Miracles always happen during the winter holidays. Meeting Mrs. Christine Hawrylyshyn-Batruch on Christmas Eve, not in the company office where she spends several days a week, not at a conference where she would meet with partners, not even at an art event in a museum, opera house or art gallery where she feels more than organic, is a miracle: we met at her home. It is there, where you can be yourself, where you can feel the tastes and aromas of food, real Ukrainian sincerity and hospitality, which is being created from the smallest things, surrounding the heroine of our conversation today.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in different historical epochs tried to save the country as the most valuable museum exhibit. So, when they left their homes, they took their treasures with them: language, culture, experience and intellect. Among them were those who formed the basis of the Ukrainian national movement - politicians, intellectuals, cultural figures.
Having left Ukraine, they saved not only their lives, but also preserved their identity. They worked for the sake of political and cultural development. Among such figures was a prominent Ukrainian - Bohdan Hawrylyshyn. He went a long way from a lumberjack in Canada to become a famous advisor and consultant to public administrations and international businesses in more than 70 countries on all continents. He managed to create a foundation, which is now headed by his daughter - Mrs. Christine Hawrylyshyn-Batruch. Family traditions with Ukrainian roots have developed in Mrs. Christine an incredibly strong talent to represent her native country in every step. From the style of official negotiations and strong-willed character to hospitality and true Ukrainian femininity.
President of the Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Family Foundation, Senior Advisor for Strategic Sustainability at Lundin Group (Geneva), member of the Supervisory Board of the Lundin Foundation (Vancouver) and the Advisory Board of the Lundin Sustainability Chair at IMD, as well as the Advisory Editorial Board of I by IMD publication.
Mrs. Christine, I will start the conversation with my recollections of our first meeting. Because it was then that you gave me the feeling of the authentic style which Ukrainian women carry wherever they are. And since then you have been for me, first of all, a Ukrainian woman, not a public figure. You are a real woman! I remember the moment when you realized that we were leaving, you started to prepare for us an unexpectedly "Michelin" lunch instead of classic sandwiches for the road - fried zucchini flowers. Your words: "Are you leaving already? You must eat!"... And sincerity, and openness, and natural femininity. Such details reveal the soul. Thank you for finding time for this interview. And naturally, in the wonderful period of winter meetings, I would like to ask - how do you feel the miracle?
We have a family tradition of 45 years long to gather the whole big family to celebrate Christmas on December the 24th, about two dozen people. I cook three dishes, like borsch, stuffed cabbage rolls and something else. My mother makes dumplings with the grand-children, and my sister is responsible for desserts. Yes, we all get together and celebrate, and sing carols. And this year we also have three-month-old Inessa, my granddaughter, so there are four generations of Ukrainian women in our family.
By the way, I found out that I would become a grandmother on February 24. And I also got to know that the Russian war of aggression had started on that day. I always say that it was the worst day of my life and, at the same time, the best day. I felt it so deeply. At the same time, doctors announced the expected date of birth of my granddaughter, which was the same as my father's birthday - October 19. I thought, however, how symbolic and strong it all is, because there is so much power left from my father. And this is such a Ukrainian way. It was Dad who gave us the feeling of being Ukrainian. We spoke Ukrainian at home and we keep this tradition.
How difficult is it to find Ukrainian in yourself as you were not born there?
My father worked a lot in Ukraine and I worked together with him, so our ties with the country are really deep. My father wrote in his biography that he remained Ukrainian, and now I constantly say that I remain Ukrainian, although I was not born there. I went to Ukraine for the first time when I was ten years old, in Soviet times - we came to Kyiv for only 24 hours. And since 1999 I have been going there very often and will continue to go after the victory. And you know, we should learn the way to live on from those Ukrainians who now stay home in their country. People have shown themselves to be so strong, so resilient, they continue to live as if there was no war. We do not forget about them, we do everything we can, we help them, and we have to act like them now. This emotion takes me forty years back to the past. I thought that we were responsible for the fact that Ukraine will continue to exist. Then we here in the diaspora really had the impression that during the Soviet times it was very difficult for Ukrainians both to speak the language and to understand who they are. We felt responsible for supporting the country. I would say that history is repeating itself, because now again, we, the former refugees from Ukraine, have to support our people there in Ukraine. But also to show the world what exactly Ukraine is, who Ukrainians are. Now, perhaps, for the first time in history, the whole world has understood exactly who we are, and Ukrainians are perceived as never before in our history. This is such a chance, and it is because Ukraine and Ukrainians have shown their best qualities. And it turns out that thanks to this, Ukraine is integrating into ordinary and everyday European life, into social and political processes of different countries. And in fact, we, Ukrainians, seem to do nothing special for this - we just fight devotedly for every life, for our land, for the future of our children. Obviously, this war is cruel. My father always said, "there is no evil that something good does not come out of it". It makes us sick, but what good has come out of it? It’s the fact that the world finally learned about Ukraine, about our people. We all knew who real Ukrainians are, and now the whole world sees it, and this is very important.
