Politically, I could tell that Ukraine had entered a new crisis as reformers
and their allies in the media faced increasing authoritarianism and repression. Thousands
of peaceful demonstrators called for the removal of then-President Leonid Kuchma, who had
been implicated in the violent death of a reporter, as well as election rigging, suppressing
the media, and other forms of corruption. Kuchma retaliated and while the demonstrations
faltered, important changes were taking place that were creating the foundations of the
Orange Revolution: an active community of politically engaged citizens was forming.
I was particularly impressed by a small but growing network of citizens
who participated in a broad variety of community groups. Nila, for example, was a research
scientist and single parent of four teenagers. Her salary (equivalent to $57 a month) was
not enough to buy milk on a daily basis, and she spent many weekends traveling hours by
train and foot to tend the garden that she relied on for most of her family's meals. Nila
also made time to be active in a mnumber of civic groups and was a founding member of a
small Ukrainian Orthodox parish.
Nila, like many pro-reform minded people I met in 2001, was helping build Ukraine's civil
society. It was these people who created the public leverage in 2004 that enabled the Orange
Revolution's participants to overcome Ukraine's corrupt government.