The strategic goal of the Australian Diaspora

09.06.2011, 15:33
Stefan ROMANIV: We want to be an equal partner, genuinely interested in Ukraine’s progress.

You could hardly find Stefan ROMANIV, Secretary General of the World Congress of Ukrainians (WCU), at his home in Australia. He frequently visits Ukrainian communities abroad, but most often he comes to Ukraine, where he meets with the leaders of state, government officials, MPs, and public figures. This can only indicate that the Ukrainians of the world have become more active in searching for ways toward national and economic revival of their Fatherland.

Has Ukraine been able, in the 20 years of its independence, to make some progress in solving the problems it faced back in 1990?

“It hurts me to say that the country is stuck, regarding all the trends of social development. It failed to build a civilized economy, one that is attractive for investors. The corruption level is one of the highest in the world. There is a chasm between the rich and the poor. The land problem is at a deadlock. The technical re-equipment of industry and agriculture is hopelessly lagging behind. There are too few jobs, so hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have got to look for them abroad. Proper conditions for the development of medium and small businesses and farms have not been created, either.

“Instead of consolidating society around the idea of a united, prosperous Ukraine, the regime deliberately disrupts it by taking all sorts of provocative decisions. The attack on the Ukrainian history, culture, and language has resumed. The policy of Tabachnyk, minister of education and science, ruins the soul of Ukrainian children.”

But what bridles the progress of Ukraine?

“Our state has a democratic constitution and hundreds of laws. But they are being implemented by people with the old way of thinking. Its essence boils down to domination, keeping the people obedient, separate, intimidate, and rob them. Therefore, society must immediately open the way to central and local governments to the representatives of the new generation of Ukrainians, whose consciousness is free from the Soviet management stereotypes, among others, to the representatives of the fourth wave of migration, who have got a rich economic and social experience of the world’s most developed countries.

“We also would like Ukraine to listen to the advice of the so-called old diaspora. I am convinced that it has every right to take an active part in Ukraine’s social life, since it has contributed a lot to the restoration of its independence. Ukraine is the essence of our life. The diaspora abounds with ideas and suggestions concerning the ways it could develop. It will be a shame if this wealth is wasted and never used for the benefit of our Fatherland. We don’t claim to assume the role of a teacher. We just want to be an equal partner, genuinely interested in Ukraine’s progress.”

What do you think should the mechanism of this cooperation be like?

“It would be good to create a standing agency including, on the one hand, government officials, MPs, and Ukrainian NGO leaders, and on the other, the representatives of the diaspora. The name doesn’t matter, a roundtable, committee, commission, council, or congress, as long as it is efficient. This agency could develop and consider projects of transformations in all the spheres, including taxes, pensions, land, medicine, the humanitarian issues, and others. The innovations should be based on the principles of common sense and economic nationalism.

“Its strategic goal would be the creation of a united democratic state with a strong, highly technological economy. At these roundtable meetings we might also discuss the solutions to the diaspora’s problems. It would be an extremely powerful structure, accumulating in itself the economic and legislative expertise from most of the world’s developed countries. The implementation of this scheme does not require much money, just a good will of Ukrainian authorities.”

Where do you think the transformations should start from?

“They should start with overcoming the corruption which has, unfortunately, stricken all the spheres of Ukraine’s social life, and above all, politics. Every party has a right to be financially supported, but on the other hand, the people likewise have the right to know who does that, what social groups back this or another political force. The relations between the former and the latter must be transparent, every act of sponsorship must be registered.

“Likewise parties’ inner policies should be built. If a politician or an official has wormed his way into his office by way of bribes or any other dishonest means, this is how he will behave in matters of state policy. Everyone should be equal before the law, be it ministers or ordinary citizens. I can give dozens of examples when officials in Australia lost their jobs and the right to work in government even for petty financial or tax violations. Let us introduce this system in Ukraine, and you will see that the state budget will increase manifold. For this reason both the town and the country will soon change for the better, and the people will prosper.”

I loved the action “Inextinguishable Candle,” initiated by the Ukrainian community in Australia. I wish there were more such events, since they bring the world’s Ukrainians together.

“It was a unique action, indeed. The candle has traveled 33 countries to draw the attention of the world’s public to the Holodomor. In Colombia, it was brought into the main legislative building of the country. Fourteen parliaments of the world have acknowledged the Holodomor as an act of genocide. In a word, this event was very fruitful. It shook the world community, and promoted the spiritual unification of Ukrainians, who have gained a valuable diplomatic and organizational experience of holding similar international events.

“There are going to be quite a lot of them in a short while, and they will deal with culture, language, school, history, sports, and business. They will be held not only abroad, but also in Ukraine. Several years ago, a world soccer tournament for Ukrainian communities was launched. Among the participants are teams from Australia, Canada, the US, Great Britain, Ukraine, and many other countries. This year’s final stage of the championship will take place in Canada, next year it will be held in Ternopil, Ukraine.

“We also intend to hold a big worldwide festival of Ukrainian traditional art. It will be nice to see Ukrainian bands from all the continents.”

How is the WCU going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine?

“We call on all our communities to join in the preparations for this great holiday. We are planning to hold concerts, festivals, and pageants to commemorate Ukrainian heroes. The times and venues for these events have long been decided, and the money raised to hold them has long been spent. But we are worried about the celebration of this special date in Ukraine. And although the relevant presidential decree was published as far back as on November 1, 2010, and the Cabinet of Ministers approved of the related events, in Ukraine the upcoming date is surrounded with a strange silence. The impression suggests that this is just another ordinary anniversary. I’m afraid that the holiday will be prepared in haste, in a matter of several weeks. There will be a military parade down Khreshchatyk, with troops marching, armored carriers and planes roaring, and fireworks coloring the sky – and that will be all to it.

“In my view, the celebration of the anniversary of our independence should have started by now and last till the end of this year. People prepare for their wedding well in advance, and not in a couple of days. The 20th anniversary of our statehood should be used to instill the feeling of patriotism and national pride in the new generations.”

Oleksandr KARPENKO

9 June 2011 The Day