Natalie Sedletska came to Prague for a six-month journalism fellowship, but when the events that would eventually be dubbed the “Euromaidan” began gathering steam in late November, she couldn’t stay away from her native Ukraine, where one of the most important news stories of the year was playing out on Kyiv’s Independence Square.
“I always want to be at the epicenter of the main events, especially in my country,” Sedletska said.
The spontaneous protests that erupted on the night of November 21 began over dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend talks on an association and trade agreement with the European Union, but soon morphed into a broader display of frustration with the government and calls resignations.
A 2013 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow at RFE/RL, Sedletska previously worked as a TV journalist based in Kyiv, and was well-known for her investigative journalism.
Reporting from RFE/RL’s Kyiv bureau, she met with, photographed and filmed the demonstrators, giving voice to their aspirations for a transparent civil society with respect for the rule of law. “Like a normal European country” was a common refrain.
WATCH: Natalya Sedletska reports from Euromaidan
Despite the tendency of Western media to portray the demonstrations as being largely composed of young students, Sedletska found something very different on the ground.
“I wouldn’t say it was a student demonstration at all,” she said. “It started that way, but in the end there were all ages of people coming to the square.”
While Western media also has a propensity for embellishing the role of social media in opposition demonstrations, Sedletska’s impression was that social media did indeed play a significant role. As she points out, the first protesters were responding to a Facebook post from one of Ukraine’s top journalists calling for those unhappy with the decision of President Viktor Yanukovych to halt the talks to come out to the square.
As Twitter is not yet very popular in Ukraine, Sedletska didn’t have much experience with it, but said she found it an incredibly useful tool in her reporting from the square, as it allowed her to give minute-by-minute updates.
While it is difficult to say if, or to what extent, the Euromaidan demonstrations will revive after the Christmas holiday, Sedletska said the “Eurolution” could be reinvigorated by the 2015 presidential elections.