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Ambassador of Finland to Ukraine Laura Reinila answers WU questions

 

Her Excellency Laura Reinila, Ambassador of Finland to Ukraine, answers questions put to her by Mariya VLAD, editor of Welcome to Ukraine Magazine.

 

Excellency, youve been working in Ukraine for three and a half years now. Is there anything in this country that you have come to like in particular?

Most of all I like the Ukrainians themselves  they are friendly, generous and considerate people. I like to walk the streets of Kyiv, I like the cultural life of the capital.

Do you think that the Ukrainian women should be more active in seeking key positions in society? What is your opinion of the Ukrainian women in general?

Ukrainian women seem to me to be talented and well educated. I think it would be all but natural if they occupied more key positions in society than they do now. It is in the interests of any nation to employ the abilities of its people in the fullest way possible.

In order to achieve success in work, women have to have good education. At present, there seems to be no massive support provided by the Ukrainian state for women to make good careers. Ukrainian women have to help themselves in this respect, and education is an excellent instrument in career making. Unfortunately, women often underestimate their abilities and prospects, and they do not try to climb the social ladder or seek key posts. The experience women get managing their homes and upbringing children can be used in their professional life.

Could you say a few words, please, about your family?

I was the only child of my parents, and my daughter is also the only child. She does not remember well her father who died prematurely, but we have always enjoyed support of our relatives. My father and my father-in-law are in good health.

I went to school in a small town where my father worked as a doctor. Living in a small town, you have to be active in organizing cultural life  if the community of such a town does not put a great deal of effort in arranging for concerts or shows or any other cultural events to be held, nothing will ever happen. I am grateful to the chance of having lived in a small town  it made my attitude to life an active one, and that helped me a lot in my professional career.

Did you have an ambition to become a career diplomat?

Some people plan their life and career, but others do not do it. I am one of those who do not. After I finished my studies, I received a grant to do some research work in Poland. When I got there I soon realized that I would never make a good research worker, but I liked being exposed to different cultures and different countries. Later, a chance presented itself to start a diplomatic career and I used that chance. Since then, my life has been rich and interesting.

Your country has been the EU member for ten years; Finlands current EU Presidency reminds me that many progressive-minded Ukrainians would like to see Ukraine integrated into the European community. What, do you think, Ukraine should do  or should not do  to get integrated into the European community?

It is very good that there are Ukrainians who want their country to become a full-fledged member of the European community and share the European values. I do hope that the Ukrainians are in general prepared to work hard to achieve this goal.

I do not think that the recent historic experience of Finland can be compared with that of Ukraine. For quite a long time, Finland has been a democratic country with strong traditions of the pre-eminence of law and with market economy. Ukraine has just started developing its democratic institutions and is only getting ready to carry out a reform in the system of courts of justice and law enforcement. In fact, it took Finland thirty years of development to qualify for the EU membership.

Talking about integration into the European structures, you should remember that it is necessary not only to reform the judiciary system and laws but to make it work. You should combat corruption  although not in words but in deeds.

At this particular point in time, it is very important for Ukraine to be accepted in the WTO. Then Ukrainian companies will find it considerably easier to sell their products abroad  WTO membership introduces uniform rules of trading and of doing other things connected with it. In our time of globalization, no country in the world can be prosperous without maintaining close relations with other countries. The WTO provides a system which opens the doors to trade with 149 countries, WTO members. WTO membership will also make it possible for Ukraine to reach an agreement concerning the creation of free trade zones with the EU which will be beneficial both for the citizens of Ukraine and for the citizens of the EU countries.

Did you have a chance to travel to various places in Ukraine? If you did, which places or what impressed you most?

Yes, I had the opportunity to travel widely in Ukraine, both on business and for pleasure. A very pleasant surprise was my recent visit to the city of Ternopil and its environs which I discovered to be a wonderful place with ancient castles and other reminders of the past of Ukraine with its rich history. I visited the Crimea several times but I am planning to go there again  there is a lot to see and enjoy there. In particular, I want to visit Novy Svit again.

What do you find particularly striking in the history of Ukraine?

The twentieth century was a particularly tragic time for Ukraine. The nation that experienced so much suffering and destruction and yet survived deserves respect. I hope the Ukrainian people will be able to learn more about their recent history, the truth about which was hidden from them for so long. It will make it possible for them to see the events they have been witnessing in the past few years in a historical context.

What kind of relations between Finland and Ukraine you would describe as ideal or at least being close to ideal?

Both Ukraine and Finland used to be parts of the Russian Empire, and this fact gives us a common ground on which to develop our cultural and other relations, which ideally, should be more balanced and positive both for the Finnish and Ukrainian people. The Finnish embassy in Ukraine does its best to disseminate information about Finland and Finish culture in Ukraine. We are impressed by the level of knowledge about Finland among the Ukrainian people, and it encourages us to work harder.

Unfortunately, Finns do not know much about Ukraine  they have just begun to discover the tourist potential of Kyiv and other cities and places in Ukraine. I think that such Ukrainian pop singers as Ruslana and such events as the Orange Revolution contributed a lot to generating an interest in Ukraine.

The more is known about Ukraine in Finland, the more tourists are likely to come. But you have to have more good hotels that offer accommodation at more reasonable prices and better services to lure Finnish tourists to come to your country.

You use the Ukrainian language more than many other ambassadors to Ukraine who prefer Russian. It is surely appreciated. What, in learning Ukrainian, did you find particularly difficult to master?

I am thankful for advice once given to me to use Ukrainian rather than Russian. My knowledge of Ukrainian helped me make friends and learn much more about your country.

Its difficult to compare languages because ones native tongue always seems easier. I think that the Finnish grammar is difficult to master but the pronunciation does not seem to present any particular difficulties  the stress is always on the first syllable. When I make an official speech in Ukrainian, I ask that the words in the text that I read should be accented  otherwise I may mispronounce some words.

Do you miss any Finnish dishes?

In fact, the Ukrainian cook that I employ has learnt to cook some Finnish dishes so I can have what I like best, and friends bring me Finnish bread from Finland.

Is there any typical Ukrainian dish that you like?

I like borsch and varenyky (sort of dumplings  tr.) stuffed with sour cherries.

What images does the word Finland invoke in you? Or the word Ukraine?

Finland for me is associated with lakes and forests. And Ukraine  its boundless steppe, corn fields, and tree-lined roads.

Are there any hobbies that you devote your time to after work?

Theres been so much work in the recent months that I had no time for any hobbies. Finlands EU Presidency gives much more work for her ambassadors. But I enjoy this new experience.

Have you made any friends in Ukraine?

Yes, I have. Among my Ukrainian friends are artists and teachers, plus theres one Ukrainian family with whom I am on particularly friendly terms.

 

Photos are from Laura REINILAs

private archive

 

Her Excellency Laura Reinila, Ambassador of Finland
to Ukraine, during her business trip to Kherson. May 2006.

 

Ambassador of Finland Laura Reinila
at the reception in the Embassy of Russian Federation,
Left to right: Mr Zlenko, Mr Hryshko, Mrs Reinila,
Mrs Zlenko. June 2006.

 

Ambassador of Finland Laura Reinila
at the meeting with Yury Baradachov, president
of the National Technical University
in Kherson. June 2006.

 

Ambassador of Finland Laura Reinila
at the meeting with Serhiy Nayden, commercial director
of Solar Concern which took place during her
business trip to Dnipropetrovsk. Fall of 2003.

 

Ambassador of Finland Laura Reinila
(right) in Dnipropetrovsk. Fall of 2003.

 

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