Parma Supports Euromaidan Protests In Ukraine
"Parma is with the Ukrainians!" So said Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter, who, on a cold, snowy day in December, enthusiastically offered words of inspiration and support at the most recent Euromaidan demonstration in Ohio’s seventh largest city and heart of the Cleveland area's growing Ukrainian community. At Parma’s City Hall and Ukrainian Heritage Park in Ukrainian Village, hundreds have turned out for several organized demonstrations in a show of solidarity with the ongoing Euromaidan protests in Ukraine – a Texas-size country of 45 million located east of Poland and west of Russia in what some have referred to as the geographic center of Europe.
Much like the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004 that challenged a fraudulent presidential election victory while seeking to enact democratic reforms, reduce corruption, and integrate Ukraine more closely with the European Union, Ukrainians are once again demanding that their voices be heard. The Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, sparked in late November when the Ukrainian government suspended the signing of a landmark European Union Association Agreement, represent the latest opportunity for Ukraine to move toward Europe and re-emerge within the greater European community as an equal partner. In recent history, the movement away from Russia and toward closer European integration was set in motion with Ukraine’s historic vote for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The movement toward Europe continued with Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004 and continues today with the Euromaidan protests that have seen hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens throughout the country demand that their government move toward a more prosperous future that represents respect for liberty, the right of assembly, the rule of law, and free speech.
The most recent Euromaidan demonstration in Parma featured many prominent representatives who voiced their support for the ongoing Euromaidan protests in Ukraine and have called on President Yanukovych of Ukraine to stop the violence and uphold the right of all Ukrainians to speak freely without fear of intimidation or oppression. In addition to Mayor DeGeeter, other representatives who spoke at the event included Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, State Representative Nicholas Celebrezze, Parma Council President Sean Brennan, Parma Clerk of Courts Marty Vittardi, and United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio (UZO) President Marta Liscynesky-Kelleher.
Congresswoman Kaptur, having made over 20 trips to Ukraine and wearing a coat that was given to her in Kyiv during one of her trips, offered her full support stating "we care about Ukraine, we care about her people, we care about her future.” She also mentioned Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, who said that “it is only a matter of time before Ukraine orients west and orients to Europe." Kaptur added that she believes "Ukraine to be the most important borderland in the heart of Europe. She will connect not just to Europe. She will connect to Turkey. She will connect to points north and south on every level; academically, commercially, militarily, from a trade standpoint. By standing here today, we help her move in all directions. She will be one of the greatest nations in that part of the world."
The Euromaidan protests continue as the rest of the world is watching. Ukrainians once again have an exciting opportunity to transform Ukraine, embrace her European identity, improve her economy, and forge a better tomorrow not only for Ukraine, but for all of Europe. With the former Presidents of Ukraine all recently voicing their support for the Euromaidan protests and upcoming presidential contenders who view Ukraine's future firmly rooted in Europe, it appears history will likely prove that Brzezinski was right about Ukraine’s orientation toward Europe – it is only a matter of time.
Stefan P. Stefaniuk
Stefan P. Stefaniuk has been a Parma resident since 1982 and enjoyed growing up in Parma's incredible historic downtown neighborhood. After serving five years in the U.S. Navy, he was honorably discharged in 2009 and returned to Parma with his wife and two children. Today, he works as a licensed Realtor at Howard Hanna Real Estate, is a graduate student at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, and is also actively involved with various neighborhood revitalization initiatives in the Parma area.