The first Days of Ukraine in the UK have taken place in London some time ago. The holiday is over, but the impressions remain and discussion of its presentation continues. It is like the scent of an expensive perfume, which has a set of three notes, appearing gradually. The top note provoked the burst of unprecedented interest of Ukrainian and world mass media to this event. They stormed the organizers and moderators of the event with the request to uncover the cards and give them exclusive right to announce the Days. The middle note was felt on the closing day of the London events, when in the Potters Fields Park on the bank of Thames near the Tower Bridge several thousands of Ukrainians and British were singing together the Anthem of Ukraine, accompanied by Oleh Skrypka. And the base note, probably the most complex, is appearing right now, some time after the event.
So, what kind of Ukraine did London see? Cultured, educated, with traditions of its own? Actually, a European country. Did Londoners see in the background of the Pinchuk vs. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov hearing dispute in London court any investment attractiveness of another kind of Ukrainian business? Did they understand that far from transparent business rules have a source and a name? That this is a result of a certain period of the 1990s, when one clan and family were writing them for themselves? They barely understood this. For a whole picture does not come up in a matter of several days. But the fact that a cultural promotion of our country was taking place in the background of this negative is good. It is hard to expect considerable results, because we have just learned how to present ourselves in the world. For we want to say – we would like to live here, in Ukraine, the way we presented ourselves in Europe. The merit of Firtash Foundation can be felt in creation of Ukraine’s positive image in London. But there is no doubt, the electrified understanding of another kind of Ukraine could be felt in the moist air of London. The Ukraine, whose oligarchs have it out in court, again in London.
Of course, three days are not enough for a scrupulous analysis of Ukraine and Ukrainianness. However, on the whole, the event sent positive messages to the Britons and the guests of the capital regarding the image of our country and inspired them to learn more about it. I was a witness when an American tourist, who found himself at the ethno-festival by accident and was inspired by its energy charge, tried national dishes, and saw everything with his own eyes, decided to visit our country next year. And there were many people like him. Therefore the stand taken by some Ukrainian patriots, who while staying in Ukraine, expressed a dislike for the “parquet measures” within the program of the Days and put all things Ukrainian into one ethno-festival, which was supported by many people, seems somewhat strange and unclear. But if we analyze, could it be other way? Could a mass of people get into the parliament and the Churchill-Hall? No, because there is a special order and a visiting procedure. Therefore, while keeping to it, we at the same time show our respect to European traditions we aspire to.
Another question is how this event was highlighted in Britain and how it should be highlighted in Ukraine. The Day asked leading Ukrainian journalists, who went through all the stages of the Days of Ukraine to share their expressions and tell what they saw with their own eyes.
Yehor BENKENDORF, chairman of Inter TV Channel:
“The festival ‘The Days of Ukraine in the UK,’ organized by the Firtash Foundation is very close to me in spirit. The specifics of my work make me travel a lot and I know for sure that there is no other wonderful, versatile, and beautiful country like Ukraine. We have a rich culture, history, traditions, very sympathetic and hardworking people. Thanks to Lada Firtash’s efforts, millions of people around the world were able to learn about it – and I am glad that I was part of this project and left a piece of my soul in it. For the first time I did not feel like a guest in London, I felt that the Kyiv life splashed out on the streets of the British capital, and it came as a big surprise for me. Behind the scenes there was incredible tiredness, because the entire team of Inter put maximum efforts so that Kyiv found out about the success of the festival in real time regime.”
Darka OLIFER, reporter of the Fakty Show, ICTV channel:
“Oleh Skrypka in the background of the Tower Bridge was the brightest impression for me (I will remind that the final event, the Dreamland Festival was held on the Thames bank). No less emotional were the minutes when Oleh was singing the Anthem of Ukraine a cappella and our fellow countrymen were singing with him. I must admit the fashion show of our designers became, basically, the first event of this kind in my life. I was glad to find out during my conversation with the director of Saatchi Art Gallery that representatives of Sotheby’s Auction House visited the launch of the exhibition of Ukrainian artists.
“Speaking about more rational things, every step Ukraine makes towards its real independence is important to me as a citizen of my country. In this case we should speak about informational independence. During the events like the days of Ukrainian culture we tell about ourselves – about the best things we have. This makes us a subject, not an object of informational processes.
“There is an expression: man is what he consumes. In my opinion, this principle can be applied to consumption of information. Regular stories of murders, tragedies, and mischief make people fear, be afraid to live and to act. The mass media should take up more responsibility before the reader and the viewer for the information we offer. For several recent months at the least our EU integration on the whole and the Vilnius Summit of Eastern Partnership in particular is the number-one topic in the information space of the nationwide mass media. And this is good. The situation is different in the regional mass media. There EU integration is something very abstract and remote from everyday problems in public utility centers, hospitals, and schools.”
Anton PODLUTSKY, managing editor of the informational holding “RBK-Ukraine”:
“The most important event during the Days was opening of Taras Shevchenko Street in Cambridge, one of the nursery beds of the world elite. And Ukraine’s physical presence in Cambridge is a definite sign that they will know us better in 10-15 years. And it depends on us what things they will learn, positive or negative. We need to understand that general background of the country’s perception and the life standards of society depend not only of the efforts made by the press. The press is a mirror of all the social processes. Therefore it can be more or less clean and smooth, irregular, dirty and distorting. To live like England, we need to clearly make up our minds about the traditions and rules of the game and follow them accurately. It is like in an old anecdote: ‘What do we need to get an ideal lawn? – To cut the grass for 100 years.’ But we don’t have a hundred of years. And we need so many, because the processes have changed, speeded up, and we don’t need to cut the grass for 100 years to achieve perfect order. But we need to establish the clear rules, which the country will follow. England’s experience is following the traditions. And if we develop our own traditions (and costly international festivals is Ukraine’s search of its own unique place in the world), it will be better. And the function of the press in all this is to highlight the events in a maximum qualitative way. The task of civic journalism has not changed over 100 years: it is enlightenment. Highlighting of the topic of pluses and minuses of EU integration is apparently not enough. But on the other hand, does the society have little interest about what awaits us on the way to the EU. Ukraine is a strong corporate player, but it is one of the many. Nobody dances tango alone, there must be two people.”
special reporter of Kommersant newspaper:
“I did not expect to see such excitement and so many people. Therefore the organizers must think about other venues with a capacity for everyone willing. On the whole, the event had a positive influence on the country’s image, because there were many Britons together with the members of the diaspora. Four leading British newspapers highlighted the event. So, Londoners knew what was going on. Therefore all this is improving the image and creates an impression that Ukraine is a separate state, not the USSR, and not Russia. It has cultural achievements of its own. The Days strongly differ from the events Pinchuk or other businessmen have held before. In my opinion, to improve the life of Ukrainians in the country, we need to solve the problem of irresponsible judiciary power, which makes illegal decisions. The mass media, for their part, should write about illegal court rulings and scandals that follow.”