Stephenville man living in Kiev still feels safe in his home

Frank Gale
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Colin Maddock, right and his daughter Alicia are seen in Freedom Square, Kiev, Ukraine, prior to the fighting between opposition protesters and President Viktor Yanukovych’s government.

Colin Maddock doesn’t want his mom Bernice in Stephenville to worry about him and his family.

Maddock lives in Kiev, Ukraine, where protests against the country’s current President Viktor Yanukovych have been ongoing.

“Tell mum not to worry, she knows all of these places as she was here in Ukraine herself in November,” he told The Western Star in an email interview Friday.

Colin said he and his family — wife Ira, daughter Alicia and son Matthew — live about 10 Kilometers from the area where fighting and protests are occurring.

“The protests have not really affected us directly and my family and I are very safe, but as the city is under a lock down, with the transport system shut down (Metro/Subway, buses, trains, etc.) and police checkpoints throughout the city, we stay pretty close to home,” he said.

The family, like others living in Ukraine’s capital city, have been asked to stay inside after reports of roving bands of government supporters armed with weapons active in the area.

Maddock’s office is located about 400 metres from where some of the fighting is taking place, and he said people have died outside his building. A decision was made to shut the office and send all staff and advisers home, with orders to stay there.

Maddock is lead advisor and team leader on a European Union funded initiative to support local and regional economic development in the Ukraine. There are 15 staff members from both sides of the divide in Ukraine (Russian and Ukrainian speakers) and other European advisors.

He said keeping all of these staff safe is much more challenging since they are spread throughout the city.

“This affects me more (as my family are with me and are safe), and ensuring that my staff are safe has worried me during the crisis,” he wrote.

When the crisis began Wednesday afternoon, Maddock was on the subway from near Freedom Square on his way home. Due to the attacks, the metro was shut down by order of the mayor of Kiev, and he had to complete his commute home on foot.

“This was a bit nerve wrecking as we had no information as to what was happening, and there were a wide range of rumors floating around regarding what was going on,” he said. “I didn’t feel in danger then, but when the metro/subway stopped working, and the cellular phone networks were down for a while, not knowing what was going on was a bit worrying.”

Maddock has been in Ukraine off and on for some years now, starting his most recent assignment in January of 2013. He doesn’t know how long he will be there, and said effective regional and local economic development requires a stability that doesn’t exist at this time.  

While the European Union runs the initiative Maddock works for, the decision to leave the area up to him as the team leader. He said working at home is sufficient at the moment and the safest thing that all his staff can do.

“We have the option to evacuate my family if the situation gets worse, but they don’t want to go and I don’t think that it is so dangerous at the moment,” he said.

Maddock said the solution to the wider issue would only come about through a radical reform of the system in Ukraine. He said corruption is a major problem there, as is abuse of power. He said the Ukrainian president’s son reportedly wins 50 per cent of the government contracts in the country of 46 million people.

He said there are multiple teams of advisors in the country trying to fix the wider problem. While he works with the European Union, there are Canadians, Americans, Swiss and Germans all active there.

Maddock said, in his area of regional and local economic development, they are making significant progress and have just approved a national level regional development strategy to 2020, which will put the country on a solid footing for growth in the regions.  

As for how long the crisis will continue, he said that is anyone’s guess.

Thursday night, the German, Polish and French Foreign Ministers brokered a peace deal, which will bring some changes to the political environment in the country, he said.

“But there are too many diverse interest groups who have a lot to lose if the current political situation changes and there are so many people who are angry at the events of the last few nights and want revenge,” he said.

Maddock said a lot of weapons have flowed into the protest area, but the political solution appeared to be holding as of the time of his email. He said most of the main parties have agreed in principle to the terms of the peace deal.

“I hope it holds,” he said.

He said the areas where the protests occur are pretty well destroyed, including some of the main buildings on the square. But the shopping mall underneath the square is untouched, as is the metro station underneath and most other parts of Kiev.

Organizations: European Union, Metro inc.

Geographic location: Ukraine, Kiev, Stephenville Western Star

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