The 6th Ukrainian World Forum will be held in Kyiv from August 20-21. The forum will bring together Ukrainians from around the world to discuss key issues related to the diaspora, life abroad, and the future of Ukrainian communities abroad.
Kyiv, August 17, 2016. The Sixth Ukrainian World Forum will be held in Kyiv on August 20-21. This is a regular meeting of Ukrainians living abroad to discuss current activities and challenges of the Ukrainian diaspora. “At present, Ukrainians from 35 countries have registered to participate. We are waiting for over 300 delegates. […] Now, with the current provocations in Crimea, the fact that 300 representatives of Ukrainians abroad are coming to Ukraine shows that we are not afraid and expresses our solidarity with Ukraine on the eve of the 25th anniversary of independence”, stated Mykhailo Ratushnyi, head of Ukrainian Universal Coordination Council, at a press briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “At the Forum, we will discuss our further activities with our friends from other countries”, explained Roksolana Stojko-Lozynska, representative of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
The program of the 3-day forum includes discussions in 10 thematic sections. The key issues will be preservation of identity, education and religious life
The Forum’s program spans three days. On the first day, the delegates will share information on their communities’ activities and key points of concern of the diaspora. On the second day, there will be discussions in 10 thematic sections – those of Ukrainian state development, humanitarian policy, legal section, section of information policy, education, labor migration, economic and investment policy, volunteer activities and protection of Ukrainians on the temporarily occupied territories, religious life, and youth policy. The key issues will be preservation of identity, activities of Ukrainian churches and schools abroad. “For instance, there will awarding ceremony for best teachers of Ukrainian language. This year the winners are one teacher from Canada and one from Norway. The awards will be presented by Minister of Education and Science, Liliya Grynevych”, said Mr. Ratushnyi.
The 3rd day will take place in the National Opera, where Ukrainians from abroad are going to have a meeting with the President and government representatives. “This will not be a monologue – we will listen carefully to one another and will decide what our further actions should be”, emphasized Mykhailo Ratushnyi. He mentioned that Vasyl Slipak, a famous Ukrainian opera singer, soloist of Paris Opera, was invited to sing on that evening, but in July he fell in battle near Debaltseve. His relatives will be among the guests, as well as relatives of Mark Gregory Paslawsky.
Ukrainians from abroad hope for larger cooperation with Ukrainian authorities as they want to contribute to positive changes in their home country
The Ukrainian diaspora hopes for larger cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities as they want to contribute to positive transformations in the country. Ms. Stojko-Lozynska noted that not only Ulana Suprun (recently appointed as acting Minister of Health in the Ukrainian government), but a number of diaspora representatives already work in various regions of Ukraine, and much more could be involved. “We would like people who formerly worked in western institutions to have the opportunity to apply their experience and knowledge here, in Ukraine, in various fields of activities. This is very important and we know a large number of professionals willing to do it”, she noted. This approach has already proved its efficiency in the Baltic countries. “Ukraine and Ukrainians abroad are parts of one. The diaspora has immense resources that can be used more actively. They have rich experience and better immunity to corruption. […] Instead of inviting here “landing troops” of foreign professionals, we would better invite foreign Ukrainians”, stated Mr. Ratushnyi.
The diaspora representatives also expressed their concerns about the little willingness of high Ukrainian officials to communicate with the Ukrainian communities abroad, even in the countries where these communities are very numerous. “Even if this happens, we face a lot of difficulties and there is little room for open discussion during these encounters”, said Ms. Stojko-Lozynska. Mykhailo Ratushnyi expressed his concerns about the closure of a number of Ukrainian consulates, including the consulate in Parana (Brazil), a home region for the majority of 500,000 Ukrainians living in the country.
Diaspora’s relations with Washington are “very strong, sometimes very sharp”
Lobbying Ukraine’s interests in the government is the key task in the agenda of the Ukrainian diaspora in the USA. “Our relations with Washington D.C. are very strong, sometimes very sharp. It is important that America see Ukraine from Ukraine’s perspective, as very often they have looked at it through the Russian point of view”, says Roksolana Stojko-Lozynska. According to her, as of today that there are many friends of Ukraine in Congress and in the Department of Defense. In the State Department and the White House, this support exists as well, however “it could be stronger”. She reminded that Ukrainian diaspora has largely contributed to adoption of Ukraine Freedom Support Act.
The upcoming presidential election is a serious challenge. “We had encounters with the staff of Mr. Trump as well as of Ms. Clinton. We presented our geopolitical vision, our vision of America’s political strategy for Eastern Europe, in particular for Ukraine and Russia. We also told about our position on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and corruption in Ukraine”, said Ms. Stojko-Lozynska. She noted that after Trump’s scandalous anti-Ukrainian statements, the diaspora responded by an official statement. “We addressed his co-chair, Mr. Sam Clovis, and expressed not only our surprise, but also our shock and indignation. His colleagues always apologize for his statements and tell us that ‘he didn’t mean that,’ but then we hear the same again”, she explained. Ms. Stojko-Lozynska added that formally the Ukrainian Congress Committee cannot support any of the candidates and it is up to Ukrainian-Americans “to make up their mind and to decide on their own whom they want to support.”
Several delegates of the Ukrainian community in Russia faced the FSB pressure
According to Taras Dudko, head of the Ukrainian community in Russia, they now live in very difficult times, taking into account the current geopolitical and internal situations in Russia. “Russian mass media is trying to create an impression that Ukrainians are not Ukrainians, but Russians that were involuntarily named Ukrainians. They consciously spread incorrect information, they incite hatred to Ukrainian language, Ukrainian history, and to the people from Ukraine”, he said. Taras Dudko reminded that there were attacks against the Ukrainian library and the National Cultural Center of Ukraine in Moscow, those are just some of the many other examples of pressure. “Now, if you are Ukrainian, you’re under threat there. Many [delegates] gave up the idea to come to the Forum after the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) has held ‘interviews’ with them. Those who did not face this before their departure, will probably have such interviews upon their return to Russia”, said Mykhailo Ratushnyi.
The Ukrainian World Forum is held every 5 years since its start 1992 as a communication platform for the Ukrainian diaspora from different countries. According to various estimates, at present there are 15-20 million Ukrainians living abroad. The most numerous are the communities in Russia (approximately 2 million) and in the USA (approximately 1,5 million).