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Monday, May 26, 2008

Ukraine's President Yushchenko visiting Canada

President Yushchenko is on a 3-day visit to Canada, the first Ukrainian president to visit here in 14 years. He started out in Ottawa:

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko told a joint session of Parliament Monday that his country is making quick progress on its democratic path and is working on overcoming remaining challenges such as corruption.

After brief remarks and an introduction by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Yushchenko began his speech by thanking Canada for welcoming so many Ukrainian immigrants and for being the first Western country to recognize Ukraine's independence in 1991. ...

Yushchenko thanked Harper for Canada's support in its bid to become a member of NATO, a contentious issue among some of the alliance's members. ... [He] also raised the issue of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine known as the Holodomor. ... A private member's bill is currently before Parliament that calls on the Canadian government to officially recognize the famine as a genocide. ...

The president has a full itinerary for the rest of the day, including an awards ceremony where Senator Raynell Andreychuk and Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj will be given the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise. ...

Full article here.

Speaking of awards, President Y. will be giving one in Toronto as well, to my writing mentor and role model...

[A]uthor Marsha Skrypuch hopes to snatch a few words with Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko when he gives her a state honour at a ceremony in Toronto on Wednesday.

Skrypuch will receive the Order of Princess Olha, Class III: the highest honour the country bestows on foreign citizens. The medal recognizes her books about the 1932-1933 Ukrainian famine, which killed up to 10 million people. ...

A writer of award-winning books for children and young adults, Skrypuch has carved a significant career crafting fiction from the facts of historic atrocities.

In 2000, she wrote Enough, a picture book based on a folktale about a young girl's attempts to save her village from starvation during the Ukrainian famine. The Holodomor also inspired her story called "The Rings", published in Kobzar's Children, a 2006 anthology of Ukrainian-Canadian writings which she also edited.

Full article here. More about Marsha here and here.

President Y. will visit Winnipeg as well, but his planned visit to Edmonton was cancelled (presumably his handlers felt time was just too tight for him to travel that far).

It's a thrill to have him here for any length of time. But hopefully he'll return to Canada soon, and spend some time out west.


Taras said...

Ukrainian Canadians may naturally view Yushchenko as a living piece of their ancestral land, as someone special.

But most native Ukrainians who voted for him and stood for him in the Orange Revolution no longer feel the same way.

A president who poses as a driver for the richest man in one of Europe’s poorest countries and makes public statements in favor of special interests (stabilnist) does not represent my interests.

Taras Kuzio said it best in his “Ten Questions for President Yushchenko.” (So far, I haven’t been able to find the English version.)

If Yushchenko wants to represent the interests of little Ukrainians who made him President, here’s what he should do:

Domestic policy. Stop supporting stabilnist. Stop dreaming of re-election via shyrka. Stop rubber-stamping the land policies of the Kyiv mayor. Stop lavishing awards on the likes of Kivalov, Potebenko, and Kolesnikov. Stop appointing the likes of Kuchma to the board of trustees at Taras Shevchenko National University. Stop pulling Tymoshenko’s hair. Work together to solve Ukraine’s problems.

Foreign policy. Establish a better political and economic rapport with the Ukrainian diaspora. Connect with diaspora Ukrainians who promote awareness of Ukraine and its public interest. Learn from the role of the Chinese diaspora in powering the Chinese economic boom.

Orest said...

Could not have said it any better!!

Pawlina said...

Taras, by "stabilnist" do you mean "status quo"?

Taras said...

Yes, but there’s more. Stabilnist means status quo and special interests, such as RosUkrEnergo, Vanco Prykerchenska, etc.

Stabilnist is when you keep the economy dollarized and the hryvnia stable for three years in a row despite the falling dollar. Stabilnist is when you keep the Zasyadka mine open for three deadly methane blasts in a row and let taxpayers foot the bill. Well, perhaps this picture sheds some light on the mystery.

