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Olena Furkalo Narrates
Orange Revolution Possible by Students Strike
"We Did Not Want Wrong Man to Be Our President"
Olena Furkalo prior to her interview with The Seoul Times

The Orange Revolution, or Chestnut Revolution, of the Ukraine at the end of last year was a bloodless citizen's revolution, a series of mass demonstrations which broke the election fraud of the Kiev government and government-sponsored candidate Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - which eventually put the opposition candidate Yushchenko into the presidency.

Behind the citizen's revolution was the force of numerous students who willingly plunged themselves into the risky task of transforming their country into a democratic one. The Seoul Times recently met with one of the Ukrainian students who staged the student strike which touched off the revolution.

Olena Furkalo, a 22-year-old graduate student of Kiev University, narrated why she and her fellow students took part in the student strike, and how the whole part of the citizens' demonstration unfolded, bracing the nippy winter weather around the end of the year 2004.

A camp scene in Kiev during Orange Revolution

"We were fighting against election fraud, and for our freedom," said Olena. "We did not want to have the wrong person as our president."

Olena is now studying toward a masters degree in international relations at the Institute of International Relations of The National University of Kiev. Ironically, she happens to be a daughter of the Ukrainian Ambassador to Seoul, Volodymyr Furkalo.

During the entire process of the revolution, Olena and her student colleagues literally lived in the makeshift camp town.

"The whole Orange Revolution was actually started on Nov. 22, 2004 by students like me," Olena said.

Olena Furkalo
She said that a countless number of tents were set up on the main streets of Kiev called "Majdan." There were an estimated three to four hundred camps on the street, but perhaps many more than that. "In my camp there were only 10 to 15 students but soon the number welled to around 50," she stated. "On Nov. 23 we went to the camp, and stayed there until Dec. 8."

Her camp was made mainly out of students from her school, Kiev University's Institute of International Relations. Boris Tarasuk, the son of the newly appointed Foreign Minister Oleng Tarasuk, was in the camp with her colleagues.

Olena stayed in the camp from the morning until late at night, but during the wee hours of the morning she and other female students went home, while male students guarded the demonstrating camps.

At night the temperature dropped to minus 12 degrees centigrade and it was often snowing.

"Nobody was sick in our camp," Olena said. "We stayed there guarding against possible obstructionists."

Olena Furkalo in front of her camp in Kiev

But they were bolstered by helping hands from all walks of life in their struggle for democracy.

"Our friends and professors were bringing food, and every morning and evening they brought coffee and warm milk to us and other demonstrators," she said.

Many citizens passing by their camps offered money, trying to cheer them up. "People were donating money for the whole camp city there," said she. "There were 10 to 15 boxes for donated money."

The camp city was organized by nationwide student association called "Pora," meaning "The Right Time." Pora is a student group in opposition against the former Ukranian regime.

"Upon hearing the TV news that government-sponsored candidate Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential election on Nov. 22, nearly all the students in Kiev declared a student strike," she said.

Olena Furkalo (left) talks with The Seoul Times editor

She said that up to 80 percent of all the university students in Kiev participated in the strike.

"We were fighting against election fraud, and for our freedom," she said. "It was a student revolution"

Soon, many citizens followed suit.

"Some 70 percent of all the Kiev citizens poured out on the street," she said. "Kiev has about 3 million people." So it was a sizeable demonstration.

Olena said that On Nov. 22 she was watching the TV for election results, and her candidate Yushchenko appeared to be winning. Relieved, she went to bed.

But the next morning the result was the other way around — the incumbent Prime Minister had gained the advantage.

Olena Furkalo

Olena said that her candidate won in 17 provinces, and the Prime Minister won in only 10 provinces. But the official results contradicted this observation.

"How could he (the Prime Minister) possibly win?" she asked.

She said that it was totally incomprehensible for him to win, particularly in the eastern parts of the region.

"The number of votes in the region turned out to be bigger than the entire eligible voters in the region," she fumed. "It was like 102 or 103 percent and in other regions it was 110 percent."

"This cheating made all the Ukrainian people really upset," she continued.

Yet, miraculously enough, nobody was killed or injured in the massive demonstration in which perhaps millions of citizens participated.

Olena Furkalo (right) answers reporter's questions. At left is Andrii Nikolaienko, press officer of the Ukranian Embassy in Seoul.

"It was totally peaceful and everybody was smiling and happy," she said. "There were all kinds of people were out there, students and professors."

She said that there were young couples carrying their four or five year old babies on their shoulders.

"We did not want to live in an undemocratic country," she went on. "We were demonstrating for the future of our country." Every morning at 10 they had a prayer time at the camp town.

Asked for a personal comment about the new President Yushchenko, she said "I love him just like a lot of my friends." Yushchenko had been a professor at her own university, and he also was an economist, serving as governor of the central bank.

"I believe that he is the right person for the future of our country, considering his economic background," Olena said.






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