In exclusive interview with 112 International, Dmytro Maksymenko, representative of immigrants from Ukraine to the Netherlands, board of directors member in Ukrainians in the Netherlands organization, told about perception of Ukraine by the Dutch, ongoing referendum, MH17 crash, and activity of his organization.
How do the Dutch perceive the current situation in Ukraine? Do they express their opinions on the Ukrainian-Russian relations?
Me and other Ukrainians noticed immediately after the conflict has started that the Dutch people stopped calling or even associate us with Russians. It often happened before, but now they very tolerantly differentiate us. One of the most common question is “are you from Western or Eastern part of Ukraine?” and then usually follows “are you pro-Russian, or pro-Ukrainian?”
Dutch community is in general very curious about everything what happens around the world, but after the plane crash Ukraine was in all news for following two-three months. They still with an interest attend the lectures or conferences about Ukraine. I haven’t met yet a Dutch person who would take Russian side in the conflict. They are mostly neutral, sometimes pro-Ukrainian and prefer to listen and ask questions instead of making any assumptions. On my opinion, Ukrainian conflict for Dutch is the same as any Middle East conflict for an average Ukrainian.
What is the position of the local media?
Positions are different. They try not to be deeply involved into conflict. However there were few quite controversial articles, or separatists staged video reports were used during TV discussions, or news reports. Thus, Ukrainian community had to request refutations. What is more important that reaction on the requests always was fast and positive.
I just must ask about the Boeing-777 tragedy. Government of the Netherlands met victims with the honor. October 31 a terrible crash of Airbus A-321 occurred. Russia could not be called noticeable for its mourning events. What can you say about it?
It is a huge tragedy for such a small and peaceful country like Netherlands. Many of my Dutch friends told me that they knew personally a victim, or it was a relative of their friend, or coworker or any other connection, but almost everyone, somehow had a feeling of loss after the tragedy. After it Ukrainian conflict was on the news every day and for two or three months. However, lately they switched on Syrian conflict and refugees problem.
I never heard they blamed anyone, neither Russia nor Ukraine for the crash. They were waiting for an official investigation report. Report itself is very tolerant, from one side it pointing that Ukraine had to close its airspace for civil flights. From another side they admit that pro-Russian rebels used “Buk” missile launcher. Investigation is keep going and Dutch citizens are preparing for referendum concerning Ukrainian association into EU.
Talking about this referendum, most Dutch completely support the referendum. Most of them say it is not about Ukraine, but about “their right to make a decision, which EU try to take from them. Ukraine just got unlucky, that this particular question has being chosen for referendum. It could be any other.”
Dmytro, tell us please about Ukrainians in the Netherlands organization. What are the perspectives of it?
"Ukrainians in the Netherlands” is a non-profit organization that was created during the Maidan times. We decided that can’t stand aside of the Revolution and should consolidate Ukrainian expats in the Netherlands to support Maidan. After the Revolution won, but our Motherland faced new challenges, like Russian aggression and deep economic crises, "Ukrainians in the Netherlands", decided to continue its activities. There are three main we are working on:
Humanitarian function. Currently we have 10 collecting points around the Netherlands and weekly send humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Informational function. "Ukrainians in the Netherlands." organizes conferences, lectures, concerts, movie viewings and exhibitions. Every event increased the awareness of Dutch and international community about current situation in Ukraine, but also we shared Ukrainian culture and art.
Consolidating function. Our events attracts as local people, as international community, but also Ukrainians. Being far away from homeland, being foreigners stimulate people for looking a chance to meet, help each other and even to speak your native language is a big pleasure, which you start to value only living abroad.
During the last year, we have organized a number of different events, for example: Masterclass “Ukraine” in Rijksuniversity (Groningen), Pysanka Work-shop, visit of Borys Gudziak and his meeting with Ukrainian expats, сonference on Crimea “Brothers Behind the Wall” (guests M. Dzhemilev, M.Ratushnyy, O.Gorin and others; Groningen), viewing of movies Babylon 13 and Haytarma with participance of its creators, open lectures in Amsterdam and Groningen, and several other concerts, presntations, actions.
How has the format of your work changed in connection with the hostilities in Ukraine? Has the Ukrainian community consolidated?
Actually, Maidan and hostilities in Ukraine were the reason our organization was founded. Also before that Ukrainians in the Netherlands were completely disorganized and inactive. However, many Ukrainians at that times realized that they can’t be on the Maidan, or later in army, but they still want to help Ukraine to become prosperity county. This common willing to help has united activists and volunteers in many cities all around the Netherlands. I am sure, most of us would never met if Ukraine was not in danger.
Interviewed by Lyudmila Koval