On April 8, Yulia Marushevska, a Ukrainian activist featured in a viral video titled “I Am a Ukrainian” that has garnered over seven million views since it was uploaded in February, spoke with students at Encina Hall about the ongoing unrest in Ukraine.
Marushevska, who is currently a Ph.D. student at Taras Shevchenko National University, also sat down with The Daily to discuss topics ranging from her thoughts on corruption in Ukraine to the future of her native country and the role students will play in shaping it.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Would you mind sharing your background and what it was like growing up in the Ukraine before the beginnings of Euromaidan?
Yulia Marushevska (YM):I grew up as an ordinary, Western child. I grew up in a post-Soviet Union time. Now I am a student at a good Ukrainian university. There were no physical issues, but instead, more psychological issues. My grandparents ask me “why are you there,” and I answer them “How can I not be?”
It makes me sad that in such a rich country, so many live a poor life. I think that 30 or 40 percent of Ukrainians live under the poverty line. If there isn’t enough money to cure children from cancer but always enough money to buy new furniture from the best Italian designers, it’s really sad. The problem is this disrespect – people lived on this small amount of money without having a dignified life.
In Kiev, we didn’t feel it as much, but we read about it and knew that all of our politicians were lying. It’s like somebody created another reality for you, a false reality and pushed you to live in this false reality. There were a lot of accidents where women were violated in police stations. People in the government and the police could do whatever they want. It made me really frustrated to hear about these accidents in Ukraine. It’s about personal responsibility for the whole society.
TSD: What do you believe would be the best, most effective form of government in the future for Ukraine?
YM: The best way is to take the principles of democracy. I like how they did that in the United States because people really feel this rule of freedom. On the other hand, I don’t like this democracy in Europe where there are too many papers. I would like to see an American democracy without a European bureaucracy. Our way is the way of a modern country that looks into the future.
We are like a newborn country in one way but on the other hand, we have a very old history. Yes, we were oppressed during all of our existence but our people always were holding it somehow together. Today we are Ukrainians besides everything else.
TSD: What are some of the ways that other countries can contribute to Ukraine at this time?
YM: It’s recognition, recognition at all levels. It doesn’t matter in what way. If you are a writer, you can write a book about Ukraine, you can do research about Ukrainian culture, you can go and be an observer of the elections, whatever. When I am talking to politicians, I am asking them to contribute in this recognition on the symbolic level, to support us on the moral, technical and material level. I am talking about making an open regime in Ukraine to foreign students, to journalists and to tourists. I want people to see this spirit of living in a new way and on another level. I am asking governments to be more open with their visa politics and I am asking them to make [student] exchange programs and encourage their businessmen to come to Ukraine.
Ukraine will surprise the international community. As one of my friends told me, “in Ukraine, I found myself.” I think it’s a very spiritual place and it could be a great openness for people throughout the world.
TSD: How can Stanford students be of service and what roles have college students and the youth in Ukraine held thus far?
YM: I think that in a global point of view, what you can do is to go out of your small world of everyday study. Study is an important thing, but in this world, bigger issues exist and you have to understand that you have a great opportunity to have an education, but this education isn’t only for you. It isn’t only for building a big career. You are a lucky one and you have to contribute to the world in general. I am not talking about helping Ukraine. In the world, there are thousands of problems and each of us knows exactly where he can be useful. I think that the best lesson would be to make your world bigger, bigger than only consumerism. You need to destroy these smaller borders and become a part of bigger issues and a bigger world. And, of course, Ukraine is open.
Contact Angelique Dakkak at angeldak ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.