By Alexandra Paucescu
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, also diplomatic spouse, sent me a link to a very interesting volunteer initiative. This is how I came across this project by Maria Yemelianova, wife of a Ukrainian diplomat now posted in Germany. Then I discovered the nice lady behind it and asked her to tell me her story.
Born in Zhytomyr, not far from Ukraine’s capital, she studied international relations at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She says: ‘there I met some true friends and most importantly, I met a handsome red-haired guy who later became my husband, my inspiration and my support.’
This is how most of our diplomatic stories begin… a girl meets a boy and then they start their diplomatic journey together.
Their first foreign assignment together started in 2019 in Berlin, the city that I have just left behind a year ago… Strangely and probably, because of the pandemic restrictions in Germany, we have never met while we were both living there, but reading her story reminded me of the city and my life in the German capital.
‘Berlin is a special city, not everyone likes it, but we fell in love with it at first sight’ she says. ‘It’s not Kyiv, where our hearts and thoughts are, where our family is always waiting for us. However, if we could now choose from thousands of cities for the next posting, we would definitely come back to Berlin. This is the city that gives you the feeling of a real freedom. There seems to be no boundaries in thoughts, in expression of will, clothing, words and so on. Berlin is very green and it is great for a family with three children, like ours. By the way, Andriy, my youngest, was born in Berlin. Now, every time we are passing by the Charité Clinic, we recall those most pleasant moments of our life, from when he was born.’
Indeed, I always said that the cities where your children are born will forever be bound to your heart and will hold a special place in it. To me, it is Vienna, to her, it’s Berlin.
For Maria, 2022 meant the start of a terrible war in her beloved country. She confesses with emotion: ‘I was in despair, crying and constantly watching the news. My husband was always busy, so I experienced these great emotions all by myself. One day I realized that I should do something for my homeland, I should fight the enemy on my own way.’ Her touching words are an expression of her feelings for a country that is now under attack. I have seen this patriotism in many of her fellow Ukrainians over the last few months.
As cooking had been her hobby for the past 15 years and she had attended many courses and master classes, she decided to create a charity project out of it.
‘I was working on recipes and one day I also found a professional photographer who had nothing to do with cooking but was known in Ukraine for her photos. She agreed to help me as a volunteer and we filmed 8 recipes together. We then edited texts and translations (our cooking classes are now available in three languages - Ukrainian, English and German). Almost two and a half months of productive and exhausting work paid off and now we have finally launched our charity project. All donations will go to support volunteer organizations in Ukraine, helping our army as well as civilians in the most affected areas of the country. So I’m asking everyone who reads this article not to stay indifferent and to help Ukraine in this very difficult time! You can get all information about the course on https://gurmanka.com.ua/’.
She tells me that her husband, Maksym is devoting all his time to work these days. ‘We all know that it is not the easiest time for us, Ukrainians, we all have to work hard to bring our victory closer’.
Maria tells me that, although busy, her husband was very supportive and helped her in everything he could, entertained the children, did translations, worked as a copywriter and so on. ‘I always feel his strong shoulder nearby. And not only is him, the whole diplomatic community are very supportive. Our friends from different countries try to donate, share information, help to solve many issues concerning Ukraine. And we are so grateful for their help.’
She is enthusiastic and involved, as much as time allows, having three small children. ‘I personally would like to do more and more every day, but for now, my options are limited. My children and husband are my main responsibility. I know that, as kids will grow up, my time for professional successes will surely come and I will also be able to do more for my country.’
Indeed, there is time, as she is young and determined to work on her own projects, besides her diplomatic duties.
‘For now, all my thoughts and prayers are with my homeland! I wish that everyone in the world knows how beautiful my Ukraine is, how rich its culture and traditions are, what a delicious cuisine it has and how much it deserves peace and prosperity!’
About the author:
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.