My other synonyms for stabilnist: servility, submissiveness, slavery, stagnation, sovok, spin, subhuman living standards. With all due respect, I don’t think anybody would want that kind of statesmanship in his or her country.

When Yushchenko ran for president, he promised that “the rich will help the poor” and “the bandits will sit in jail.” Sounds utopian? It certainly does now! With Yushchenko in power, it’s all been the other way around. He has failed to keep his promises, and so has his party, NUNS.

In September 2007, NUNS campaigned on a platform of “one law for all” and “lift parliamentary immunity.” Have they delivered? Not yet. No wonder NUNS won’t get a single seat in the Kyiv City Council.

That’s why, to us Ukrainians on the ground, Yushchenko’s statesmanship ended the day he sided with stabilnist.

Not that I want to “spoil the party,” but I feel very strongly about this. And if you, members of the Ukrainian Canadian community, care about Ukraine, you should see the big picture. You should see past the smile of stabilnist.

Pawlina said...

We do, Taras. But perhaps we see a slightly different picture.

What you describe as "stabilnist" is nothing more than "crony capitalism." Standard fare in the democratized world... and the role model your budding democracy is being built on (probably because it's the only one out there at the moment).

It's all very well and good to be wise to political charlatans and not be taken in by them. But otoh, it's also urbane (and wise) to give credit where credit is due. I believe that's called "diplomacy" ... and it seems to be in short supply these days.

It's also far more productive to view the glass as half-full than as half-empty.

When it's half-full you're working with those trying to fill it. When it's half-empty you're fighting against those trying to empty it.

Either way, we all get to choose where we want to direct our energies.

With all due respect, might I point out that Yushchenko, on this trip to Canada, has done quite well accomplishing at least one item on your wish list?

Taras said...

One item will not fill the glass. It will still be empty no matter how you look at it. And who would want to spend their life filling someone else’s glass while theirs remains perpetually half-full?

In Kyiv, we have a housing market that rivals Vancouver’s, and yet our incomes average $500 a month. We also have a mayor who loves land so much that he has to hide behind our President’s back. See what I mean?

The idea, as you rightly pointed out, is to use our best judgment when electing them and to hold them accountable once we elect them. The President I elected in 2004 called himself “the people’s President.” I want to know what happened to that President. If he has lost his energy, then I want someone who has the energy to stop Ukraine’s glass from bleeding.

By confronting Yushchenko with the hard questions, the Ukrainian Canadian community could help Ukraine accomplish more than one item.

Pawlina said...

Well, no it won't be empty, Taras. That's not a logical statement ... and very uncharacteristic of you!

There will be one item in it, and that is a start. As they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Patience, my good man! Ukraine has come so far in such a short time.

That is part of the reason for Yushchenko's warm welcome here in Canada. As President, he embodies Ukraine, and the warm admiration bestowed upon him are as much for the Ukrainian people as for him personally.

As well, the poisoning had a great impact on us here in the west, and not just in the diaspora. People in the democratic world - Ukrainian or not - find such barbarity utterly appalling. And if it has backfired on Moscow, our hearts bleed borscht.

But back to your glass. There is no point in publicly antagonizing a leader who comes to our country in a spirit of goodwill. We in the diaspora are all very cognizant of Yushchenko's weaknesses, and many have expressed abject disappointment in his performance in office. But on this visit we preferred to celebrate his strengths, and encourage renewed focus on those strengths (glass half-full) in order to build on them and create even more.

Focussing solely on weaknesses diverts your attention and saps your energy. Perhaps it's time to relegate that self-defeating practice to the past?

Taras said...

My focus on his weaknesses comes from living with the results of those weaknesses. To you, it’s just a halo effect; to us, it’s a world of hurt.

Did you analyze the economic data in my post? Can you ground your opinion of Yushchenko in the relationship between his policies and Ukrainian living standards?

If you can live on $500 a month and dream of buying a $500,000 middle class apartment, if you can keep your glass half-full while your country overflows with corruption, then perhaps Yushchenko should be your President?

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