How one young Ukrainian feels

One Young World Ambassador from Ukraine, Valeriia Cherednichenko is a doing a PhD in Advanced Studies in Human Rights at Charles III University of Madrid. Her research focuses on statelessness in Europe.

I have started to write this blog many times. I have changed it several times too as events continue to unfold at such a pace and because of the rare feeling of not knowing how to react.

Little did we know what changes a peaceful protest in support of the European integration of Ukraine on 21 November 2013 would trigger.

Now, in response to Crimea being a ‘part’ of Russia;

How do I feel?

Aside from a surreal, overwhelming amount of emotion and pain, I feel that the question per se is incorrect. Despite those that recognise the referendum in Crimea that took place on 16 March 2014, for me - and millions of other Ukrainians - the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is Ukraine.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, having no time to recover after the toughest months in Ukrainian independent history and the loss of fellow Ukrainians - our heroes whom we call Nebesnya Sotnya - we face an act of aggression from outside, from our closest neighbour Russia.

Sitting and watching a part of your county become occupied by foreign soldiers is hard. Despite the global reaction, Russia has occupied part of Ukrainian integral territory. Yet while they promise protection of Russian interests, they blocked all access and communication, thereby destroying the tourist season and income for many this year.

I have spent many summers in Crimea. It is a land of sun and hard-working people of different ethnicities. What is happening today - in Europe in the twenty first century - is a tragedy. This threatens not only Ukraine, but the whole global community. It undermines the values of international legal order.

At University in Kiev, I studied Public International Law. Among others, topics include war and conflict in the context of international law. I never imagined I would be forced to refresh my knowledge with an example of my own country.

As envisaged in the Appeal of the Ukrainian Association of International Law composed of brilliant international lawyers, including a number who taught me at university, Russia has violated numerous international treaties, as well as bilateral agreements with Ukraine.

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Growing global identity

Four months ago many people, to my surprise, didn’t know a lot or anything about my country. But now - given worldwide media coverage - nobody asks me to locate Ukraine on a map. I just wish the world had come to learn more about Ukraine in another way.

The only potentially positive feature is that with each passing day, attitudes are beginning to change. As my 25 year-old friend who participated in the Euromaidan protest commented:

‘Every new day marks a point of no return for Ukrainians. Mentalities are slowly shifting. People are beginning to break from the old stereotypical "enslaved" mentality, where corruption on basic and political levels is accepted as a norm, rather than an exception.'

The Ukrainian people are finally in the process of revealing their own identity. I am proud to be Ukrainian, to be a part of this strong and fearless nation.