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Ukrainian students unite nations

Володимир Когутяк

Our University has long-standing friendly relations with Western scientific, cultural and public institutions, including those that work in France. The exhibition "Maidan and KPI" has received wide publicity which was exhibited at the Cultural and Informational centre at the Ukrainian Embassy in Paris in 2014.

Subsequently, we took a group of young scientists of the University of Diderot, headed by Mr. Kontan, who were observers at the polling station of the Polytechnic. Dozens of our students, who are the part of the Ukrainian Association of students in France, are studying there on the academic exchange programs in the French universities, in particular at the École Polytechnic. The ex-President of the Association, Vladimir Kohutiak, who is a social activist, economist, bachelor of Sorbonne, has visited our university recently. He has returned from the "hot spot" of our country, from the East.

Why do Ukrainian youth from abroad consider that it is necessary to risk their lives for visiting our soldiers? What things can shock you at the Kyiv station? What makes all students similar and how can we unite the youth and the world for aid to Ukraine – about this and other issues you can read in the interview, which was held by the activist, Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and journalist M.P. Prepotenska.

– Vladimir, what brought you to Ukraine and what encouraged you to go to Donbas? After all, you have become a citizen of France because of your parents’ moving there and you could travel to more peaceful places on the planet in summer?

– There are only a few quiet places on the planet… Everyone knows what tragedy befell the French people in terrorist attacks. Ukraine is also suffering from the terrible events in the East, and within the country is not all right too. My heart is in Ukraine and it has always been there. Some time I just loved Ukraine from afar. But I happened to talk with the priest of the Church of St. Volodymyr, just a week before events on Maidan, and he said to me: “It is not enough to love someone or something – it is necessary to act for love”. So, when the Maidan began, I was actively involved in assistance: information, charity – all. So when the Maidan began, I was actively involved in the informational, charity and other assistance. It was impossible to remain indifferent.

– What has been done for these two years? After all, you were the President of the Ukrainian Association of students during this time.

– We started striking against the sale of French “Mistral” to Russia, afterwards dozens of informational actions and performances were held in the streets and squares of the cities and on the Central television of France because we wanted the French people and government to receive truthful information from us but not to receive corrupted information from Russian lobbyists. We have collected tens of thousands of signatures on petitions such as appeal to the Europeans named "For Ukraine!", a petition to the European court on an urgent investigation into the shootings on Maidan, a petition to the OSCE about the need for continuous activities of observers in the East of Ukraine. We ran a campaign "StopPutinsWarInUkraine" in many cities around the world in June and August. I should say that in Europe the petition is an effective means of communication with the government. That is why answers were not deferred writing.

I do believe that we have made a contribution for helping Ukraine by the European leaders. In addition, this year's group of students were able to visit Paris and chat with their peers in the French universities and to plan their further education. In the Cultural and Informational centre at our Embassy, which headed by Natalia Kochubei, the creative teams from Ukraine perform almost three times a week. I should note that the public audience is increasingly filled not only with members of the Diaspora, but in simple French, who sympathize with our country and appreciate its authentic culture.

– Let’s return to the first question – about your visit to the East.

– I would not want to say a lot about it. It was my purely private affair: I just raised my own funds, bought food, ammunition and drove to the soldiers. The shots were fired, and frankly speaking, I was scared. However, I have met such outstanding people that I still go, filled with emotions. I did not expect the guys at the front, at least in this volunteer battalion with the symbolic name "Action", to be cultured and educated individuals. I have seen soldiers, some of whom are students, University graduates, engineers, artists, teachers –in general, the best people of Ukraine. They are fighting for the idea, but without fanaticism and mostly they are doing it disinterestedly. Certainly, I could not help going after the death of Vasyl Slipak, the famous Ukrainian singer and the soloist of the Paris Opera, with whom we had been familiar. He had returned to Ukraine during its hard times, volunteered to the front and heroically died in 29 June 2016

However, when I have arrived in Kiev I have met other realities. A bunch of drunk, filthy language, swearing are there. The streets are full of mud. There is some aggressive fuss around the city and such behaviour differs from the spirit that I have felt in volunteers. People behave as if nothing is happening in the country, as if it is not war here. Talking with people in towns and villages I have noticed that they continuously complain about their lives, do nothing. But there are many opportunities for development, for example, for small businesses and start-ups even in difficult conditions.

– Speaking about creativity and start-ups everything is good, especially among young people. Only Kyiv Polytechnic has presented several developments of the world standards. Generally speaking, the part of the population has changed appreciably. There are also many public initiatives. Although, indeed, there are not enough reasons for optimism because there is not enough consolidation of healthy forces.

– I admit that there is a shortage of organized associations abroad. Although, students usually approve public offers, sometimes I cannot gather them because of irresponsibility and unreliability. I think that the students are the same in these things because of youth and lot of temptations around us. In my opinion, there is a bias towards leaders among Ukrainians anywhere. We do not like leaders of any kind and always ready to criticize them and to mock at any of their actions. I am not speaking about those who are the leaders notionally and deserves condemnation but I mean people who are even formally rise above the crowd, as they are willing and able to do something for the public. However, the first thing they come with is envy.

– Obviously, that leadership needs to be learnt, especially in order to take a punch. We have many management faculties. One of them is the faculty of Sociology and Law at NTUU "Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute". I want to believe that thanks to good education the future managers in different areas of life will become more professional than those who has come into leadership solely for money. By the way, what are the fundamental differences between the educational process in the Sorbonne and at our university?

– In short, I see three main differences. Firstly, in European universities, it is out of question that the student can plagiarize his essays from the internet and the teacher will turn a blind eye to it. Secondly, the students are not to miss classes because of part-time jobs. Thus, all students moonlight where they can but only in the evenings and weekends. For example, I work at the hotel on weekends, and I helping my parents in their business every evening. I get used to earn money by myself. The third difference is the prestige of University education and the University itself. If the diploma of the Sorbonne is perceived as something more or less familiar in Paris, outside the country it is a symbol of great respect, status and professionalism.

– According to fact that you are getting an education in one of the best universities in the world and already have a lot of experience of leadership what will be your further steps for the international support and development of Ukraine?

– I have just handed over the control of the Ukrainian Association of students in France to my successor Olga Ivanova, who is studying at the University of Lille. After all, the leadership of the Association is variable. However, I take on the public activities of the Foundation "Cosmopolitan Project Foundation". It is designed to support the development of democracy and leadership in European countries. I am the responsible person for the cooperation with Ukraine in this organization. And this organisation is managed by Mr. Kontan, who was Professor at the University Diderot in the recent past.

In fact, I dream that Ukraine would become strong enough not to need constant external support. I believe in this prospect, because even in spite of circumstances, along with the above mentioned negative facts, I can see changes in the country. I know that KPI is one of the branded Ukrainian universities with strong traditions in science, education and social initiatives; the University is the subject of public policy itself. I want students to realize that from their education and social position depends the future fate of the country.

In general, I seem that something has changed for several years until I have come. I think it is common atmosphere. Ukraine is not a province of Europe anymore. Things have become more civilized – even the image of cities, the appearance of the people, the work of the speakers in the broadcast and creative activities. I think that depression often changes with dignity, the desire of action. Action – for the sake of Love!

Communicated By M.P. Prepotenska, Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Sociology, the member of the National Union of journalists of Ukraine.


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