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Down And Out On The Maidan

Maks Bydnyk can't go home.
Maks Bydnyk can't go home.
KYIV -- Four months ago, Maks Bydnyk traveled to the Ukrainian capital to join the revolution and fight for a better country.

It's now more than a month since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted. And yet Bydnyk still patrols, sleeps, and camps on Kyiv’s iconic Independence Square.

Isn’t it time to go home?

For the 23-year-old Bydnyk, it’s not that simple: He can’t go home for fear of his life.

Back in early March Bydnyk was worried about the approaching independence referendum in Crimea. So he traveled with his fellow self-defense brigades to southern Ukraine to set up checkpoints on the Rostov-Odesa road to weed out people from Donetsk and Luhansk traveling into Crimea to distort the vote.

Not far from home in his hometown of Dolinsk, he decided to stop in for a visit. But the Euromaidan has little support in Dolinsk, an impoverished village of 350 people in the Russian-speaking Zaporizhzhya region. In fact, Bydnyk says it was a recruiting ground for so-called "titushky," the paid pro-Yanukovych thugs who attacked Euromaidan protesters.

Everyone here knew Bydnyk had joined the Maidan and some openly harbored a grudge.

Bydnyk says he was threatened for two days by masked men with the apparent compliance of some local police officers. At one point, he says, a gang of masked men with automatic rifles and bulletproof jackets burst into his mother’s house, but dispersed after fellow Maidan security guys and his father arrived on the scene.

The threats and harassment peaked in the early hours of March 16.

"At 5:30 a.m., four guys from the Sokol police force attacked us at home. They stormed in with automatic rifles and shields. They didn’t talk to us. They immediately began beating us and then handcuffed us," he says.

Bydnyk says they beat him and his young brother and forced him to eat the pro-revolution stickers of the Maidan security brigade. He says he was then taken to the local police station, accused of hoarding a huge arsenal of firearms, and was beaten by cops as well as paid thugs.

Fearing The Worst

Finally in the evening, he says he was mysteriously released after signing documents that he was not allowed to read. It made him fear the worst -- that the same people would come after him when he was outside the police station.

Bydnyk then put his father, mother, and brother into a car and drove them off to Odesa where he was born. His instincts served him well -- 90 minutes after the family fled, Bydnyk received a phone call from a friend telling him that his front door had been kicked in and the family home set on fire.

Back in Kyiv, Bydnyk is now trying to lodge a complaint with the prosecutor’s office. But so far he says he has had no luck. And this has left him disenchanted with the new post-Maidan status quo.

"In a way, I’m a political refugee in my own country," he says. "For four months I stood here to take down the authorities, to change something for the better and for new authorities to come. It’s the same as it was. Again I’m suffering because of the authorities. We gave our health to them. Now they ignore us."

Bydnyk now has no job and no home. He is disenchanted with Maidan, and yet Maidan is his only home. It is a twilight reality that ticks to its own rhythm and where camraderies were forged out of the snow and blood of Euromaidan.

His dream now is to start a Maidan-themed restaurant that would employ the various talents of the men who still live on Maidan.