One of the main factors in the country’s full development and promotion of its interests abroad is the diplomatic service headed by the Ambassador, a plenipotentiary representative of the country. His area of responsibility includes contacts that cover politics and economy. At the same time, the Ambassadors’ wives are engaged in more delicate matters, in particular cultural cooperation and the promotion of their country through public and cultural diplomacy.
Today, at the rubric “Lady International Club”, we are talking about the activities of Iryna Reznik, the wife of the Ukrainian diplomat, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine, Honoured Economist of Ukraine Mykhailo Reznik.
Mrs. Reznik, please tell me what functions the Ambassador’s wife abroad?
The wife is the most important assistant for the Ambassador.
One of the main tasks is to represent the state and to take care of its image.
Exactly this point covers the representative functions of the ambassador’s wife at the highest level of society of the host country. The microclimate amidst the Embassy staff largely depends on the Ambassador’s wife. She is also helping to the families of young diplomats in arranging under difficult conditions during their activity abroad. On behalf of the Ambassador, the meetings of the entire staff of the institution are held periodically, as well as meetings on specific issues with the families and wives of diplomats. These meetings include the protocol measures within the framework of the functions of the Embassy as well as the meetings in case of the emergence of the complicated issues caused by events in our countries the diplomats work at. As an example, I can take the situation in the People’s Republic of China during an outbreak of SARS, which has led to the sudden death of more than 5,000 Chinese citizens. Thanks to our friends in Ukraine, we have received medicines and remedies that increase the immunity of the humans that had been used by all employees and their families. After exacerbating this situation, I helped with the voluntary evacuation of the wives of diplomats with young children.
For example, there was a situation when the wife of a young diplomat broke her leg, and in her family there was a little child — therefore I organized an alternation of women of our institution so that the diplomat had the opportunity to fulfill her duties. Also, I trained staff members with the rules of diplomatic etiquette. I brought from Kyiv brocade fabrics for tailoring suits for children that participated in the play dedicated to the day of St. Nicholas.
We can mention a lot of events that can be recorded in advance as a function of the Ambassador’s wife. But, being on the «front line», sometimes I performed the function of a psychologist and a doctor, and a teacher and a mentor.
The wives of many Ambassadors arrange artistic events and promote the national cultural traditions. Do you have experience in organizing of such events?
Of course, this is also one of the most important aspects of the mission of the diplomats’ wives. While being in another country, we must demonstrate a high standard of Ukraine in educational and cultural spheres.
Directly the activity of the Ambassadors’ wives in disseminating of the knowledge about the cultural, linguistic and historical values of our state largely depends upon the presence of Ukrainian communities in some countries.
I had to work with my husband in countries where our compatriots are not numerous or absent, even (like in South Korea, Mongolia, China, Caribbean island countries). Also, we had two missions to the United States, where there is a powerful and cohesive Ukrainian community. For example, as part of the first Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Seoul, I began my efforts to assist to the Ambassador in establishing of a Korean-Ukrainian Friendship Association.
For a short time, its activities have been actively pursued, with the assistance of the embassy, numerous cultural and artistic events (exhibitions of works by Ukrainian artists, sculptors, designers and so on).
Such an active activity of the association within the embassy attracted the interest of the intellectuals and artists of the Republic of Korea and thus had been contributed into further cultural cooperation and into the organization of joint projects.
Thanks to the assistance of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, just a year after of our stay in the Republic of Korea, the first Ukrainian cultural centre was opened. Now annually, with the participation of this centre, the creative teams of the Republic of Korea take part in the celebration of the day of Kyiv, and Ukrainian artists have the opportunity to demonstrate the best of what is in Ukraine that we are proud of.
There were also many cultural events in the People’s Republic of China. With the assistance of the Government of Ukraine and then Minister of Culture, Mr. Yuriy Bogutsky, we managed to organize the first bilateral, large-scale project of the international level, “The Week of Ukrainian Culture” that consisted of the exhibitions of Ukrainian artists in the best galleries of Beijing, including the works by Mrs. Yablonska, (and she is well-known in China, by the way), the huge exhibition of Ukrainian tapestries, and two gala concerts in Beijing and Shanghai with the participation of the best performers of the National Opera of Ukraine.
It was easier, but also much more interesting, to work in this direction in Washington. For six years, friendly relations have been established with Ukrainian-American non-governmental organizations (the Washington Group, The Ukrainian American Women Union, etc.). Almost every week, cultural events were realized directly at the Embassy directly and at the exhibitions in different US cities (Chicago, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, etc.).
