- Andy was born on March 16, 1970 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
- Since 1990, he has been living in Switzerland, since then he has been working at the School of Arts and Industrial Professions in Fribourg.
- Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Switzerland
- Chairman of the Ukrainian Society
- Doctor of the University of Fribourg
Our conversation with Mr. Andrii took place in a cozy university café in Fribourg. We talked about various things, but the main topic was the war in Ukraine and Switzerland's attitude to it.
- Mr. Andrii, in short, what is the Ukrainian Society in Switzerland?
Among the main tasks of the Society are the establishment of contacts between Ukrainians in this picturesque country, and the spread of true and undistorted information about the role of Ukraine in the world context. In addition, our organization takes care of preservation and support of Ukrainian culture and language, national rites, and traditions. After the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Society also took on a humanitarian function, helping people who fled the war and found temporary shelter in Switzerland, and fights against Russian propaganda, which has invaded all of Europe. After all, now we are talking not only about the preservation of Ukrainian cultural and historical heritage or the presentation of Ukrainianness, but also about helping to protect the country and its citizens. Before the war began, we organized a rally in Zurich to explain to people what is happening in Ukraine right now. We organize conferences like the Ukrainian Forum and other cultural events.
- How does Switzerland treat the Russian-Ukrainian war?
It is necessary to understand that Switzerland is a neutral state. Previously, the point of view was completely dominant here, they say, we are neutral, and therefore we must listen to two points of view on this or that issue. This is all well and good, of course, but when it is not about the attack of one country on another with the aim of completely destroying its people. And that is what Russia currently pursues in Ukraine. I will give a simple example. One person says that the sun is shining, and another that it is snowing. Both the first and the second express their point of view. Who to believe? Maybe you just need to go out into the yard and check for yourself. For its part, the Society is trying to change this course of events. And you know, it works. We hold meetings, publish articles, just talk to different people to get our point across. I have not seen such big changes in relation to Ukraine before. Now there are a large number of Ukrainian flags on the streets and private yards, words of support. People are really starting to understand what exactly is happening between Ukraine and Russia.
This is all true, but Russian propaganda works quite strongly in Europe, promoting the things it needs. Switzerland is no exception.
Indeed, it is felt. Not only here, but also in Germany and Austria. This was especially visible at the beginning of the war. You could hear opinions that if we are neutral, then we should not and will not impose sanctions. Together with all Ukrainians, we must work to change this approach. And it is already happening. Maybe not as fast as you would like, but you have to have more patience and work for it.
- For most of the world, Russia's attack on Ukraine on February 24th came as a shock. How did you react to this news?
For me personally, it was not a revelation. Russia's actions increasingly looked like preparations for a large-scale war. The main thing for me is that with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the mask of the Putin regime has come off and now the whole world has a glimpse of its true face. The seething anger and hypocrisy that reigns in Russian society. Instead of changing their country for the better, the Russians under Putin have used violence and death against their neighbors. They have done so to cling to historical fictions. What is happening now in Ukraine is of vital importance not only to the Ukrainian people, but to the whole of Europe and even the world. Therefore, we must continue to do a lot for our common victory.
After Ukraine's independence, the activity of Ukrainian organizations abroad increased significantly. It seemed that now all Ukrainians, both those living in the Motherland and those living abroad, would unite and show the world all the beauty and strength of Ukraine and its people. But at first this process was quite difficult.
- Do you cooperate with official Ukrainian structures, for example the embassy in Switzerland?
We had different periods of interaction with the embassy. After independence, the majority of diplomats remained from the Soviet school and therefore treated organizations like ours with caution. There were also funny cases with a bitter aftertaste. For example, at one of the official events where the ambassadors of many countries gathered, the question about Ukraine was answered not by the ambassador of the state, but for some reason by the representative of Russia. Things turned around after 2004's Orange Revolution. It was felt that truly pro-Ukrainian forces had come to power. After that, the interaction with the embassy representatives became much better. After all, our common goal is to show what Ukraine really is. We began to organize joint concerts and conferences. A more active cooperation with Ukraine began. We did a fundraiser for the Kharkiv hospital, 10 children with heart problems have received surgeries. We implemented this initiative during our company's festive event in the best Bernese hotel "Bellevue".
- You are working on the creation of a coordinating council of Ukrainian organizations in Switzerland. The other day, namely on February 4, a meeting was held with the participation of those who plan to join this council. Tell us about the results of the meeting.
The main goal of the coordination council is to unite and work together, so it is easier to pay attention to your questions in communication with official structures. And if we stick together, we will achieve much greater results. We need a political voice, a public voice, and a Ukrainian voice. And then we will be able to influence our partners here and influence the support that Ukraine gets from all these institutions. I think Ukraine will only win if we are selfless and not selfish. That is what brought everyone to this meeting. We are working on creating a website in which we will be able to include all the organizations which are involved in helping Ukrainians. Our task is to make our voice loud and powerful.
- What does the Society plan to implement in the near future?
As for the life of the Society, we are working on establishing a school board - this will allow us to open Ukrainian schools in Switzerland. Children will have access to Ukrainian textbooks. The educational institutions will be legitimate, accredited according to the rules of the cantons. We are already in contact with the Ministry in Kyiv on this issue. We will also continue to help Ukraine and its people in every way possible until the enemy is defeated.
Photo by Charles Ellena