On the morning of Friday of February 21, the people of Kiev woke to an uneasy truce after a horrific day of bloodshed. A protester, holding a can of mace as a souvenir, directed cars after traffic police had vacated the downtown. Pedestrians struggled to climb over the makeshift barricades in the street. Paramilitaries in balaclavas, just one day earlier the tormenters of the Maidan, chatted pleasantly with friends. Meanwhile, down in Independence Square, one could see piles of paving stones, uprooted to throw at the authorities, as well as the Christmas tree—a holdover from the start of the protests before the holidays—with a large banner of Yulia Tymoshenko, the opposition leader who was freed on Saturday as President Viktor Yanukovych fled the city. A man who had helped assemble Molotov cocktails for protesters to lob across the barricades sat reading the Bible; now his "Molotov bar" is useless. Used tires littered the square; they had been assembled to use as fuel, to create a ring of fire to surround the protesters. The monument to Kiev's founders, decorated with national flags, was almost black after days of smoke.
Don't be afraid of the crowd in iron helmets, ominously carrying baseball bats—they are the ones who saved the country. Overnight, flowers and memorials had sprung up among the debris, monuments to the fallen: "Heroes never die!" Subway entrances were blocked with tires. One woman, a 73-year-old pensioner, said that she had not been afraid of the bullets. She was waving a banner she'd made to commemorate the struggle. People sang the national anthem with tears in their eyes. They pointed to splotches of blood on the Maidan and remembered their friends who had died over the past few days. On the street, a performer blew large soap bubbles, as if it were peacetime. Which, perhaps finally, it is for Ukraine's people.