Larysa Zariczniak, Kyiv
During the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program (CUPP) Lviv Conference on November 29-30, 2014, this year’s Program participants were also in attendance. Two of these were Anastasia Melnyk and Andrii Sorokhan and they shared some of their experiences on their time in Ottawa.
Anastasia Melnyk is known for those who watched Espreso.tv’s coverage of the Maidan protests and violence – she at one point was online for close to 24 hours. A student of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, she interned for Chrystia Freeland (MP for Toronto Centre).
While in Ottawa, Melnyk helped Freeland’s staff research and write up reports primarily dealing with Freeland’s position on the Committee on International Trade, including dispute settlement and international investments, and increasing women's role on corporate board of members.
While working in the Canadian Parliament, Anastasia realized that “no system is perfect” – neither the Canadian nor the Ukrainian. However, she adds that Canada is “trying to learn from cutting edge politics like increasing the number of females on corporate boards”. In this, Canada is actually taking the example of various northern European countries. In Ukraine, things are spoken about “theoretically, while in Canada they are actually looking at the numbers, they’re looking at the outcomes of other policies and comparing them…I realized that that’s what I could do for Ukraine.” And while she’s not thinking of going into Ukrainian politics, her possibilities have increased because of her experience in the CUPP program. Anastasia believes that she would like to work on analyzing political strategy especially in political reforms, international development and human security.
Her experience with the Ukrainian Diaspora in Canada was inspiring. While she knew about the involvement of the Ukrainian community in politics, it was not until she was in Ottawa that she understood the enormous activity that of the community. She gave the example of a pro-Russian rally held in front of Parliament and there were several pro-Ukrainians who came out to contradict the Russian lies that many wanted to spread that day. She herself came out and talked to the pro-Russian protesters and she was shocked that they did not know anything about the current Ukrainian crisis: “they couldn’t even tell me what region the problem was in…who’s wrong, whose fault was it…and they’re just standing there with the Russian flag.” Ukrainians in Canada, in her belief, bring an extra level of understanding and publicity about Ukraine because of their positions in business and government.
The CUPP program changed Anastasia’s outlook because she saw that she “can work on things that aren’t based on media.” She realized that she can be useful to Ukraine in any field that she works in.
Andrii Sorokhan was an intern with the CUPP program in 2013 and this year he became a co-ordinator. He worked in the office of Mark Warawa (MP for Langley, BC) and helped in the initiatives which the office is concerned with, primarily, impaired driving, agriculture and the live-in care giver program. This year he learned a bit more on the “organization of the Ukrainian views and leaders and how they interact with each other”. He also learned that Ukraine does have great potential and with the right agenda, the right attitude and coordination the country can be very productive.
This year, Ukraine has been more in the spotlight and it was easier to create activities for the CUPP participants. Based on his experience in the CUPP, Andrii learned that Ukrainians are willing to do a lot of things together. He also learned that in order to work well with other countries and peoples you have to show that you share the same values and interests. He says that he learned that this group “was not much different than the Canadians and Canadians understood that we weren’t the stereotypical Ukrainians who drink all the time.” Because of this, there are ways to work together to achieve common goals in Ukraine.
He also met many Ukrainian-Canadians who even though are third or fourth generation, still pursue their Ukrainian identity, speak the Ukrainian language and respect Ukrainian culture. He believes that Canada is a great example for Ukraine and “can be an example that given the right environment, Ukraine can develop, since there are many similarities between the two countries.” Both 2014 CUPP participants believe that Ukraine has the potential to become a great European country and, with the help of the CUPP program, a little bit of Canadian influence will be a part of this new Ukraine.