Lilia Musikhina, When Heaven Weighed Heavily Over the Earth: ‘V’ is for Vilni- Those Who are Free. (Ternopil: Dzhura, 2016)

Lilia Musikhina is a Ukrainian folklore researcher and writer in Ternopil. She was a Maidan participant and has been a civilian volunteer to Ukrainian military battalions following the events of early 2014. During an interview for the launch of her book in 2016, she describes “Kolyzakhytalosnebo” as a novel based on real events and on her participation in the Maidan (2013-2014). The story’s hero, Sashko “is a composite, taking upon himself the features of many real participants. It is a novel of re-emergence, the liberation of a nation.”

An organizational feature of Maidan life was the self-defence units, or “hundreds”. The book follows the history, anxieties, suffering, and successes of two units, the 14th and 15th, named “VilniLiudy” – “Free People”. On one occasion of reflection, a meditation is made on the meaning of their slogan:

“Sashko sat down at his computer. He opened a new “Word” document, paused to think for a moment, and then began to click away at the keyboard.

‘What do we mean by the word Vilni – free?

To be free – means to be the master of your own decisions, actions, and accountability for your deeds.

To be free – means to be prepared to defend your kin and nation, your home and country in an armed defence. Consequently, free people bear arms. Free people, whether men or women, take special military training and field first-aid preparation, under realistic conditions.

To be free – means to elect a government independent of interference, granting the mace’s office of authority to the worthiest from among the best qualified.

To be free – means to employ a civil service and their supervisors without becoming enslaved to them.

To be free – means to raise your child according to your principles, nourished by the traditions of family, extended family, and nation, protecting them from the time of their birth from the influences of manipulation that are foreign to your worldview.

To be free – means the opportunity to study for a profession irrespective of the financial means of your parents, but rather conditional on your knowledge, capacity to learn, and personal aptitude.

To be free – means having access to a world of information and news that is not manipulated through disinformation and propaganda of the enemy.

To be free – means to take responsibility for the elderly and misfortunate.

To be free – means understanding that there are no strangers where children are concerned; they are the future of our nation.

To be free – means ownership of land and home.

To be free – means taking an interest in the cultural heritage of one’s nation, conducting research and teaching that heritage.

To be free – means the liberty to decide your religious adherence, or the choice to be unaffiliated.

To be free – is to love.

To be free – is an ancestral Ukrainian right.

This is why I am one of the free – Vilni.

A free man among the free.’”

Lilia Musikhina states that she wrote When Heaven Weighed Heavily Over the Earth “in two weeks, and edited it in three days.” Such is the effect of months of intense stress, when it is possible to achieve a successful form of creative expression. In this accomplishment, she is not unlike Viktor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in nine days upon his release from World War II concentration camps.

The following are several of the book’s insights:

Що означає бути вільним?

Бути Vвільним – це самостійно приймати рішення, діяти і відповідати за свої вчинки…

Бути Vвільним – це розуміти, що чужих дітей не буває. Вони – майбутнє нації…

Бути Vільним – це досліджувати і примножувати культурну спадщину свого народу…

Бути Vільним – це любити.

Бути Vвільним – це правічне право українця…

Переведи мене через Майдан, брате. Мені страшно.

Accompany me across the Maidan, my brother. I am frightened to cross alone…

Владі належать кабінети. Нехай. Дідько з ними. Але їм, простим людям, належать Майдани. Саме Майдани та віча споконвіку були запорукою демократії в Україні.

The offices of power might well belong to the government. So be it. To hell with them. But to the ordinary people belong the Maidan gatherings. These very Maidans and these meetings have been the enduring guarantor of democracy in Ukraine.

Якщо щезає страх смерті –  зникає і решта страхів. Стаєш по-справжньому вільним.

If you can succeed in deflating the fear of death, all other fears will likewise be overcome; then you will be inviolably free.

Держава, що мала б забезпечувати соціальні гарантії і захищати людину, перетворила її на раба, позбавила почуття власної гідності, а життя звела до злиденного животіння.

The government was tasked and obligated to guarantee the fundamentals of social assistance and protection of the human individual, but instead it transformed our citizens into slaves, depriving them of their inherent dignity, perverting their lives into a base existence of mere survival.

Диктатор, який втрачає повагу і страх супроти себе, стає нікчемним.

When a dictator has lost the fear of the governed and their good will, he becomes a pathetic caricature.

І кожен відганяв думку, що не дай Боже, доведеться убивати. Десь там, глибоко у свідомості, вона мабуть була, але … Майданівці боялися вбивати. Вони були готові віддавати життя, але не забирати.

They had reached the point at which, God forbid, they might be faced with killing another human being. They restrained the thought far down in their psyche… The “Maidanites” possessed a healthy revulsion to killing. They had steeled themselves to the prospect of self-sacrifice, to give their lives, not to take life.

Хоч би ціною власного життя, але таки досягти змін у державі.

Even if it meant the cost of their own lives, the goal was government reform.

Якби там не було, вони –  не злочинці й не злодії. Так, чи інакше, їм з оцими людьми, які стоять навпроти через барикаду, згодом треба буде будувати одну державу. Вони –  не звірі.

In their essence, the men were not criminals, nor were the women of the Maidan. One way or another, the day would arrive when, together with their adversaries on the other side of the barricades, one country would need to be re-built; together. They weren’t animals.

Пояснювати, що таке гідність, любов, батьківщина.

The effort was made to explain what was meant by dignity, by love, and by a bond to one’s country.

Article and translation by Fr. Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk