Viktoria Savchuk is 21 years old. She was born in Kiev and has studied law at the National Academy of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. She is currently preparing for a Master’s in Germany.
Viktoria, do you feel European?
Yes, of course. I am a European and Ukraine lies in Europe. Geographically that has always been the case and historically in part as well. This is why I feel a 100 per cent European and am very happy that our country and myself have now moved a little closer to Europe.
What does it mean to you to be European?
For myself this means a lot. But it means even more for my country, for Ukraine. Ukraine currently undergoes tough times: Our revolution for a dignified existence and European future has begun.
And how come that especially you feel so European?
My family has always been close to Europe. We have always committed ourselves to European values. To be European means to us to have a real European country, to subscribe to European values, European standards; no corruption, almost no criminality and other negative appearances. The most important is that I can feel very much at home in other European countries.
What are you expecting of the European Union, especially in such hard times?
I think that it was already very important to commit ourselves to the EU. The whole of Ukraine shares the values and moral norms of the EU, also in Eastern Ukraine. Of course, there are many pro-Russian people there. But these come from Russia, or are still very deeply rooted there. Our goals are identical to the goals of the EU. We have to rebuild our country now, make democracy possible and build a safe future for us. To reach that, we have to orientate ourselves now at the political and legal system of the EU. Russian occupation policy has divided our country in two. But at the same time, I know that many Ukrainians from Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea want to be in the EU. They also value how Europe, or the EU as representative of Europe, and the whole world have supported us and what they now do for us.
So what is the EU doing for you?
As I said, many EU-countries have supported Ukraine a lot. They have imposed important sanctions against representatives of the old Ukrainian government, against Russia and don’t at all agree with Putin’s politics. They are willing to help us and we appreciate that a lot.
How was the atmosphere before the current crisis and the events on Maidan square? Was it this pro-European?
The atmosphere has always been pro-European. Especially students, in the west, the middle, but also in the east of Ukraine are pro-European. This process has started in the 1990s, after Ukraine had won its independence.
And what will happen next? What will be the next steps?
On May 25, we have the presidential elections, on the same day as the European elections.
That’s right, do you think that is coincidence?
I’m not sure, but I think there is some correlation.
Vitali Klitschko was often portrayed here as leader of the Euromaidan movement. Is he a president of Ukraine?
(laughs) Actually, he would not be such a bad candidate for the presidential elections, he has a strong team. But he is a sportsman, he is a boxer. He is famous all around the world and could for example do a lot in the social, cultural or sporting area. But as president of Ukraine, I don’t see it. I think he would be a bit weak. But I think he knows that himself, that’s probably why he pulled out of the race.
So who would be?
I don’t see a good or specific candidate for this position right now. The president of Ukraine shouldn’t be too young or too old. He should be smart, competent, European-oriented and have a lot of experience in administration.
You said that the people in Eastern Ukraine are pro-European, yet Crimea decided to be part of Russia. What do you think of that?
There is a small number of inhabitants of Crimea that believe themselves “true Russians”. They want to obtain Russian citizenship by all means. Ironically, those who have voted “yes” in the referendum are not happy about the annexation at all anymore. The situation there is unstable and unsafe. Many of my friends who are from Crimea, but live in continental Ukraine now or study and live abroad, tell me that they do not want to return to a Russian Crimea.
Here in Germany, it seems like Crimea wants to belong to Russia. I mean over 95 per cent have voted for it.
This is not entirely true. You have to take into account that Russia and the Russian media are currently communicating this anti-Ukrainian sentiment. Have you read or watched Russian media lately?
No, not really.
Thank God! Putin is fighting an information war against Ukraine. On Crimea there currently exists only Russian media, no Ukrainian. These distribute the propaganda that in Ukraine there are only extremists, fascists and nationalists and that it is very dangerous here. Thus it would not make any sense to keep remaining in Ukraine, because it is supposedly so much better in Russia.
But there are right-wing nationalists on Maidan square and in the new Parliament. How big is their influence in the new beginning of Ukraine?
This influence exists in Ukraine, but only to a certain extent, like anywhere in Europe. Our country is young. Yes, we have committed mistakes and we need time to reanimate our political, legal and economic system. We need to work hard now to get on the right track. And slowly, I can see progress. Yet, we are eagerly awaiting the elections and hope that there will finally be a new, ambitious, competent government of a real state under the rule of law. Right-wing groups will without a doubt be one of the topics and questions that we will have to work on. But the main goal should now be to get our country off the ground. We have seen and witnessed a lot of blood and cruelty. This is why we need to prove to the world and especially ourselves that the deaths of the “secret hundreds” were not in vain. In Ukraine, we have this very well-known writer, Yuri Andrukhovych, who is by the way famous in the whole world, and especially in Germany. In his book “Lexicon Of Intimate Cities” he writes: “Clay only hardens after burning in the oven. This is why we cannot hide from fire.” Back then, he wrote this about Chernobyl, but if you read it in today’s context, it sounds very contemporary and topical. I am convinced that he meant the whole of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
What’s your opinion of the current unrest in Eastern Ukraine?
The situation in Eastern Ukraine, especially at the Eastern border, is very tense and dangerous, because of the “unrecognised” troops, military technology under the Russian flag and the strong separatist propaganda. It is very difficult for Ukraine to resist this Russian aggression. Of course, we will not give up. We will stay strong and fight until the end. But without support of the Ukrainian army on the one hand and the somewhat “categorical” actions of the Ukrainian government on the other, Ukraine us currently undergoing a great risk of being federalised, or in other words being divided up into many parts. Ukrainians want that under no circumstances.
Do you think Putin will give up?
He has no choice. Putin is currently suffering a defeat. If he doesn’t give up today, then tomorrow.
Viktoria, how do you see the EU in 20 years?
Ukraine has started to pursue this course towards European integration and wants to join the EU. But what will happen to the EU in 20 years, I cannot say. I have heard and read that the EU is not as popular and powerful anymore. There are a lot of movements against it. I think that the EU nowadays is guaranteeing peace and stability to the European countries. It is an important institution and I am convinced that, after things have calmed down a bit, the EU can develop more and more. With the help of new politicians and new members the role of the EU can be even more important.
Thank you, Viktoria!
all photos ©laurasoria, cover photo private