Mrs. Christine, in your opinion, what are the features of Ukrainians that you have accumulated in your understanding from communication with your father and your own experience? Do you feel like a Ukrainian, what is it for you? I ask this question because we also aim to make us, Ukrainians, more "understandable" to the world, to convey our true values to the readers.
I could talk a lot about our features. Responsibility comes first. Ukrainians have shown themselves so responsible that it is even hard to imagine. In such situations as they are now, every Ukrainian is doing everything possible to alleviate the situation, to defend the country, to raise children, to work. And we are proud, but not in the sense of arrogance, like Russians, for example. They are "proud"... they are even imperialistic!
Our pride is in a modest sense, it is more dignity. Obviously, we are emotional. I am a very emotional person, and it was hard for me to live with it. I considered myself a little individualist, a woman who thinks, works with reason. But I feel things deeply, I think it is a feature of our people. We really feel what is happening not only with our people. We are empathic. I would also say about the sense of justice. I have it very deep in me. As a nation, we have experienced unjust things together in our history. I think that we carry within us the call that the world should be fair. The world must realize that every person is a human being, and they are someone's brother, sister, or mother, or grandfather. That is, when I find out that someone is from Sudan or India, I see first of a human being, because there is no difference between us. And I understand that we all need the same thing: to live well with our loved ones, with our neighbors. Wherever you are - in Africa, in Asia, in South America, in Europe, we all have similar values.
I want to return to your father, Bohdan Hawrylyshyn. I got acquainted with his personality after meeting you, listened to all his videos and addresses. He reminded me of my grandfather, whom I knew only from family stories. Intelligence, simplicity and wisdom are about your father. As a daughter, what do you consider the most important thing he passed on to you?
First, I think that any father should pass on love. I felt since childhood that he loved me. A child lives with this for the rest of his life. Secondly, love for the country. My father was a patriot in the deepest sense. He told: “I am from there, we are from there, and this is the basis of our identity”. It was not clear to us for many years, we thought: "what are you talking about?". I remember I was ten years old and I said: "listen, Dad, you are telling us fables that tomatoes in Ukraine are better than in the whole world". I realized what Ukraine meant to me when I first went there in 1991. And I realized myself somehow acutely Ukrainian and then I understood what it was all about. By the way, I never thought of my father as a refugee. I perceived his fate as a path in emigration. After the Second World War, my father was in a camp in Germany, and he fled as an emigrant to Canada, but he had refugee status because he left Ukraine. And today there are thousands of Ukrainian refugees in the same situation around the world, especially in Europe. I was brought up in Switzerland. And I only start thinking about all these things that my father experienced in his life - it was impossible to understand it in my childhood. I never thought about him as dependent on something, or persecuted, or pressured because he was dignified and free wherever he was. Bohdan Dmytrovych was just a man, incredibly fond of singing, playing the guitar, and we all sang a lot at home. He was very inquisitive, he was interested in everything.
Is it the love of life?
Yes, it is. And that's probably why he was still so young at the age of 90. Because his spirit was like that. Like a little child, he was always surprised. Father could meet different people - a child or someone from the village, or the President of the country - he perceived everyone with interest.
Bohdan Dmytrovych was a remarkable person, such an incredible figure, with deep knowledge - he was a professor of economics, right? If such professors created the economic system of Switzerland, it is clear why everything works so well here, everything is thought out. And a person is the main value, as well as for Bohdan Dmytrovych himself - a person should be in the center of the system and then everything is built around a person.
To be honest, he would not consider himself an economist. This is his title, and he made his career in this way, but he was much broader and deeper than that. He thought much more about geopolitics, about relations between countries, about how and what society itself does. In his first book “Roadmaps to the future”, my father noted the essential elements in society - political and economic systems, and extremely important value systems. Bohdan Dmytrovych analyzed these elements theoretically and then in the context of different countries. He researched this during 1979-1980. And it was at that time that my father predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union - it was very early, nobody wrote about it then. He felt that there was a dissonance between these elements. This fact represents him even more. I think the most important thing he wrote was this report to the Club of Rome on what our society is based on and how it can be improved. In that book he also wrote about Switzerland. He said that it is, to some extent, the best system in the world. Those three elements work here.