With the Ambassador we paid a lot of attention for active cooperation with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America together with Mr. Savkiv, especially on the issue of coverage of the tragedy of the Ukrainian people during the Holodomor of 1932–1933. This tragedy is a very painful memory for many Ukrainian émigrés and also for the family of my husband.
To sum up, I can say that the wife of a diplomat should be the cultural ambassador of our state beyond its borders.
What activities did you realize during your stay in the United States?
The position of the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States is the most responsible and most important post for our state.
Therefore, first and foremost, I participated at the work of powerful women’s organizations that are based in Washington DC and belong to various clubs. In the field of my activity there was cooperation with nine clubs and I was engaged on a permanent basis into their activity. One of the most influential clubs was named as “The Club of Congressmen Wives”. Thanks to the contacts and friendly relations within this public organization, I was able to assist for our Ukrainian delegations to visit Washington as well as to realize certain events.
Also I enjoyed working with another organization — “The Club of Happy Women”. Therefore, after completing the long-term business trip of my husband, I began to inspire the creation of such public organization as «The Lady International Club» in Ukraine.
You have started and you have headed this club in Ukraine. What was the main mission of the “Lady International Club”?
Having the experience of cooperation with such clubs abroad, I decided to open Women’s «Lady International Club on Arrival in Ukraine». Its goal is to popularize Ukraine abroad, that is, to introduce the wives of foreign ambassadors with our culture, with the outstanding personalities and talented people in different spheres of activity.
Being proud of our country, I arranged meetings at the club with interesting and extraordinary people: with famous writers, artists and athletes. One of the brightest ones was the meeting with Vitali Klitschko, who had not yet started his political career at that time. Among other bright meetings were those ones with opera singer Volodymyr Hryshko, with the well-known designer Diana Dorozhkina, with the Eurovision winner Ruslana Lyzhychko and with many other talented Ukrainians, whom our country can be proud of.
This club unites not only the wives of ambassadors, but also the wives of artists, singers and businessmen… And at every meeting there was something new, interesting and instructive.
Ladies attended with pleasure the club meetings that have been held every month during eight years. Unfortunately, I had to suspend The Club activities, though, when there is a war in your country, it is not a time for entertainment anyway.
But we are going to renovate the meeting of our club this year, approximately in the autumn.
Are the wives of the Ambassadors engaged in charity in the same way as, in particular, the wives of the leaders of the states do?
Sure, they do. While staying abroad and staying in my country, I always try to do charity. This is an important matter. After all, when you help others — you get pleasant emotions, strengths and inspiration for future new ideas and projects.
Every year, the charity fairs are realized in different countries. At these fairs each country prepares something for sale from its part — either national food or national souvenirs and all the money raised at the fairs are directed to help for those that are in need.
Our «Lady International» Club was also involved in charity. We took care of an orphanage in the town of Ivankiv, in Kyiv region, that is located in the Chernobyl zone. There are 46 orphans in it. One American company with my husband’s assistance gave 35 thousand dollars for these orphans. These funds were used to renovate the building of the orphanage, to buy new furniture, computers and much more.
When the Ambassadors’ wives came to know about this event, they also joined to donations for this orphanage. We organized excursions and trips to Kyiv for these children; we always gave presents and often visited the orphanage. Every year for St. Nicholas Day we invited artists and brought presents, creating a real holiday for these children. You would see the brightness of their eyes when we came to them.
We also tried to bring children to the cultural events — they were arranged to visit the exhibitions and theatres, because after the orphanage they should be ready for the new life. I sincerely hope that our help will be useful for them and they will enter the adult life well.
I can give more examples of charity. While being in the Republic of Korea, with the support of our Korean friends, we managed to arrange the treatment of 60 Ukrainian children from the Chernobyl Zone in Seoul clinics. In the United States, our diplomats collected funds personally for treatment in Boston’s burn centre of the “Ukrainian heroine”, a Ukrainian girl that got terribly burned, saving her younger sister in the fire.
In general, charity is a feature that is common for the Ukrainian people. And as for me, as for many Ukrainian women that are mothers, charity and its convincing testimony is the everyday dedicated activities of our volunteers and the joint support of Ukrainian citizens that help our defenders in the East.
We live in the best country in the world — in Ukraine — with a beautiful, kind and hard-working people. From my family and from me personally, let me sincerely wish a new year of peace, prosperity and harmony for every Ukrainian family.