Ukrainians in the Netherlands (Stichting Oekraїners in Nederland) Foundation is the first organization in the Netherlands that unites, supports and represents the interests of Ukrainian emigrants. Organization was founded in 2014 on the wave of the desire to assist Euromaidan in Kyiv and help activists, public initiatives and freedom fighters. Among the shared values are equality, democratic rights and new independent future for Ukraine by active promotion of Ukrainian self-identification as well as popularization of language, religion, culture and traditions. Oksana Lozynska, a representative of the Foundation, kindly accepted the offer of 112 International of an interview.
Your organization actively supports Ukraine against Russian aggression – how would you evaluate the main achievements of 2015?
Foundation Ukrainians in the Netherlands organizes events that aim to inform the Ukrainian, Dutch and international community about our country. We try to deliver objective, impartial information about the recent developments in Ukraine and, where necessary, its history. Main achievements in 2015 go even beyond our organization itself, to my opinion, and embrace the activity of the Ukrainian community in the Netherlands as a whole: numerous initiatives to promote Ukrainian culture, bring Ukrainians together and celebrate our unity, inform Dutch and international society about us as of a European nation.
There are groups of volunteers in the Netherlands who are sending humanitarian help (cloths, footwear, food, etc.) to Ukrainian soldiers, refugees and orphanages. Although, our community in the Netherlands is quite small, we have several Ukrainian schools here, a library of a Ukrainian book, Ukrainian reading and language clubs, Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church, several Ukrainian folk ensembles. A lot of these are achievements of our common work before and in 2015. It is also our pleasure to observe comparable trends in other countries.
How do you evaluate 2015 for Ukraine?
2015 was not an easy year for Ukraine. However, I have the feeling that much more is taking place rather than what we hear about on TV. I guess, history will be softer to the people who run the state at this moment. It is a great challenge to achieve quick tangible results in a country that experiences war and that is economically on the edge of bankruptcy. Probably, we should have more trust in our president and government at this moment. The results of their policies would become visible later. Any re-election would be harmful for the country now.
What is the position of Dutch people about Ukrainian and Ukrainians? Do you think the information flow is objective? What do you do to bring the attention to Ukrainian situation?
The Dutch people still learn about Ukraine. They also have their own Dutch and EU issues, before thinking about Ukraine. Same as anywhere, there are media sources of different quality in the Netherlands. A lot of media would easily refer to a pro-Russian unreliable source when posting their news. The more trustworthy channels are quite discreet in presentation of information. For instance, when we spoke of millions' revolution in 2014 in Ukraine, most Dutch media spoke about ten thousands of people on the streets. To fill in this information gap, we organize conferences (e.g. related to Crimea problem or Holodomor of ‘32-‘33), screening of the films (among other, Gamer by Sentsov or Haytarma by Akhtem Seitablayev) in different cities in the Netherlands.
We also organize cultural events: concerts and exhibitions of Ukrainian artists, Ukrainian master classes e.g. of making pysanka (Ukranian Easter egg) or Petrykivskyy rozpys (traditional Ukrainian painting style).
How much active are Dutch people in helping?
There is a number of Dutch people who are, for various reasons, involved into a discourse about Ukraine or helping the country. Some organizations dealing with humanitarian help for Ukraine are fully run by the Dutch (e.g. Stichting Spoetnik with Beja Kluiters-Albers as chairman). Some of them we even never heard of while they help our country many years.
Further, Dutch are famous for high contributions per year to the charities that help vulnerable throughout the world. In February 2014, when so many people died on Maidan and so many where injured, my colleagues collected an amount of money which I brought to the volunteers in Kyiv, who were helping the injured. Such initiatives took place here and there in the Netherlands.
Are there Ukrainians or Dutch citizens as well are in the organization?
At this moment the board of our organization consists of several Ukrainians. However, we are open to new members, incl. the Dutch people.
What are your plans for the next year? And in which spheres do you support Ukraine mainly?
The next year promises to be quite busy. We are still expecting confirmation from our speakers about their visits. Among them are famous journalists, writers, academics, politicians and public figures. Events in the beginning of the year are aimed at informing the Dutch voters in preparation to the advisory referendum on Association agreement between the EU and Ukraine. It might be a challenge, though, to countervail the anti-Ukrainian flow of information, that is also backed up by Russian capital.
Otherwise, we are going to continue with humanitarian help to Ukraine, incl. delivering medical equipment to the hospitals which we have been doing last two years. Our Ukrainian schools are growing, we are glad to see kids leaving Russian schools and joining us. We need to make sure we have all necessary study materials, but also materials for thematic evenings and celebrations (if the school in Groningen exists already more than 3 years, schools in Amsterdam and Eindhoven are two and one years, accordingly). Finally, we will serve our main purpose - being a platform for and uniting Ukrainians in the Netherlands, helping to integrate those, who would stay here for a longer period of time.
How do you plan to celebrate Christmas? Are there any special Dutch-Ukrainian traditions?
We have a chance to celebrate Christmas twice: a Catholic one and an Orthodox one. The Dutch-Ukrainian families create their own traditions using the most precious from both cultures. Unfortunately, often during Christmas on 7 January, we have to work in the Netherlands. That makes celebrating it at home in Ukraine complicated, if not impossible. However, home is also where your family is, many of us have found our homes here. We still keep Ukrainian Christmas deep in our hearts.