Activists: Ukrainian communities are powerful voices of the country abroad, but much has yet to be done



Kyiv, October 12, 2015. “We understand that the Ukrainian communities living in other countries are very powerful voices of Ukraine, and they help it very much. But we also face the fact that such Ukrainian communities have not yet been established in some countries. So, we have realized that we should explore the experience of those communities which have already been doing a lot in order to share with those communities which are going to unite,” informed co-founder of Ukraine Country Brand Maryna Saprykina about the organization’s initiative of during a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. One of the priorities of the initiative is to establish relations with Ukrainian communities in other countries.

The organization conducted a study on best practices of assistance from Ukrainians living abroad. The survey involved twenty three Ukrainian diaspora communities. The survey included online questionnaires and personal meetings, during which the participants informed how they organize their work and what problems they usually face.

According to Tatiana Franchuk, coordinator of relations with the Ukrainian community in Portugal, after the Revolution of Dignity many Ukrainian communities encountered new challenges and the need to perform tasks that they had never done before. Coordinator of relations with the Ukrainian community in England Catherine Shcheglova added that many proactive Ukrainian communities in the same country are scattered and do not know each other. Thus, in her opinion, this project will promote establishing contacts and cooperation.

The study has demonstrated that the main activities of communities include sports, cultural sphere (parades of embroidered shirts, showing films, Days of Ukraine, etc.), fashion and political spheres (demonstrations, flash mobs), networking (meetings, round tables, Sunday schools), assistance to persons wounded in the ATO zone, as well as information policy: assistance to the Embassy of Ukraine in the dissemination of information about the country and responding to queries of journalists. Maryna Saprykina noted that Ukrainian communities usually work on a voluntary basis. However, governments of some countries, such as Estonia, Kazakhstan and Norway are awarding grants to members of communities to promote Ukraine abroad.

The successes of Ukrainian communities abroad include increased number of visitors and publications about Ukraine, raising funds and establishing new institutions (churches, libraries, etc.), as well as consolidation of the diaspora, association of volunteers from different countries and popularization of the image of Ukraine abroad.

Alongside the positive experience of cooperation with embassies, the Ukrainian communities mention some problems. A public council has been established at the Embassy in Italy. ​​ Ukrainians abroad also note good cooperation in Norway. A problematic issue is the collection of the community’s requests by the Embassy, which are hardly ever complied with. Tatiana Franchuk also noted that website sections of Embassies of France and Belgium with information about the Ukrainian communities are inactive. The website sections about Ukrainian media (Embassies of Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland, etc.) are also not operational. Activists of Ukraine Country Brand also noted the lack of quality materials about Ukraine, which could be spread abroad, the lack of financial and resource support from Ukraine”.

Best recommendation is communication that moves the world. First of all we need to communicate with each other. So, when there is a need to cooperate with a particular country, or when you are staying there, the Ukrainian community can provide support and assistance in current affairs,” said Iryna Filenko, coordinator of relations with the Ukrainian community in Germany. Among other recommendations, she also mentioned the opportunity to exchange experiences between communities: creating a single resource with all the necessary information. Maryna Saprykina added that it is important to update the pages of embassies of Ukraine, to provide topical information and establish a special fund for financing the best initiatives to promote the country abroad.