Lidia Zhgyr was a volunteer nurse during the Euromaidan protests in 2013-2014. In the Maidan’s Fifth Hundred, she met a man who came to the barricades from Italy, where he was living with his family. His name is Vitaliy Markiv. In 2019, an Italian court handed down a controversial sentence, finding him guilty of involvement in the murder of journalists in the Donbas and sentencing him to 24 years in prison. But five years ago, on February 20, 2014, Markiv actually saved Lidia's life. On the sixth anniversary of the Maidan shootings, Lidia Zhgyr told the story to Hromadske.
“You’re Never Bored With Him”
“We met there [in a tent] after about December 5,” Lidia Zhgyr recalled her first meeting with Vitaliy Markiv. Then, in 2013, she studied in Kyiv and spent her free time on the Maidan, helping protesters.
“I used to come several times a week, I cooked some food, talked, helped. When the first fighting between the demonstrators and the police began on Hrushevsky Street, I took up the feldsher (healthcare professional who provides many medical services -ed.) functions as we did not have a single doctor in the hundred,” Zhgyr told.
Markiv, who came to the Maidan from Italy where he had lived with his family from the age of 13, also found himself in the Fifth Hundred“
He has strong patriotic feelings. He spent his childhood in Ukraine and his youth in Italy, and he realized that this moment was a call of his soul to return to Ukraine,” says Zhgyr.
She remembers Markiv as a cheerful and open person. “He is so noisy. You always have a lot of jokes with him. So you’re never bored with him. Meeting him in a Maidan tent – that always meant having fun,” Zhgyr said, adding that Markiv was her closest friend in her environment on the Maidan.
“Stay Here, I Will Take You There”
On February 18, when the forceful dispersal of the protest began, Zhgyr was treating Markiv in the first-aid post.
"He was injured in the head in Mariyinsky Park. I think an ambulance even took him away at the time, but he jumped out on the road with another Maidan protester and came back," she recalls.
In two days, Markiv had a chance to thank her. Zhgyr vividly remembers February 20, the day of the mass shootings on the Maidan.
“We had all been waiting for some escalation the whole night, all the doctors prepared the seam material, distributed the medicines, prepared for the attack, thought out the strategy of what we do if we are “cleaned up”. Our head doctor, Serhiy Horbenko, said we were providing medical assistance to everyone. That is, if need be, we give treatment to the Berkuters. We are medics, we don’t pick colors,” Zhgyr recalled.
On the morning of February 20, Zhgyr, along with another nurse, were running to pick up the wounded from the Instytutska Street. But Markiv stopped her.
“Vitaliy said: ‘Stop. You will not go any further’. He said he saw a window open in the building of Hotel Ukraine with a sniper. I said I need to go further because the wounded are there. But he did not let me go. He said he would help me cross Instytutska Street.”
“He had such a thin metal shield. I don’t know where he got it – from the police, or possibly the Berkuters. Behind this shield, he crossed Instytutska Street with me, covering me. And then on the other side of the road I saw the wounded Volodymyr Movchan. I picked him up and took him to Hotel Ukraine,” Zhgyr told.
She said that then, early in the morning on February 20, she didn't quite realize that people were being shot by snipers and where they were shooting from. And so she appreciates Markiv's act, which may have saved her life.
“What he did, that he just protected me covering with himself, was a human act. We did not have a plan, we did not prepare for it.”
In the spring of 2014, Markiv was the first in the hundred to volunteer for the National Guard and went to the Donbas.
Lidia recalled that not everyone was positive about this.
"His decision to go to the National Guard was hailed as 'joined the cops'. Even in front of the hundred, they put on a scarecrow, dressed it in a uniform Markiv wore on the Maidan, and said disapproving things about him. I absolutely did not support it, it was unclear to me: what is bad about going to defend your homeland when the war is brewing? And he was literally the first to go to defend Ukraine. And then other guys joined ‘Aidar’ and other battalions in the east.”
A Moveable Revolution
Zhgyr now lives in Beijing. She told this story to Hromadske when she came to spend her winter holidays with relatives in Ukraine.
In memory of the Maidan, she has a yellow-blue Ukrainian flag that accompanies her worldwide. It has the signatures of the people who were with her in the Maidan’s Fifth Hundred. Including Markiv’s in Italian: “Viva la Ucraina, viva la rivoluzione” (‘Long live Ukraine, live the revolution’).
The Italian court sentenced Markiv for alleged involvement in the murder of journalists in the Donbas, without direct evidence of his guilt, to 24 years in prison. For Zhgyr, this was a shock.
"Despair is the best word to express the feeling when your friend is arrested on charges that are not true," she says.
Nevertheless, Zhgyr believes in justice.
“Thank you, my friend! I hope to see you very soon,” she says into Hromadske’s camera the words that she did not have time to say to Markiv personally.
Hromadske journalist Olga Tokariuk, together with three Italian colleagues, is shooting an investigative film with the working title "The Wrong Place" about the case of Ukrainian National Guard soldier Vitaliy Markiv. The documentary calls into question the Italian court's version of Markiv's involvement in the 2014 murder of journalists Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov in the Donbas. They've launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the project, which you can support here.