Message from the Chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations –
Stefan Romaniw OAM
On the occasion of the 27th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence
Embassy of Ukraine – 27 September 2018
My Lord Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Your Excellency Ambassador of Ukraine in Australia Mr Kulinich and Mrs Kulinich, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, Representatives of the Australian Parliament, Members of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) and the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO), it gives me great pleasure in greeting you on the 27th Anniversary of Ukraine and the 100th Anniversary and Proclamation of Ukraine as a National Republic.
Whilst we mark these dates, Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora cannot fully enjoy the moment.
Russian aggression in Ukraine, a war that continues to kill and wound soldiers and civilians, and the annexation of Crimea still hang over our heads. Whilst the people of Ukraine and the international community have recognised Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, Russia continues to abuse and threaten it.
Russia still flouts its responsibility for MH17 and is actively working against the progress of the Tomus – the recognition of a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
However, we must continue to assist Ukraine in fighting this aggression. To reclaim its territorial sovereignty, assist in its further economic, social and political growth and enhance the path to Europe and European integration.
Australia has shown its resilience and continues to support Ukraine. The international community is backing Ukraine. One need only look to the past days at the United Nations to see the support President Poroshenko and Ukraine have received.
Last week Australia and Ukraine signed a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. In her letter to the AFUO in August this year, Australia’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, was adamant: We will not give in, we will support Ukraine - “Putin must not be rewarded.” Australia is resolute and maintains this position.
A few Sundays ago, Australia’s Ukrainian community played its role in commemorating the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor. We participated in the international action of Lighting a Candle of remembrance as part of an 85 day international awareness campaign.
How moving it was seeing our communities throughout Australia participating. Survivors of the Holodomor, their children and the broader community reflecting, remembering and honouring.
This activity, initiated by the UWC in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Institute of Memory in Ukraine, shows how close the Ukrainian diaspora and the Ukrainian Government and their instrumentalities are today. How their agendas are tied and have focus.
On that Sunday – the gospel in our churches spoke of God giving his people talents. The story goes that some used these talents to further society, to influence and create a better place. Others buried them and did nothing, and others held onto them to cover themselves.
I contemplated that Sunday – How does that parable relate to Ukraine?
Ukraine, throughout history right up until today used its talents to defend and further its future.
In its constant fight for independence, human and national rights – it has exhibited the talents of sufferance, resilience and determination.
It is amazing that today’s armed forces in Donbas show the same resilience and determination as the different formations through the wars. We now understand the determination of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Seventy six years later we are fighting the same enemy for the same reason. This is also a major talent of inspiration and perseverance.
We will have the honour of meeting some of those who have been fighting and today need our help when Team Ukraine arrives for the Invictus Games. You can assist by donating to www.ukrainecrisisappeal.org
Today, we see Ukraine demanding that it has a say in its future and will not allow others to direct its course. Again, President Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Government have shown the talents strength and fortitude
Yesterday President Poroshenko informed the General Secretary of the UN that Ukraine will not be resigning the Ukraine – Russia Friendship Agreement.
Ukraine and the diaspora have used their talents to further the issue of the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide with its combined motto Ukraine Remembers – The World Acknowledges. As we gather here, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed a resolution acknowledging the Holodomor as genocide. We call on the Australian Parliament to do likewise.
Ukraine has used its intellectual and economic capacity to grow. We need only mention Antonov, space technology, cyber intelligence, a growing GDP, a newly formed army, a new health reform package, a gateway to Europe and other high level issues as positive evidence that Ukraine is not sitting idle. It is using its talents. It is managing its affairs. It is on the brink of becoming a key global player.
Yes, we need to deal with Russian aggression and interference but there are exciting times ahead for a country that was stripped bare of an army and an economy, and was being pushed pillar to post by others. A God-given talent of self-determination has been multiplied and used.
Today, the religious question of a united Orthodox Church is a major issue. The work being done to grant the Tomus is another sign of combining our talents and our spheres of influence. We can have a positive outcome. In the room today, we have Bishop Daniel – a key player and we wish him well in his endeavours.
Ukraine is growing, it is playing its role in the international community.
Civic society is now playing its role in keeping the government focused. Civic society is mapping its path in Ukraine. It is saying to government; we need to stop any Revanche, we need to hold those in Ukraine using Ukrainian structures, media and finances against Ukraine to account. Again, the multiplication of talents creating a more secure future.
The average Ukrainian citizen wants to live a normal life. To have an education, health and law and order programs that allow people to get on with their lives.
There is much to commend Ukraine for. And Ukraine has much to thank the international community, including Australia, for.
There are barriers but we are now solution based. We will continue to build a valuable international partnership through trade, education, bilateral relations, and build a strong reform agenda.
There is much to be done but collectively we will achieve our goal. We have not buried out talents. Ukraine can say – Lord we have used our talents in many shapes and forms.
Just as Ukraine needs to be focused, so does Australia’s Ukrainian Community. We must look at the big picture. Not be distracted by secondary issues and fall into the trap of reacting to deflections and divisiveness, which distract us from continuing to deliver on major issues here and abroad. We do have the runs on the board. We must continue using our spheres of influence to achieve our goals and be productive, not destructive.
Through our community structures such as the UWC, AFUO and it members, through the broader community in partnership with our Australia-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, through our Embassies in Kyiv and Canberra, we will continue to use our God-given talents. Each one has a special talent. We will use these to achieve our goals for the benefit of Australia, Ukraine and the international community
В тому нам Боже допоможи!