Saturday, 14 December 2013 10:46


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This time it is conspiratorial. From the clutches of the FSB, my friend, the politest, shyest, humblest young Pole I know, Z., has escaped. On a bus he has come, on a bus he will leave, appearing in Berlin for only a few hours before vanishing again into the East. Blackish clouds loom low over Warschauer Straße, where I wait for him, storm front Xavier blows squalls and gusts as he emerges. In the cellar of a Kreuzberg bar, where the world is upside down and no cellular phone can connect or be connected, E&M got this exclusive interview with Ziemowit Jóźwik, long-standing E&M author and the inventor of the #euromaidan.  


Twitter_ScreenshotE&M: Ziemowit, you have become a celebrity, last week the BBC called you for an interview, hundreds of thousands are using your hashtag. What did you actually do?

Z: Apparently, I was the first one to use the hashtag #euromaidan on Twitter. In fact, I did not only use #euroMaidan in my tweet, I also used #Maidan2 and #Євромайдан (Yevromaydan), the Ukrainian equivalent. This is my original tweet, shared on 21st of November 2013: "#euroMaidan #Maidan2 #Євромайдан in Kyiv. once again the heart of #Europe beats in #Ukraine. Don’t stay indifferent #EU #EaP."

E&M: How did you come to use this hashtag? Did you really make it up, pondering what combination would fit best to capture the essence of the ongoing protests – taking place on Maydan Nezalezhnosti, Kyiv, aimed against the recent freeze in the Euro-Ukrainian partnership – in the most catchy way: Euro - maidan?

Z: To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember exactly. Having graduated in Ukrainian studies, being a journalist from Ukraine’s neighbouring country, and being a European Iroquois (!) out of conviction, of course I am following the situation in Ukraine very attentively. I think I must have found the hashtag #Євромайдан there already. So I was translating it into #euromaidan rather than inventing it, making it accessible for a non-Russian- or Ukrainian-speaking audience. That’s all I did.

E&M: What happened next?

Z.: Not a lot, at the beginning. I did see that my tweet was being retweeted. But you must know that I only had 150 followers on Twitter (now it has increased to 170 [laughs]). The other day I got an email from Trendinalia Ukraine, an analyst of the Ukrainian Twitter trends and tendencies, notifying me that my tweet had performed very well and had been used very often. Which I acknowledged with surprise and joy. Then nothing happened for about two weeks. I was sitting in university class, when the BBC called me. I left the hall and talked to the lady for ten minutes. It was only then that I learnt that my hashtag had been retweeted 730,000 times, and that I had been the first to introduce it on Twitter. It has been the most retweetet tweet that… [stops and corrects himself] sorry, the most retweeted tweet I ever tweeted.

E&M: How do you feel?

Z.: Well, frankly, I am a bit disappointed in a way. The woman from BBC used all the background information that I gave her – on the role of Twitter in the Ukrainian protests, etc. – in her article, pretending it was her own research, and in turn there is only one, completely insignificant quote from me.

E&M: It’s true is that the quotation does not even specify that you are a young Polish journalist. Also your name is spelled without the beautiful Polish diacritics. – What do you think about how the situation in Ukraine will develop further?

I have no idea. It depends on too many factors as to give a responsible assessment. Could be that the protests pile up ending in a revolution, could be they dissolve. I consider as a given that whatever happens, Viktor Yanukovych will not have another mandate, whether he can stay in office for now or not. Other than that, I cannot predict anything. What is for sure: the impressive mobilisation of the Ukrainian society. The Cossack spirit is still alive definitely. I doubt whether there are many other nations who are so resistant and so enthusiastic as to stand tall, sticking to their values despite all the unfortunate conditions (including the weather). Just one out of the multitude of examples: the theatres and opera in L’viv decided to organise extra shows, and to donate the income to the protesters. Can you imagine that? Or the Euromaidan university that offers open, free, interdisciplinary courses in Kyiv. That is such a fascinating social phenomenon taking place at the moment. I do hope it is going to found a new chapter in Ukraine’s turbulent history. By the way, it is interesting that revolutions in Ukraine seem to take place only in winter, when the conditions for a revolution are particularly unfavourable. Not only the Orange Revolution took place in bitter winter, there are some more examples from earlier upheavals.

E&M: What do you think is the role of new media in situations like the present in Ukraine?

Z.: It seems indeed that Twitter has seen an increase in the Ukrainian market in the course of this revolution… that is partly thanks to your use of the #euromaidan. … The Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking social networks like Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki are still much more in use compared to Facebook and Twitter, but the Ukrainians are starting to discover the latter as a means to spread their opinions outside Ukraine. For me in turn, following Twitter, Facebook, Vkontakte & Co. has been my main source of information when observing the parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2012. Unlike with the official media that are usually subject to either governmental or business interests, you can be sure that this information is unbiased.

Last modified on Saturday, 21 December 2013 14:38
Christian Diemer

Christian Diemer, 28, is from Rottweil in South Germany. Having studied musicology, arts management, and composition in Weimar, he is now writing from Berlin and obscure spots in East Europe, where he is currently working on his PhD thesis about traditional music in Ukraine. 

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