Meet Borotba

Exiled Borotba activists in Simferopol. WW contributing editor, Greg Butterfield, is third from the left. Photo: Naya Serpin

Exiled Borotba activists in Simferopol. WW contributing editor, Greg Butterfield, is third from the left.
Photo: Naya Serpin

Simferopol, Crimea — Since arriving on Sept. 16, I’ve been able to spend time with many of the extraordinary Union Borotba (Struggle) activists living in exile here. All have scars of some kind from the events of the past eight months, but they are also determined to return to Ukraine and fight for socialism.

There’s Alexei, father of two, an elected regional deputy from Odessa. He survived the fascist massacre at the House of Trade Unions on May 2. Shortly afterwards, he and his family were forced to flee to Crimea, where he helped to establish the Committee for the Liberation of Odessa and, a website gathering information for an independent investigation of the massacre.

Quiet, intense Masha, an activist from Dnepropetrovsk, was detained by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in June. She and her companion Sasha then came here. Sasha, a former teacher, enjoys pointing out the architectural highlights of Simferopol.

Vanya has a wry wit that served him well living through the siege of Slavyansk. He is very knowledgeable about the international communist movement, and loves “film noir” and U.S. mafia shows. He is an international visitor’s best friend.

Svetlana and Denis are two of the best-known radical trade union activists in Ukraine. They are also high on the junta’s hit list. Forced to leave Kiev after the coup, they went first to Kharkov, where they helped to lead the city’s anti-fascist protest movement. In May, a death squad attempted to kidnap them in broad daylight following a rally. They fled to Svetlana’s native Donetsk, and recently arrived here.

Naya is a single mom and longtime resident of Crimea. She used to work as a press secretary for a local leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Now she is Borotba’s information hub, writing articles, updating the website, reaching out on social media and arranging interviews.

Then there’s Comrade M., who undertakes dangerous work as liaison between the exile community in Crimea and activists working underground in Ukraine.

Mayya is a new arrival in Simferopol. A friend of Borotba from Odessa, she is also the companion of political prisoner Vlad Wojciechowski.

Maxim is a burly, gregarious fellow, Siberian by birth. He travels frequently between Crimea and other areas of the Russian Federation, where he is also an organizer for the Left Front.

Victor is the glue that holds them all together. He makes sure that everyone has tasks to carry out and no one is left out or neglected. He is constantly on his cell phone or laptop, negotiating with allies, organizing.

These revolutionary activists, who are so similar to their counterparts in the U.S., have seen their country and their efforts torn out from under them this year. They have lost comrades, sacrificed jobs and homes, been separated from family and friends. They have struggled just to survive.

Thanks to their Marxist outlook, they  know the moment will come when they can intervene — in Ukraine, in Donbass — with the program of revolutionary proletarian socialism.

They mourn. They support one another. They prepare.

They live to fight another day.