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Ukrainian diaspora should love Ukraine, not politics

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Aug. 25, 2011, 10:09 p.m. | Op-ed — by Vyacheslav Pikhovshek

Viacheslav Pikhovshek

Interests of nation should come ahead of partisan politics. The Ukrainian diaspora in the United States and Canada has always positioned itself separately from other Ukrainians living abroad. In fact, the two million diaspora in Russia should have the same influence and opportunities as the diaspora in North America.

But the U.S. and Canadian diaspora tries to position itself as the collective moral authority of Ukrainians abroad.

Among the North American diaspora are a number of successful people of whom we are proud: Nadia Diuk, vice president of the National Endowment for Democracy; Adrian Karatnycky, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and former director of Freedom House; Chrystia Freeland, a former U.S. editor of the Financial Times and now a senior figure at Thomson Reuters; Natalie Jaresko, co-founder of the Horizon Capital investment bank. The list goes on.

But the actions of the North American diaspora as a whole are sometimes tinged with party politics.

On June 18, the World Congress of Ukrainians came out in defense of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is on trial for alleged abuse of office in concluding a gas deal with Russia in January 2009. On Aug. 10, a demonstration in support of Tymoshenko took place in Chicago and on Aug. 13 in New York. There was also a demonstration in Toronto.

This is all defined along party lines. Let’s not forget that on Sept. 23 last year, Askold Lozynskyj, former head of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, organized a picket for the arrival of President Viktor Yanukovych at the UN General Assembly.

Political activists of this kind lack patience and consistency.

They lack the patience to wait for events to take their course and only then to draw conclusions. In September 2010, Lozynskyj accused Yanukovych of betraying Ukraine’s national interests to Russia. A year has since past, and that theme has disappeared completely, as the president moves Ukraine toward the European Union, despite complaints from Moscow.

He also accused Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko of not supporting the Ukrainian library in Moscow. But Gryshchenko saved the library, which had been closed under former President Viktor Yushchenko.

Political activists of this kind lack patience and consistency.

Of course, members of the diaspora have the right to support Tymoshenko.

But it’s not they who pay natural gas bills according to the prices agreed in the contract that she agreed with Russia in 2009. It’s not they who suffered due to the mysterious swine-flu epidemic she announced in 2009 when people here and perhaps even relatives abroad, forked out their last few kopecks to buy drugs in sheer panic.

What is more, why didn’t these representatives of the diaspora picket Ukrainian institutions in New York, Chicago and Toronto in 2005, when leading Party of Regions member Borys Kolesnikov was arrested? When Yushchenko fired 18,000 government officials? Why was Yushchenko considered “one of them”?

In the same way that Ukraine needs a new form of cooperation with the diaspora, so the diaspora should look to cooperate with Ukraine.

Political analyst Kostyantyn Bondarenko was correct when he wrote that an example to follow would be the Israeli diaspora. “Jews who live in the U.S. would never allow the State Department to take any steps in the Middle East that were not friendly toward Israel.

They consider it their duty to improve the image of their historical homeland in the U.S., regardless of what passport they carry in their pocket,” he wrote.

The diaspora expects help from Ukraine, and Ukraine therefore has the right to demand help from the diaspora. What sort of help?

Perhaps Askold Lozynskyj could organize a picket outside the White House in Washington, D.C. demanding the cancelation of visas for Ukrainians? Or he could pressure the European Union to hand Ukraine a clear perspective of future membership, or to increase technical assistance to Ukraine? Or, finally, lobby for reciprocal social support, such as pensions, for Ukrainians who have worked in the U.S.?

If they really wanted this, then they probably would have organized it a long time ago.

Viacheslav Pikhovshek is a former news editor at 1+1 channel and a former speechwriter for ex-President Leonid Kuchma.
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