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42

APRIL 2017

|

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.

ORAL HISTORY

IN REAL TIME:

THE MAIDAN

REVOLUTION

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.

A

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.

FEATURE

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,

D.C.

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