Roman Torgorvitsky is Maidan born, which does not mean his birth date occurred during the uprising against the misgovernment of Victor Yanukovich and his gang of kleptocrats; it describes the awakening of this young entrepreneur as a result of what Ukrainians are now calling the “Revolution of Dignity.”
Roman is not even Ukrainian; in fact, he was born to a Jewish family in Moscow and immigrated to the United States at an early age. With movie-star good looks, he could be in show business, but instead Roman earned a PhD at Harvard in mathematical epidemiology. He seemed destined for a brilliant career when the Maidan started.
Roman was visiting Saint Petersburg when he first heard about the revolt. Despite the negative spin of the Russian propaganda machine and its portrayal of the Maidan protesters as fascists and raging anti-Semites, the sight of college kids taking on riot police and Special Forces intrigued him. Roman flew to Kyiv to see for himself.
The young man arrived just in time to witness Yanukovich’s thugs attempt to sweep the streets, guns blazing, on a day now described simply as the “Massacre.” It did not work. At the end of the day, the Maidan protesters held the square. Roman was captivated by their vision, faith and sacrifice.
He went home to Boston but intently followed developments during the next few weeks. In short order, the Yanukovich government collapsed; Putin occupied Crimea and then launched a war in eastern Ukraine. During the next few months, Roman realized he could not sit idly by while a new generation united to secure the fruits of their revolution.
In September, he launched Wounded Warrior Ukraine, a non-profit to offer psychological and physical rehabilitation services to the young men and women returning from the front lines in Donbass. The project also trains Ukrainian vets to provide support for one another and their families.
Roman is not unique or alone. I participated this week in a roundtable in Washington, DC sponsored by the US-Ukraine Foundation. The event gathered leaders responding to Ukraine’s humanitarian catastrophe, and they all described their organizations as “Maidan born.” Most of them were in their 30s and started their efforts less than a year ago.
John Adams once said of the American Revolution, “What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of 15 years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.”
The Maidan may prove to be the tipping point in the history of modern Ukraine if it releases the same energy and vision to transform Ukraine into a dynamic, prosperous and democratic society. If it does, it will happen thanks to a generation that was “Maidan born.”