Did your father participate in 1991 brainstorming with Mr. Chornovil about the future development of Ukraine?
Yes, Bohdan Dmytrovych had been very active since that time: since 1986 he retired from work, he pretended that he had retired, but he wanted to devote the rest of his life to Ukraine.
First of all, my father founded the International Institute of Management in Kyiv. It was the first International Institute in the whole Soviet Union! And then he was already active in Ukraine, but it was only the beginning of his journey. Obviously, feeling all that devastation, he was in contact with everyone in Ukraine who had influence before and after the declaration of independence. He was quite open to all parties because he believed that the Swiss example of finding and building consensus between different parties was the best solution. I remember that we were well acquainted with Mykola Moroz, who politically did not coincide with us at all. But he was a real man and he had confidence in his socialist system. We had many conversations with him, and it was important to hear the positions of different parties, because we understood that these people exist in the country, moreover - they should exist, they should have their place together with others, like Mr. Chornovil, like Mr. Kravchuk. Bohdan Dmytrovych worked a lot with Kravchuk from the very beginning and participated in the same process when the decision on the name of the state was made. Some people said that maybe "Republic of Ukraine", but my father said "No, it will be Ukraine, because it is a country". My father also worked a lot with young people and preferred them. Since then, he was surprised by the youth in Ukraine, how capable and ambitious it was, but in a positive sense - they wanted to build a democratic and ethical Ukraine. At the end of his life, he worked only with young people, because he saw that political affairs were complicated, that the older generation was obsessed with past things. My father thought: "I will work with young people because they are the next generation of our leaders". As a result, we now have our Foundation and a large program called "Youth will change Ukraine"
Hawrylyshyn Family Foundation: You are the president of this Foundation and do a lot in your projects. Do I understand correctly that each member of the family has its own direction in helping Ukraine now?
My father started that foundation, I think, in 2012, when he decided to step back from politics and devote his time to youth. The first program was "Youth will change Ukraine". Under this program, we teach promising active young people who are now promoting ethical principles in society or in their own professional lives, as well as help them to improve various skills, and after that we select the best ones and invite them to European countries for so-called study trips, where you can see with your own eyes how, for example, environmental programs in Sweden function, or how the Parliament functions in Switzerland. Among those who apply for this program there are some who come with their own project, because they want to develop their own idea to have the highest impact on society. When my father passed away we, as a family, decided to continue all his works, because he started an important mission. And then together with my brother, sister and mother, although she is less active in that, we decided to go on further and added several more programs. Bohdan Dmytrovych wrote the “Declaration of Human Responsibilities" in 2013-14 because he was absolutely convinced of the interconnection between human rights and human responsibilities, one cannot exist without the other. And I believe the same - first of all, people should be responsible to themselves and to others, and that human responsibility means promoting their values, which are good not only for me, but also for society. For example, when we talk about the environment, we have to think about our life together on this planet. Our planet is very strong, it will still withstand all these obvious climate changes, but this is our human issue, this is a human shared responsibility. So we are promoting the cause of Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, and in 2021 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law on the All-Ukrainian Day of Responsibility on the initiative of our Foundation. And now our Ukraine shows the world what it really means to be responsible. We have another program for youth at the UN.
Speaking of the UN. Do you think that this institution is losing its authority now? How can it reanimate itself in your opinion?
It must reanimate itself. I think it is lucky that the UN still exists, because without this structure, we would live in a new dimension where there are only two or three major countries, and no one takes the others into account. But unfortunately, it is not fair that Russia has the right of veto - it is absolutely nonsense during the war. I think it should be stipulated in the code of norms that the country that started the war should automatically lose the right to vote. This was not done, and in order to amend the code, general consent is needed - it is obvious that Russia will not agree with this. It should also be remembered that thanks to the UN we have an actual action on climate change, the Global Compact project and Sustainable Development Goals. You can really be upset with the actions of the UN during the war, because obviously now this world organization does not show its best qualities, but without the UN it would be much worse, I think. Yes, the activities of the Hawrylyshyn Family Foundation cover a lot. Our main three programs continue to exist – “Young Representatives to the UN", "Declaration of Human Responsibilities" and the project "Youth will Change Ukraine". It is clear that since the beginning of the war, we, like everyone else, have changed directions, but we still continue the youth program, which unites a network of one thousand and a half of our graduates who are now incredibly active in humanitarian aid projects in all regions of Ukraine as Ambassadors of the Foundation.
How difficult is it to maintain financial stability in order to constantly develop the Foundation's activities?
