THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
found change in U.S.-Ukraine relations, even as Russia occupied
Crimea and began its aggression in eastern Ukraine.
As an entry-level management officer assigned to Embassy
Kyiv, I saw the wide breadth of my colleagues’ efforts. Much of my
work involved running down a client’s requests, or consulting with
a section on its future human resource and financial plans; and
through those conversations I gained a sense of the broad range
of U.S. interests at work in helping Ukraine achieve its democratic,
European ambitions. That said, while we had a policy in place to
take down the minute-by-minute experiences of our task force
teams, we had nomechanism to record our officers’ longer-term
memories and strategic perspectives.
There have been great diarists in the history of diplomacy—
Charles Ritchie, the former Canadian ambassador to the United
States, and the late U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke come to
mind. But relatively few diplomats feel the compulsion of history,
the need to reflect on their important daily work and commit their
thoughts and feelings to paper soon after an important event.
By the time some do, after retirement, they have become mem-
oirists, and that defining moment in their careers will be filtered
through 20 or 30 years of subsequent memory. Surely there is some
value, I thought, whether to historians or to colleagues in training
on their way to other posts, to having a contemporaneous record of
our work available from a wide range of perspectives.
“60 Minutes,” Kyiv Edition
It turned out that I wasn’t the only one to have that idea. One
day in the spring of 2015, our deputy chief of mission’s spouse
suggested to our management counselor that we might want to
interview officers at post during the revolution. The manage-
ment counselor, in turn, mentioned it tome; and I contacted the
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, the nonprofit
organization housed at the Foreign Service Institute that special-
izes in conducting oral history interviews of retired diplomats.
felt like our role during the Maidan was to bear witness,
to understand as deeply as we could, truly, what was
going on, and to convey that to Washington. And it was
hard to do because there were so many elements of the
Maidan that were almost unbelievable unless you were
there. And we saw that in the rumors that came out.
Even Ukrainians who weren’t here for the Maidan, who
for whatever reason were doing fellowships in the States,
came back and would say, “I didn’t get to experience that,
and I know I don’t know what it means.”
Bearing witness to the fact that this was a movement
of the people for the people, a movement of dignity,
self-organized—to bear witness to what the govern-
ment’s troops were doing or not doing. … I think it was an
extraordinary time, when you saw resources and people
coming together, and to explain that and to convey that
to Washington was important. [It was important] to say
it’s not just any old protest. And to explain also that there
were some fundamental values that people were support-
ing, and why it was in our interest to help make sure that
there was a space for people who were protesting, that
there was a democratic way to do this. That’s what I think
our role was—and the role of the diplomat.
—Deputy Economic Counselor Elizabeth Horst
The Diplomat’s Role
Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, Dec. 29, 2013.