Local women in Kiev during violent upheaval
Paso high school grads in Kiev during protests, killings and government collapse
Two women from Paso Robles were caught in the middle of the violent collapse of the Ukraine government last week. Christina Dallons Isaksen, daughter of Jon and Jan Dallons, and Lainey Silver, daughter of Lance and Claire Silver, were in the Ukraine capital of Kiev filming a dance show last week when all hell broke loose.
“We were very lucky to get out,” says Christina Dallons Isaksen.
A few days after arriving in Kiev, violent clashes erupted between antigovernment protesters occupying the city’s Independence Square and armed police. The violence began when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament after it delayed constitutional reforms to limit presidential powers. At least 26 people, including 10 police officers died, hundreds were injured.
After a 20-hour truce, fierce clashes erupted again on Thursday between protesters and police. Security forces, including snipers, fired on masses of the demonstrators in a drastic escalation of the three-month-old crisis. As many as 100 were reported dead.
On Saturday, Russian-backed President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled the capital and the parliament later impeached him and freed his rival, jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who addressed tens of thousands of people in Independence Square, also called Maidan.
“We hadn’t really felt affected by the protests until we actually went to the square,” says Christina Dallons Isaksen. She recounts her visit to Kiev below:
“When we arrived at the Maidan subway station, we were surprised to see some of the stairwells barricaded with barbed wire and tires. It was an eye-opening moment. When we ascended the stairs, we realized that we were inside the barricade.
“We were definitely out of our comfort zone. The whole place felt muddy, smelled a bit of trash and urine, and there were men in masks and homemade armor marching around. This is before the killings. In fact, that was the first blood shed of February. How scary. A cast member felt uneasy, saying that he noticed that we were being watched by soldiers, so we left the square and walked along the military tents and man made barricades. It still didn’t feel completely safe, but we were together in a group. We tried to stay respectful and take pictures while not lingering.
“After the killings, it became increasingly harder to get around, as the subway was shut down. We were stuck in our neighborhood and our hosts/contacts couldn’t/wouldn’t come to us as a safety precaution. We were starting to become stir crazy in our apartment and neighborhood but we tried our best to make the most of our time by practicing in our small living room. We ended up not getting to dance as much as we would have liked, but it was time that we all used to become closer as a group.
“I know without a doubt that calling the US Embassy during this crisis is something that I’ll never forget, as it made the situation feel that much more dire and dangerous. The Embassy told us that it was a good idea to leave but they would not force us to. We had “bug out bags” just in case we had to leave at a moment’s notice.
“I was concerned for my safety when we saw a man carrying an axe in the barricade to chop wood. Something about a man carrying an item that can be used as a weapon was scary. Oh and on our last full day, we walked to the funicular and passed by St. Michael’s Church by mistake. We had been by there in previous days and even saw the church from the inside, but now it was being used as a hospital/morgue. We were not happy to walk by.
“The last day, on the way back to the airport, there was a huge mob of protesters blocking the taxi’s way to the airport, in a checkpoint type of fashion. They demanded in Ukrainian, mind you, none of us speak any Ukrainian,” that they wanted to see our documents. My heart definitely started beating faster and I was concerned that they wouldn’t let us pass even though they technically had no right to stop us.”
The dancers and crew made it safely out of Kiev, flying to Barcelona, Spain, for their next shoot.
Dancers filming new show Uncommon Rhythm
The local dancers were in Kiev with a group filming a new TV show called Uncommon Rhythm. It’s about four swing dancers learning to dance other countries’ cultural dances. “We were in Kiev to learn Hopak, a traditional dance that has lots of jumps, leaps, and turns,” Christina Dallons Isaksen says.
She was with three other swing dancers, Lainey Silver of Paso Robles, Ben White of Seattle, and Jonathan Lindsey of Phoenix, as well as a camera crew including Marcus Stricklin and Brian Osback, both from Phoenix, AZ. Christina Dallons Isaksen graduated from Paso Robles High School in 2003 and Lainey Silver in 2006. The Dallons family owns Western Quartz, a Paso Robles lighting manufacturer. Silver’s parents are owners of Tobin James Cellars.