LVIV, Ukraine -- Hundreds of mourners gathered in the western city of Lviv on February 22 for an emotional church service to mark the death of a 29-year old local activist and historian who died in this week's violence in Kyiv.
In a haunting display of public grief and unity, men and women chanted "glory to heroes" through streaming tears as Bohdan Solchanyk's coffin was lifted and carried from the church to an ambulance ahead of his burial tomorrow.
Solchanyk, who had been due to submit his doctoral dissertation, was killed on February 20 during bloody clashes in Kyiv that claimed dozens of lives.
Pavlo Sodomora, 40, a professor at Lviv’s Catholic University where Solchanyk was soon to be awarded a professorship, was in palpable shock during the February 22 service at Lviv's ornate, 17th-century St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
His eyes welled up and he snatched at his words.
"He is a hero of Ukraine," Sodomora said. "We should appreciate this, because we have to change. We have to look deeper at this problem and at his death. We have to be completely different from this day – to change completely -- everything."
Ukraine – a country that has never known terrorism or deadly riots in over two decades of independence -- is in deep shock after the bloody clashes that have left the country teetering on the edge of civil war. On February 22 in Kyiv, protesters led a march of mourning, raising coffins shoulder-high and chanting to "heroes."
A Life Cut Tragically Short
Solchanyk, a native of Stary Sambir, a small town some 60 kilometers from Lviv, was shot dead as he walked to a protest tent in the Ukrainian capital that he had been mistakenly informed was under opposition control. He died on the spot.
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Since President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a landmark trade pact with the European Union in November sparking mass protests, Solchanyk had established himself as a leading activist in Lviv and had traveled three times to demonstrations in Kyiv.
Solchanyk participated in the very first anti-Yanukovych demonstration – an all-night protest in Lviv that preceded the Kyiv protests. His colleagues recalled him as a talented and kind person.
"I am horribly sorry for Bohdan," said Oleksanderd Zaitsev, 48, a professor at Ivano-Franka university, who had been a mentor to Solchanyk. "I really sympathized with him. He was a very good man, a talented teacher and a talented scholar. His life was cut short."
"I think that any president who is going to come has to know that Ukrainians are not going to tolerate things like this," said Sodomora. "Briberies. Killings, jailing innocent people -- Ukrainians are not going to tolerate it. It is clear here -- they are rising already for the fight.”
Solchanyk was scheduled to be buried in his hometown on February 23.