The Ukrainian Week speaks to proactive young Ukrainians – soldiers, volunteers and activists – to find out what they think of as their major accomplishment, of their peers in politics, and of leaving Ukraine
Taras Matviyiv, 25: “We are dreamers”
Activist, coordinator of the Search Initiative of Maidan that works with the families of people who disappeared during the revolution of dignity
This is our victory, even if incomplete. We have been searching for those who disappeared on the Maidan for over six months now. We never thought it would last this long. We were never trained to do this kind of activity. And there are just few of us. But we have results. These are someone’s saved lives. The biggest reward is the gratitude of friends and families of the people we found.
We must be dreamers, like most Maidaners. But that’s what keeps us going.
I can’t say anything specific about the generation overall. I’m sure that young people who have gone through the hell of the Maidan have strong immunity to old viruses, and a different, realistic vision of this world. But we have yet to meet the expectations that we, in the first place, have for ourselves.
I’ve had many chances to leave Ukraine. I was invited to study abroad at university. I also have friends abroad… My upbringing has kept me where I am. My relatives, my grand-grandparents went through the war on both sides – the Soviet one, and the insurgent one. I have no moral right to leave Ukraine. And, honestly, I never thought that I could leave Ukraine and never come back.
Oleksandr Rudomanov, 21: “It’s more exciting to live here”
We’ve just sent ten power generators to the frontline. We got everything the 95th Airmobile Brigade needs. Even binoculars! Now, we have a storehouse at 11A, Kyoto Street, in Kyiv where we collect aid for our soldiers. We accept everything from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, send stuff to the anti-terrorist operation area, and help artillery and tank units.
If they are from Svoboda or Democratic Alliance, I may believe that they’re ok. Young politicians from Batkivshchyna or the Party of Regions are no different from the others, I believe. It’s all done for money there.
I once thought of it, I was very depressed. But it’s more exciting to live here! That’s why I didn’t leave. You always have someone to struggle against, be it criminalized police or corrupt officials.
Serhiy Boyko, 22: “I took part in the Ukrainian revolution”
Diplomacy student, was injured on the Maidan twice; preparing to leave for Eastern Ukraine in the Sich unit
I haven’t invented a vaccine from all diseases or a recipe to create a perfect man. But I can state proudly and confidently: I took part in the Ukrainian national liberation revolution where the nation of fighters and creators was born, not one of slaves and fools.
Over half of today’s politicians in Ukraine, from deputies in local councils to the president’s closest allies, are young or joined politics at a young age. That never stopped them from robbing and killing average Ukrainians. Oles Dovhyi, one of the youngest politicians (he was in the team of Leonid Chernovetsky, the notorious ex-mayor of Kyiv – Ed.), was one of the most corrupt officials involved in huge embezzlement schemes. It doesn’t matter how young or old one is. What matters is the principles the person has. Everyone decides for him or herself how to live at any age. It’s up to everyone individually to care only about his personal interests and steal everything, or to do good things, serve the people and ideals.
I had this idea when I was in high school. I thought that I was living in a country ruled by the anti-people regime that lies to everyone and robs everyone, from people with small salaries to big companies. In a country where the cops were raping, torturing and murdering people in police stations. In the “Ukrainian” country where the Ukrainian language was seen as an object of mockery, unnecessary, even hostile to some. At the same time, I thought that we had a slave nation that either intentionally turned a blind eye to all these atrocities or was ready to tolerate all this. I was so disgusted that I wanted to just quit all this and go someplace else, to a better country if there is one. Then, I realized that this is my land where I was born and raised just like my parents and grandparents. This is my home. Escaping from its problems would be my personal weakness and loss. This would make me embarrassed before my ancestors, and my descendants, and before God, and before myself. We have to struggle. We shouldn’t flee ourselves, but make the anti-Ukrainian scum flee.
Anastasiya Cherevko, 33: “When our husband is injured, you don’t run around looking for another one. It’s the same with your country…”
Entrepreneur, founder of the All-Ukrainian Volunteer Movement organization
Volunteering is my civil position. It’s my personal responsibility for everything that happens around me, in the place where I live. I began my independent life in 2000, I had a successful career in banking and wasn’t really interested in our politics. Now I realized that we have ended up in such dreadful position exactly because so many educated, smart and responsible people focus on their own business or career and don’t take any efforts to actually influence processes in the state. There is one good phrase for it: “Something develops properly only if you work on it hard enough.” This is true not only for business owners or parents, but for every citizen as well. I’ve been running my own business for the past five years, creating assets out of human capital, including in the area of financial education and business development. At tough times, I have to combine my professional life and my activity as a citizen. As volunteers, we now focus a lot on helping those involved in the anti-terrorist operation and IDPs. We are also working on three new projects: the School of Patriots to educate aware citizens and new political leaders; Open Ukraine! to develop domestic tourism in Ukraine oriented at boosting its economic development; and the All-Ukrainian Congress of Civil Organizations to unite initiatives and create a single civil platform for joint building of a self-governed state.
I talk to many young people who are 10-15 years younger than me. I also watch my older son. He’s 14. I can learn a lot from them. The most important thing is that they are closer to the needs and the consciousness of the modern time. I believe that young executives (I myself became one at 23 back in 2003), provided that they are responsible, are a good solution for Ukraine. Fortunately, responsibility is something that can be revealed very quickly. Does the person come to meetings on time? Does he stick to the promise? Does he send questions by an agreed deadline? It is extremely important for us, as citizens, to carefully consider such details in politicians, and to exercise our right to fire an irresponsible employee in politics. When people speak of younger versus older officials, they mention experience as an important factor. I see it differently: it’s better to have none, than to try and change old experience. We had an EBRD project in the banking sector that was very different from conventional banking. It had one rule: don’t hire experienced employees; we preferred to hire graduates, or a waiter, and train them. Old ways of thinking, just like old habits, are extremely difficult to change. Most people need great shocks to actually change.
I lived in Finland for over six months in 2008 where my father has lived for quite a while now. My sister lives in Prague. I often think why I’m not moving somewhere, even though I really like to travel to these countries. Now I think I know why. Ukraine needs our care, our help. It will survive, heal itself and will be happy! And it’s great to live in a happy country! I see that Ukraine is now very modern, in terms of its internal potential: my compatriots are reaching ahead, they have a huge desire to develop and grow. I don’t feel that in Europeans. That’s why we have a great opportunity to catch up with them, provided that we still accomplish many things.
Activist, charged for breaking the fence around an illegal construction site by the Yanukovych regime; member of the Kyiv Rus battalion, now getting treatment at the military hospital
Why did I volunteer to go to the frontline? I don’t know… I just decided to protect and defend my land. That’s what the previous generations of Ukrainians did. Like the UPA fighters. Indeed, defending Fatherland and family is probably the key step in everyone’s life. Is there any other way?
I’m sure that politics is a dirty system that crushes and changes people to fit it. All people, regardless of their convictions and generations. It breaks people sooner or later, in a month, six months, a year. Whoever gets into that system will most likely turn into a corrupt scoundrel he used to criticize before politics.
Our country is beautiful. I would like to travel more here, to see all towns and cities, every corner. Leave Ukraine? No, never.