Slava Ukraini - Viva Venezuela Libre
I am a human rights politologist militant artist from Venezuela living in Italy where I'm now a citizen. I had to flee my country of birth because of my family's political history given that my father was practically the right hand to the last truly democratic President Carlos Andres Perez before the upcoming of the chavista revolution era. I've been the target of the regime for almost a decade now because of my activities within the Venezuelan democratic civil resistance to their authoritarian project from my exile and one of the millions of Venezuelans (around 8 million/ 30% of the population) that make up the Diaspora. I have been using my art, knowledge and communication skills via social network technologies and my works to "paint the times" using my art as a weapon of mass creation. Since 2014 I became one of the main bridge makers and enablers of coordination between different spheres of Venezuelans peoples and dynamics and a leader in the "4th generation communication wars" at the beginning of the rise of a decentralized form of fighting against tyranny in my country at first and in the world in general.
I remember as if it was yesterday when the most important protests in Venezuela broke out in February 2014. I recall that the Ukrainians (a country and people I didn't know a lot about) were also protesting in the Maidan Square in Kyiv at the same time that we were protesting in Caracas' Plaza Altamira and the whole country. The parallels were so evident at those times to the point that both peoples, over their cultural differences, made a common manifestation in front of the United Nations. We were facing the same brutal repression from the authoritarian and anti democratic regimes that held us down and that were trying to suppress the urge of our peoples to recover freedom and democracy. I also remember feeling a sort of healthy envy for the fact that Ukrainians managed to free themselves and evict the tyrant that represented the system and side of the totalitarian part of the world to gain their independency and walk towards the reconstruction of democracy and freedom while Venezuelans didn't manage to. The similarities and parallels between the two dynamics at the time were crystal clear to me from the fact that Ukraine also had shady politicians talking about "peace" and negotiations to the fact that the enemy of freedom was the same for both nations. From that point on in time I started developing a profound empathy for Ukraine at the same time that I started using my talents and skills as a rebel artist for the Ukrainians and other countries and cultures such as the Cubans, Nicaraguans, Iranians, Kurds, Byelorussians all subjected and confronted to the same fight for freedom and democracy against a always stronger developing totalitarian world axis.
As a Venezuelan, I felt the invading interests of the Cuban Castrista regime, the Iranian ayatollah and the coming in of the Russians to help Nicolas Maduro's regime to further assert their grip and domination of our country through sheer violence, propaganda and shared interests. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Nicolas Maduro's regime stated that Venezuela supported Russia's claim and war of invasion of Ukraine since they are allies and I remember tweeting that same day that: "Nicolas Maduro might be with Putin but Venezuela is with Ukraine" and the TWEET became so viral it had much more retweets than the ones from the Venezuelan dictator even though he counted with the support of all the Russian, Cuban & co bot farms and trolls from the totalitarian states propaganda apparatus. Regimes say one thing and people say another. This feeling is one of the reasons that drove me to end up going to Ukraine in December 2022, I wanted to illustrate this in acts with the understanding that this solidarity was driven by something way more stronger than "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". I feel completely empathic and identified with the Ukrainian resistance to the attack of the totalitarian invader because as a Venezuelan we go through the same struggle and have the same dreams of freedom, democracy and independence.
The odyssey of a Venezuelan in Ukraine during the war.
I had started making plans and arrangements for this trip to Ukraine through a network of people from all over the world that I have been building and engaging with in the field of human rights militancy and communication wars for months. I was introduced to the Congressman Maryan Zablotskyy with whom we had a perfect feeling and understanding of the mutual interests to demonstrate solidarity between our peoples. I was supported by my family with the little means we got, by these people with who we share the ideals of freedom and democracy being an universal objective and the Ukrainians who made me the honor to invite me to come to Ukraine. I arrived in a bus from Krakow where I was the only foreigner with 80% of it being women and children to a completely dark Lviv. I took a night train to Kyiv where I went to physically meet my international friends and Maryan at the Maidan Square where it all started. I experienced the electric shortages that reminded me of the ones in Venezuela, the difference is that the reason for those in Ukraine are the attacks of the Russian invaders destroying the energetic infrastructure during the cold winter in order to try to break the spirit of resistance and resilience of the Ukranians where as in Venezuela the reason for them is the destruction of the country's infrastructure by the corrupt and destructive chavista regime, also allied of the Russians.
I came to Ukraine with the primary objective to show in facts the solidarity I feel as a Venezuelan for the symbolic power of a clear common cause with Ukraine. I came to humbly offer my best as an artist and bridge maker to connect both people's feelings and to state an alternate proposition from the peoples to the authoritarians regimes' version of history. My second idea was to use my talent and vision as an artist to make art that illustrates this same synergy and to raise my country's flag in the Maidan square to get her to breath in some freedom air to inspire my all peoples to understand that we're on the same boat over the distance and cultural differences. I had the immense honor to be taken to see Irpin, meet its heroic mayor and over all things as an artist the unique lifetime opportunity to make a street art mural by the side of Banksy's Ballerina, I cannot even start to explain the feeling I felt arriving in situ, seeing the destruction caused by the Russian invasion and painting a piece with my freezing hands under -10 Celsius alongside the most important street artist of modern times.
It just felt so obviously natural and just to be there and to experience this hyper reality with the Ukrainians that received me and treated me, from the guy from the store, the artist girl Aya that received me in Lviv trembling with a hot coffee cup in her hands as soon as I came out of the bus from Poland to the military young men and women I ate with in a fast food in Kyiv, like an equal and a brother. This experience made the fact that we are all but one humanity crystal clear to me. I felt, when I would say "Slava Ukraini", that I was also saying "Viva Venezuela Libre". I believe Freedom is universal and has no frontiers but that egoism and authoritarian imposition does. Ukraine is the tip of the spear of the free world that stands against the expansion of evil and supporting them and each other is the necessary and good wall to separate civilization from barbaric impulses. I'm a citizen of the world and felt like a citizen of Ukraine and I know now that Ukrainians too feel empathy for Venezuelans because of the same reasons I described in this article. I came to Ukraine to inspire and lead my peoples to support the right side of history Ukraine represents and got the assurance that this would also inspire Ukrainians and the world to also help us on our own common cause of Venezuela longing for justice, Independence, Democracy and Freedom. Slava Ukraini - Viva Venezuela Libre!
By Rodrigo Figueredo