By Alexandra Paucescu
I first met Svitlana while we were both posted in Berlin. Her charming personality attracted me from our first encounter. I later discovered that the beautiful blonde woman with the most amazing blue eyes was also an extremely intelligent, strong and determined woman. I was thankful for our friendship and admired her determination to actively promote her country throughout the years.
Svitlana Melnyk, a law graduate with a Ph.D. in international law, worked as a research fellow at the Institute of State and Law and published a book on unilateral acts of states. She later became a senior lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine, teaching a course on preventive diplomacy.
However, she says, ‘diplomacy was not just my occupation; the whole life of my family is devoted to diplomacy, it has become an inseparable part of our DNA. My husband, also an international lawyer, has been part of Ukraine’s diplomatic service for the last 25 years’.
Over the years I witnessed countless events organized by her and her husband, then the ambassador of Ukraine, a prominent diplomatic figure in Berlin, very present in the German media, especially after Russia’s aggression against his country. Sometimes controversial and blamed for his aggressive support and sometimes harsh remarks, he received minutes of standing ovations this year, on February 28th in Bundestag, as recognition and also a sign of Germany’s support for his country, in such difficult times.
Svitlana tells me: ‘Germany has been playing an important role as a mediator in the Normandy format. So, we had to arrange and ensure an unprecedented political dialogue. There were about 20 presidential visits to Berlin and hundreds ministerial visits and high political events, we even stopped counting them.
Personally, I tried to focus on two main issues. First, I have been actively promoting Ukraine’s culture, music, art and literature that were almost unknown in Germany. Every year we organized concerts at the Philharmonic Hall in Berlin, with greatest Ukrainian musicians and opera singers. It was also crucial to disseminate knowledge about Ukraine’s long history. Even long before the Russian aggression started, there were more than 12,000 Ukrainian citizens living in Berlin. Since February, this number rose to 100,000. Therefore, we have requested the Berlin Senate to establish a bilingual German-Ukrainian school within the ‘European School’ concept.’
There are difficult times for Europe and especially for Ukraine and its citizens. Even from the distance, Svitlana tries to support its countrymen as much as possible.
‘Our embassy has called upon German society to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians suffering from Russia’s aggressive war. We collected over 400,000 Euros. For this generosity, we are very grateful. Personally, I have initiated and helped organise a number of fundraising cultural events in Berlin, with top Ukrainian artists like a classic music concert at the Philharmonic Hall or ‘Ballet For Life’, a gala performance, at Admiral Palast’.
During her 8 year stay in Berlin, Svitlana has been an active and valuable member of the ‘Willkommen in Berlin‘ diplomatic club and generously welcomed the diplomatic community to many events at the embassy and the ambassador’s residence. Showing Ukraine’s Easter or Christmas traditions, promoting traditional Ukrainian dress (Vyshyvanka) through a beautiful fashion show, offering a master class of cooking borscht (Ukraine’s traditional soup, recently a part of UNESCO heritage), talking about the many old churches in Kyiv and other World Heritage Sites in Ukraine are just some of the lovely projects that she so diligently initiated and managed through the years.
Probably, because of this active position and as recognition to her contribution to the diplomatic community in Berlin, she was elected two years ago as head of a diplomatic geographic group and became a member of the Advisory Board of the Diplomatic Club.
However, she confesses that her biggest dreams right now, at the end of her family’s German diplomatic mission, are entirely related to the fate of her beloved country.
‘My dream is that we fully restore our sovereignty and that we completely rebuild Ukraine as one of the most modern and comfortable countries in the world’.
She has high hopes for peace; her heroes are all the Ukrainian soldiers fighting hard these days, as well as thousands of volunteers helping to achieve the victory; her motto: ‘always keep fighting!’.
her life… an inspiration to us all.
About the author:
Alexandra Paucescu- Author of “Just a Diplomatic Spouse” Romanian, management graduate with a Master in business, cultural diplomacy and international relations studies.
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.