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?
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?
Drach: 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.
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.