THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Embassy Kyiv’s oral history project will prove useful to historians and may be a
model for other posts interested in instituting “exit interviews” of departing staff.
IN REAL TIME:
Joseph Rozenshtein, an entry-level political officer, joined
the Foreign Service in 2013 and served as assistant man-
agement officer in Kyiv for his first tour. He is currently a
political-consular rotational officer in Seoul. The views
in this article are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the
Department of State or the U.S. government.
fter Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity
in 2013-2014, Embassy Kyiv staff
designed a program for “Oral History
in Real Time,” collecting the recent
memories of colleagues who served
in Ukraine during this critical period.
The collectionmay one day prove
useful to historians, but the process
itself was valuable for all involved.
Other posts around the worldmight look to Embassy Kyiv’s project
as a model, especially those interested in instituting “exit inter-
views” of departing staff.
At Watch in the Task Force Room
As the protests heated up and then cooled down during the
bitter Kyiv winter of 2013, and then flared up again in January-
February 2014, in what would come to be known as the “Maidan
Revolution,” teams of dedicated Foreign Service members, U.S.
government employees fromother agencies, eligible family mem-
bers and Locally Employed staff followed events closely, some-
times on 24-hour shifts, in a special task force room set up adjacent
to the embassy’s sensitive areas.
There was a humof activity: local staffmonitoring real-time
feeds of the protest zone, a public affairs liaison to handle press
inquiries, an editor to collate the shift’s news and up-to-the minute
reporting. For me, it was another night as the Kyiv Task Force watch
officer, interacting with the front office, officers in the field and
with the State Department’s Operations Center inWashington,
At shift’s end we had our product, a briefer that would be read
by high-level principals across the federal government. Our bul-
letin was timely and relevant because of our unique position close
to the front lines of this democratic revolution. And in a good-gov-
ernment tradition, the excitement of the moment was punctuated
by a mundane, but important requirement: record-keeping. We
turned every task force report—more than 250 during the six-
month crisis—into a “Record Email,” a digital document meant to
ensure that every report from the period would be searchable and
accessible for years to come.
When historians write of this time they will ask: “What did the
U.S. government know?” “When did they know it?” “How did they
acquit themselves in the fog of Ukraine’s revolution?” And I am
glad that we will have the answers for them in those records.
The Broader Embassy Machinery
The work of the task force was but one piece of the constantly
revolving machine that was an embassy in crisis, but it was perhaps
the best documented. We also went through an authorized depar-
ture for dependents, after whichmany of the remaining personnel
and families moved to hotels for several weeks due to instability in
their neighborhoods. After the revolution, we witnessed a pro-
BY JOSEPH ROZENSHTE I N