Orange Believers Losing Faith
KIEV, Ukraine -- One recent rainy day, Natalya
Simonenko was suddenly overcome with nostalgia for the time
she spent on Independence Square a year ago.
She opened the drawer where she kept last year's
Orange Revolution memorabilia -- orange ribbons, a mug with
President Viktor Yushchenko's portrait, an orange scarf, several
orange flags and her favorite orange sweater -- and decided
to throw them all into the trash.
"It was the right place for them, I felt
relieved afterward. I couldn't even imagine myself throwing
these things away before, but now ... " she said, her voice
Simonenko, 26, a businesswoman from the Black
Sea port of Odessa, was one of the many thousands of orange-clad
people who last year crammed Kiev's central Independence Square
to protest the fraudulent Nov. 21, 2004, runoff election that
gave victory to then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. After
two weeks of continuous protests -- often in freezing temperatures
-- the election result was overturned, and in December Yushchenko
was elected president in a rerun of the vote.
Like many participants in the protests, Simonenko
hoped that Yushchenko would put an end to the cronyism and corruption
under his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma.
But a year later, the mood of the participants
in the Orange Revolution has switched from one of initial euphoria
to deep disappointment, with many of those who took to the streets
in protest now seeing no difference between the old and the
new ruling elites.
And the team of Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko,
the hero and the heroine of Independence Square, are seen by
many of their former supporters as failing to keep their promises.
Orange, the emblematic color of Yushchenko's
supporters, is hardly seen on the streets of Kiev anymore, while
opinion polls show that Ukrainians increasingly think the country
is headed in the wrong direction.
"I was one of the few in Odessa to support
Yushchenko; I traveled to Kiev to demonstrate," Simonenko
said during a recent trip to the capital. "I used to argue
with my family and my neighbors who supported Yanukovych. I
wanted the country to change, but after a year I see that nothing
has, corruption is still high, and the oligarchs are still running
In Simonenko's hometown of Odessa, where most
residents speak Russian as their first language and Yanukovych
won about 70 percent of the vote in last year's elections, she
said friends and neighbors now laugh at her for supporting the
"They say, 'So, what happened with your
beloved Yushchenko?' It's so disappointing," Simonenko
said.She said the upcoming elections left her cold. "I
don't even know whom to vote for. What choice is there anymore?"