Kiev police arrested 32-year-old Anna Donets this past week as a suspect in the protest at the city’s Park of Glory on Dec. 16. Four women gathered that day around the eternal flame that burns before the monument to the Soviet soldiers who died freeing Kiev from the Nazis. Then the women pulled out a pan and demonstratively used it to fry eggs and hot dogs.
On Tuesday, the press office of an extreme Christian nationalist party called “The Brotherhood” disseminated a link to a video of the event.
The party’s site says that “in prosecuting the girls who participated in this act the state is taking an expressly heathen, anti-Christian position, since the rituals of the Ukrainian state are the rituals of heathen cults — in particular, the placing of memorial wreaths by the Ukrainian president before the eternal flame at the Glory Monument in Kiev several times each year.”
The police have reported numerous outraged calls from people who viewed the video. An attempt to defile a monument to military glory and defense of a country evokes an outcry anywhere, of course. But the local situation is more complex.
The population of the Ukraine is split between ethnic Ukrainians and Russians, between speakers of Ukrainian and Russian. The monument is to Soviet soldiers, including both nationalities. As interpreted by extreme Ukrainian nationalists, the victory of the Nazis returned Ukrainians to their oppression by Russians.
The situation is compounded by the fact that for the countries of the former Soviet Union, as for much of Eastern Europe, World War II is not textbook history, but very much a matter of national pride and a continuing part of life. The war is often mentioned in the news, politicians remember it in their speeches, and it is celebrated ostentatiously on several holidays each year. Veterans are honored and receive special privileges.
The monument where the women demonstrated is a special place in Kiev. At its base is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Leading up to it is the Alley of Heroes, lined with the graves of 34 Soviet soldiers. No one is buried in the tomb itself.
The video shows “a recipe for making eternal eggs.” The song “Once Again the Battle Continues,” recorded in 1974 by a Soviet pro-state pop singer, was added as background music. The end of the chorus is: “And Lenin is so very young, and a young October awaits!”
The women, whose faces are not hidden, came prepared with ingredients and a pan, which they display to the camera. As one of them holds the pan over the flame, police officers who were on duty near the memorial come over to talk to them. Apparently, the women were able to convince them that the action was no big deal. Soon, two more join in, cooking hot dogs on sticks.
The Brotherhood has pointed out to the press that Donets was arrested on Josef Stalin’s birthday, Dec. 21, making her “a victim of the spiritual executioner of the Ukrainian people.” According to reports, Donets is accused of violating Article 296 of the Ukrainian criminal code, which outlaws “hooliganism.” She could face three years in prison.
The police are still on the lookout for the three other participants. Two of the police officers on duty near the monument have been fired, according to reports, and three others have been subjected to disciplinary measures.