For the first time in history, many people of Ukraine descent from all parts of the world gathered in Kyiv in August of 1992 to mark the occasion of the first anniversary of Ukraine of Ukraine's independence. The World Forum of Ukrainians mapped out a field of activities directed at promoting, supporting and contributing to the development of independent Ukraine. Another task was to continue preserving the Ukrainian national identity in the Ukrainian Diaspora in the west and in the east.

The Forum set up a permanent executive body, the Ukrainian World Coordination Council (UWCC) with the aim of conducting work in the fields of education, culture, science, economy, media, business, charity and repatriation of Ukrainians. The Council is headed by Ivan Drach, a member of the Presidium of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine, head of the Ukraine-World Society and of the Congress of Ukrainian Intellectuals, deputy of the Verkhovna Rada (Member of Parliament). Mr Drach has been interviewed by Natalka Poklad, a Welcome to Ukraine correspondent.

WU: Mr Drach, you are a versatile person - distinguished poet, influential politician, remarkable public figure (and also a handsome man). You’ve been keeping in touch with so many people of Ukrainian descent who live in many parts of the world. You head many organizations, one of which is the UWCC. What’s the situation in it now? What has been done since the foundation of the UWCC and what are the problems you are facing?
Drach: Well, we’ve been working very hard but problems are many. You see, millions of people of Ukrainian descent who live in so many countries of the world are influenced by the state of things in their native land. Now Ukraine feels herself not so well, Ukraine is ailing, and people of Ukrainian descent all over the world feel it acutely, too. Ukraine is the source that should give inspiration to all the Ukrainians everywhere, but now this source seems to be at its low ebb. All kinds of institutions, both state-run and public, are struggling for survival. In such a situation not much can be done. The Ukrainian Diaspora up to the Year 2000 Programme, for example, has been fulfilled only partially. The only reason - lack of funds. The same can be said about many other programmes which were launched with much fanfare and then fizzled out. But despite of all the hardships something is being done. In May, we had a meeting of the UWCC which was devoted to the Days of Shevchenko in Ukraine. Participants came from many places. It was the first UWCC congress held in a long time. Also this October we had a number of performers from the Ukrainian Diaspora and from several parts of Ukraine showing their art in the central concert hall of Ukraine, Palats Ukrayina.

WU: How many people are there on the Council?
Drach: Fifteen from Ukraine, fifteen from the Western and fifteen from the Eastern Diasporas. In May this year we had quite a few people present, more than ever. We have established a better understanding with the World Congress of Ukrainians whose newly elected president is Askold Lozynsky, we have agreed upon some joint measures to be taken soon. So we are hopeful there’ll be some work done.
WU: So, there are two major centres dealing with Ukrainian issues, one headed by Drach, and another by Lozynsky?
Drach: The World Congress of Ukrainians unites mostly structures of the Western Ukrainian Diaspora and controls the Western Ukrainian Diaspora representation at the UWCC. The UWCC is a bigger structure, since it has representations of both the Western and Eastern Diasporas, and of course of the whole of Ukraine herself. We are not competing for anything, we are not rivals, we are happy to have as many people as possible. The more the better, it helps organize work better, we’ve got a wide support, both material and moral which is so important. There are no frictions between us and we are happy about it.
WU: So, what would you put forward as your biggest recent achievement ?
Drach: In spite of a very difficult situation Ukraine has found herself in, and in spite of rather complicated relations we have with the Ukrainian Diaspora, in spite of all small disagreements, the main thing is that, through joint efforts, no matter how modest, we are bringing the Ukrainians of the entire world closer and closer together. At the same time, we do have some joint actions taken. One of them, for example, is protection and promotion of the Ukrainian language. We accepted a suggestion from the World Federation of Ukrainian Women Organizations, which is headed by Oksana Sokolyk, and did everything possible to have it as an action supported by the President of Ukraine and thus carried out throughout the country. The Prosvita Society backed us and we managed to have the Day of Protection of the Ukrainian Language officially proclaimed. It will be held in November, to coincide with the Day of Nestor the Chronicler. That’s what we’re doing, that’s a palpable result of our work. There are problems, these problems should be tackled and solved, no matter what kind of difficulties we may be facing. But we don’t let our structures stagnate, we keep our conscience alert.
WU: As far as I know, there’s a new law, “On People of Ukrainian Descent Living Abroad,” or something to that effect. Does it help in your work?
: There is no such law, there’s only a project to have such a law. One committee of the Verkhovna Rada, our parliament, has been studying the project for an inordinate length of time.

Ivan Drach with Dmytro Pavlychko, poet, his best friend, in Surami, Georgia.

Ivan Drach and Rustamova, vice-president of the Ukraine – Turkmenistan Society.

In Shanghai, China.

The thing is that this particular committee is made up of mostly communists and socialists, and these leftists do their best to hinder the progress of the bill.
: The role the Ukrainian Diaspora has been playing in awakening our national identity and supporting the independent Ukraine is well known and appreciated. Did you have any recent contacts with the Diaspora representatives?
Drach: I, on the invitation of the Union of Ukrainians of Rumania which is headed by Mr Tkachuk, recently visited Rumania and met many Ukrainian Rumanians. Also, I paid visits to the Ukrainians in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, to Kazakhstan even two times. Though the visits were of short duration, some contacts were established. Mr Lozynsky was on a recent visit to Rumania, and then to Kazakhstan, too. So, the Western Ukrainian Diaspora is discovering the world of the Eastern Ukrainian Diaspora.
WU: Is any help given to what we call the Eastern Ukrainian Diaspora, or is it mostly exchange of friendly messages?
Drach: We provide assistance to young people of Ukrainian descent from the Baltic States, Prydnistrovya, Moldova who apply to be enrolled at colleges in Ukraine, who want to study in Ukraine. In this way, we promote Ukrainian education among the Diaspora. We’re doing our outmost to send whatever literature we can lay our hand on to Ukrainians and Ukrainian organizations of the Diaspora. We’re also sending out our new newspaper, Ukrainian Forum.
WU: I hope it won’t happen, but what if the UWCC would stop working?
: Oh, I do hope it won’t. It would drastically reduce all the contacts between Ukrainians around the world. We organize all kinds of useful meetings which are helpful in maintaining contacts. Say, recently we had a meeting to which we invited the Ukraine and World Society representatives, dozens of publishers and editors of Ukrainian periodicals. New links were then established, beneficial talks conducted.
WU: Today the role of personality in history is regarded from quite a different point of view than it was under the Soviet suppressive regime. So, what’s the role of Drach in searching for and establishing relations with the Ukrainians abroad? In establishing our national identity, dignity and integrity?
Drach: Well, this is something which is not for me to judge. I’m far from being satisfied with myself, with what I’ve achieved. When I became head of the Ukraine Society and of the UWCC I thought it’s more than enough for me as far as public work is concerned, and I did not plan to go ahead and become a Verkhovna Rada deputy, an MP, that is. But then I realized that being a deputy opens many doors, gives one many more opportunities to get things done, the bureaucrats treat you differently and it helps in this bureaucratized world of ours to get what you want. And I changed my mind, entered the race and was elected a deputy.
WU: But it didn’t stop you from continuing your work in the UWCC?
Drach: No, it did not though I have less time for that but whenever I can I go somewhere to establish new contacts, to tell people about the new Ukraine, to seek help and promote things Ukrainian.
WU: Thank you for your time. Let the Ukrainian message be heard and long live the Ukrainian spirit wherever it is in the world.
: Thank you, too. It will live on.