Sunday, January 02, 2005

Some of the New Year's Eve celebrations I have missed 

For the political junkies and freedom lovers, New Year's Eve in Kiev, Ukraine, sound very much like a place to have been.

Somewhere up to one million Ukrainians crowded into the Independence Square and surrounding streets to welcome the new year - and the new president, Victor Yushchenko, who was there with his family to greet the crowd.

Standing next to Yushchenko, Mikhail Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, who himself was elevated to lead his nation on the crest of a bloodless democratic revolution earlier last year. Said Saakashvili to the crowd: "Here, on this square, not just the future of Ukraine has been decided, but also the future of Europe."

Meanwhile, in the neighboring Belarus, post-Soviet only in terms of a passage of time and not of substance, president Alexander Lukashenko announced that he will greet the new year in his presidential office. As he explained: "When the nation celebrates, the president has to be watchful." Which, I guess, tells you everything you need to know about the Belarusian politics. Not surprisingly, the Ukrainians took this pronouncement as a joke, albeit not a very funny one, but also a sign that maybe this time next year the Belarusians, too, will be celebrating the coming of a new year as free people.

By the way, the infamous dioxin poisoning might have horribly disfigured Yushchenko's handsome face, but fortunately there was not enough poison to go around for another pro-democracy leader, Yulia Timoshenko.

No wonder the good side won.

And I also managed to miss another great party, this in the main square of my hometown Krakow, where 140,000 people crammed into what is Europe's largest historic market square.

Well, maybe next year.


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