend Maidan again if such necessity ever emerges.

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