When my father died, there was a moment when the Foundation could cease to exist. The reason for this was the bankruptcy of the Khreshchatyk Bank. My father trusted people a lot, sometimes more than me. Once I advised him not to keep all financial resources in one bank, because there would not be enough guarantees of stability. But he said: "no, I know what I put in this bank, I have trust in them". As a result, all the money was lost. But I saved 500 thousand francs here in Switzerland, and since then we have lived on that, and I added my own money. Now we have four people working on the programs - a great team, but not enough resources. Therefore, since the beginning of the war we have been more or less supporting the Foundation, but the main actions are done outside of it. My sister Patricia was in Kyiv at the beginning of the war and had to stay there. But she went to Lviv, where she and her husband volunteered to work with a responsible organization we know, which has been dealing with IDPs since the previous war in 2014. And here, in Switzerland, we were raising money for this organization. Over time, it became clear that the number of IDPs was increasing and there was no place to accommodate them, so they created the organization MoveUkraine, which receives abandoned houses from different municipalities, which are rebuilt as housing for IDPs. And my boss, the owner of Lundin Group, supported the project and the first house was named Lundin House. The MoveUkraine team will continue to do fundraising, because now there are eight million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, among which one and a half thousand have no place to live, so something must be done about it.
I know that your son Matteï is also a volunteer
Yes, my son is in Zürich, he is a neurologist and worked in Ukraine as a volunteer near Lviv in the rehabilitation center for war victims of the 2014 war, then he created a volunteer organization "Zürich hilft der Ukraine ZhdU" which now sends medical products and medical cars to Ukraine.
What can we, Ukrainians, give to the world and what can the world give us as useful, interesting things to develop synergy? How do your friends and the world perceive the Ukrainian situation now, what is the general attitude towards Ukrainians? You started the project of experience exchange "Ukraine - the world", please tell a few words about it.
I have many friends and acquaintances who have taken in Ukrainian refugees. For example, my good friend, the director of the Geneva Opera, also accepted Ukrainians, gave them the opportunity to work and study under a special program. Another friend provided an apartment for refugees and sent a car to Ukraine. Even my taxi driver, with whom we live next to each other in the suburbs of Geneva, is collecting necessary things and will soon go to Ukraine for three weeks to deliver all that.
In fact, in my environment alone, there are many people who suddenly decided to help Ukraine, each doing something in their own field. And how many such stories there are! For example, a Geneva publisher has created a photo review about Ukraine and all the money from the wide sale of this magnificent photo book he gives to humanitarian projects of the charity organization "DITY", with which I also cooperate for a long time and this organization in cooperation with the Geneva Branch of the Ukrainian Society in Switzerland do incredible work during the war - it is really impressive what refugees do here in Switzerland. People came here under the most difficult circumstances and now they are already working. In fact, there are many initiatives in Switzerland and in other countries.
Do you feel that we, Ukrainians, are perceived as a European nation?
Absolutely and unconditionally! Maybe at first it was a bit problematic - you know how many restrictions this country has. But they keep the doors open for Ukrainians. And this is rather an exception. Ukrainians were given Permit S, this has never happened before. People were given money, the opportunity to work, housing. Other refugees from different countries and parts of the world do not have such conditions. Why do they do it? Because they say that they are our brothers and they are like us.
Can you recall any interesting collaborations? For example, in business or in the scientific sphere?
It has already started. I had a meeting with the Rector of the University of Geneva, where they accepted many Ukrainian students free of charge and intend to continue such ties with Ukraine. Also, a large-scale conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine was held in Lugano, which was devoted to investment projects before the war and was not canceled in difficult war times. But if we are talking about the restoration of the country after the war, it means that the Swiss are already preparing for cooperation. It will be useful for both Ukraine and European countries, of course. Many Swiss companies will be involved in the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war, huge amounts of money will be invested to support and reconstruct our country. And I hope that all frozen assets of Russians will also be used for these projects. Yes, it is clear that this complex issue seems legally impossible, but it will happen, you will see. Another thing about perception. Of course, different formulations are used here. For example - the Russian war in Ukraine has changed the world. I periodically hear in the European news: "...because of the Ukrainian war...", or "Ukrainian conflict" - what conflict? It is not a conflict at all. They just abbreviate it as if according to the standards. But this is not a correct standard, it is a nuance, but it completely turns the meaning. I always point out that you can't say that, because this is a real Russian war in Ukraine, this is a Russian war in Europe aimed at democracy and, I would confidently add, the whole world. Yes, it is a war against the whole world and we must remind people that Ukrainians are only the first, I hope, who are experiencing this war. It is on our territory and now Ukraine is defending the whole world going along its own way.