INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR OF CUPP, IHOR BARDYN

 
 

by Olexiy Kuzmenko

The Parliament of Ukraine, on July 16th, 1990, adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty which declared that Parliament recognized the need to build the Ukrainian state based on the Rule of Law. On August 24th, 1991 the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Declaration of Independence, which the citizens of Ukraine endorsed in the referendum of December 1st, 1991. Also in 1991, Canadians celebrated the Centennial of Ukrainian group immigration to Canada. To mark the Centennial, organizations planned programs and projects to celebrate this milestone in Canada's history.

The Chair of Ukrainian Studies Foundation of Toronto decided to mark the Centennial by establishing the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program for undergraduate University students from Ukraine. The Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program was considered to be a helpful way of sharing with Ukrainian students the precepts of the Rule of Law as practiced in Canada. The CUPP would give students an opportunity to work and study in the Canadian Parliament, and gain experience from which generations of Canadian, American, and West European students have benefited. On the basis of academic excellence, knowledge of the English or French languages, and an interest in the Canadian parliamentary system of government, undergraduate university students from Ukraine would be able to apply for a scholarship to live abroad, study, get to know Canadians and immerse themselves in a foreign culture. As well, it was hoped that CUPP would contribute to the education of future leaders of Ukraine.

1. Ihor, who established the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program? What aims were proposed by the donors? Were these aims achieved?

The Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program was established in 1990/91 to mark the renewal of Ukraine's independence and the centennial of Ukrainian group-immigration to Canada. At that time, T was Vice-President of the Ukrainian Centennial Commission. The Commission's mandate was to initiate and identify projects of merit to celebrate the centennial and the renewal of independence. My focus was on Ukraine's Future, on Ukraine's students. There existed in the Canadian Parliament, internship programs for students from Canada, the United States and NATO countries. I was convinced that if students from the west benefited by an internship in the Canadian Parliament, that Ukraine's students could also benefit by such a program. With the assistance of several friends in the Canadian Parliament, on behalf of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies Foundation at the University of Toronto, I was able to secure the agreement with the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament for CUPP and the program was born. To get funding for the program, I turned to several members of the Ukrainian Canadian community in Toronto. With the help of families such as the Mazurenko family of Toronto and with the resources of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies Foundation, CUPP was able to get started in the Spring of 1991.

CUPP was intended to make a lasting and more profound impact and not merely be a celebratory event of short duration. The program was to give Ukraine's future generation and its future leaders, the opportunity to observe the operation of a democratic government and market economy at work, first hand, by living, observing and studying in the Canadian capital. The donors endorsed these aims and joined by contributing towards a permanent endowment fund from which only the interest is used to assist in meeting the yearly expenses of the program, which today amount to approximately $7,000.00 per student. I would like to think that the aims set out from the outset have been met to date, but the ultimate test will come when CUPP alumni reach that stage of their lives and will be in a position to assume leadership in their society and in their country. They will be among the first who received their education in a post-independence era and who have benefited from observing and working on the inside of a democratic government. The history of Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia have clearly demonstrated that non-democratic leaders are not really suited to building a true democracy. Let's hope that among the CUPP alumni there will be individuals who will be suited to undertake this task.

2. How does CUPP differ from the programs of academic exchanges of Edmund Muskie, Fulbright and what links these programs?

I like to think that CUPP and these academic exchange programs compliment each other and provide a continuation for CUPP graduates to undertake studies at western universities. But in addition to the Edmund Muskie Fellowship, we should mention the British Council's Chevening Scholarships, the German Government's DAAD German Exchange Awards, and the scholarships and fellowships offered by West European and NATO countries as well as by universities in Amsterdam, Toronto, London, Bonn, and Montreal. These have all welcomed CUPP graduates and assisted them in graduate studies. It is significant that over 60% of CUPP graduates have applied for and received assistance through these bodies and universities, and as a result, have completed graduate and doctorate degrees at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Toronto, Harvard, Columbia, Paris, Bonn, Maastrikht, Dunkerque, Toulouse, Amsterdam, London School of Economics, London, Calgary, Ottawa, McGill, California, Duke, Vanderbilt, George Washington, Johns Hopkins, New York and other universities in Belgium, Scotland, Italy.

3. How did your vision about the role of the CUPP program in the building of a civil society in Ukraine change during the time of CUPP's existence?

In the first few years of the CUPP program, I was of the opinion that CUPP graduates, upon their return to Ukraine, would begin to influence their immediate environment, their family circle, their university community. I thought of the ripple effect one observes in a pond or lake when one drops a stone into the water. Through a similar ripple affect, I was of the opinion that CUPP students would begin to influence their environment with some of the more positive aspects of a western society and its government.
In the past 6 years I have asked CUPP graduates, at end of the program, to evaluate the program and to consider how long the program should continue to bring students to Canada. The overwhelming answer is that the end is not in sight and that CUPP should exist without a time limit.
But as well, while observing the participants of CUPP, I have observed the work or Ukraine's leaders in government, culture and society and it is evident that for every CUPP graduate who returns to Ukraine reinforced with a stronger sense of patriotism, appreciation for Ukrainian language and culture, there are non-democratic or soviet trained individuals, who resist change, especially if it comes from the younger generation and who are comfortable in the status quo in which Ukrainian linguistic and cultural identity is submerged. While Russia and Russians are undergoing a strong nationalistic renaissance, Ukraine and Ukraine's governing elite are standing by and at times rejoicing in the waves of Russification of Ukraine, without realizing that they are contributing to the submergence of Ukraine and denying to the younger generations the possibilities of development in a free and democratic Ukraine. While I am pessimistic about the road chosen by the current generation in political power, I am much more optimistic about the road the younger generations will choose, especially after they have participated in an internship or educational program abroad.