Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a former Member of Parliament (Etobicoke Centre) who retired from being an MP earlier this year, is neither retiring from politics in its wide sense, nor he is retiring from business. This is what we learned during our conversation with Wrzesnewskyj about his political and business plans.
NP-UN: Do you have any political plans going forward?
Borys Wrzesnewskyj: No [laughs], I didn’t get out of politics to get reinvolved. But it depends on how you define politics. I continue to be tremendously concerned about the situation in Ukraine. It’s a concern that translates into not just reading and observing but also thinking how to help the processes so that the people of Ukraine finally have the kind of future that they’ve dreamed of. I guess you could call it a type of political activity but I have retired from being a Member of Parliament, after four sessions. I believe I was able to lay the tracks properly so that we have Yvan Baker as a successor, someone who I’ve worked with for a very long time and who will be able to continue the work that I was able to do. Especially when it comes to the Ukrainian Canadian file and the file related to Canada-Ukraine relations. Outside of those realms, I have a business of three generations that I’ve returned to. I am here now every day and I am enjoying it.
NP-UN: Do you think that the western position in terms of the Russian aggression in Ukraine is adequate at the moment? What do you think about the current regime of western sanctions against Russia?
Borys Wrzesnewskyj: The sanctions against Russia should be increased and more robust. They should in particular hit the sectors that are providing Russia which is a deteriorating economy but is kept afloat by the hydrocarbons. I was a proponent publicly both in Parliament in Canada and in NATO forums that the owners of corporate entities at the Russian sea port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea should be sanctioned because of Russia’s actions in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. The sanctions against Russia are not tough enough, the West is not doing enough for Ukraine now. Some people are saying there is Ukraine fatigue. I’m sorry, that’s exactly what Putin is hoping for. We should have seen a swifter reaction from the West to the Russian aggression but that didn’t happen. This is a war but right now there are only several countries that are providing Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons. This kind of assistance needs to be targeted so that Ukraine can counter the tactics and weapons that the Russians use. Ukraine needs its naval forces, marine forces, coast guard and air force upgraded. Canada and other countries are doing a good job in training Ukrainian soldiers. But there is a number of countries that aren’t. Take Germany. It has a historic debt when it comes to Ukraine. It invaded Ukraine at a horrific cost to the people of Ukraine. There is a moral obligation that they should feel and instead we see the schröderisation [after the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who later became head of the Board of the Russian natural gas monopolist Gazprom] of many German politicians. The whole idea that they are pushing for the NordStream 2 pipeline to be completed is the exact opposite to what they should be doing by sanctions. Too often they seem to put the onus on the victim, Ukraine. We need to keep reminding that Ukraine did something that no country has done, it moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock backward when it gave up the best possible security it had, its nuclear arsenal, the third largest globally.
NP-UN: What’s your take on the recent Paris negotiations in the Normandy format between the heads of state from Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia?
Borys Wrzesnewskyj: I think it’s very early, I don’t think there is real clarity. I believe it’s a good sign that in Ukraine people made their case and their worries clear very vocally. I think that strengthened Ukraine’s hand. But we should never forget that Putin is playing a long game here. I think he saw there is an opportunity for a tactical win. Whether it ends up being that or not, time will tell. But he will continue his politics notwithstanding any signed agreement.
NP-UN: At the banquet in October which celebrated your public service, there were hints on your possible involvement in politics at the United Nations level given your experience in Africa, Middle East and elsewhere. Is this kind of involvement possible for you?
Borys Wrzesnewskyj: I’ve been offered an opportunity to work on a couple of files which I very graciously declined at this time. I have an 11-year old, a soon-to-be 10-year old and a 6-year old. I need to reacquaint myself with my family. I was away most of the time and children need to have both parents around to provide that family support and atmosphere that I think is crucial at that age. In a year or two I’d be happy to seriously consider proposals but not now.
NP-UN: What are your business plans?
Borys Wrzesnewskyj: We are in a food business, it’s Future Bakery and MC Dairy. I love feeding people, it brings tremendous joy to be able to provide people with high quality bread and dairy products. It’s more than just a business, it’s more like a family calling. One thing we’ve done in the last five weeks was launch of the grass-fed organic line of dairy products. Amongst them is traditionally-made Ryazhenka, a Ukrainian product [see p. 4 – NP-UN]. There are some strange liquidy concoctions in the marketplace that are labeled as Ryazhenka now. But nothing in taste or texture or nutritional value that comes close to the Ryazhenka I would sometimes get in Ukraine that was baked inside of earthenware jars. And that’s what we’ve duplicated. In this line up there is also a kefir, a yogurt, a smetana and a Balkan-style Kajmak cream cheese. We’ll be expanding that line further. There are plans on the bakery side in the spring to expand to a line of organic breads. We also plan to expand to bagels which is bublyky. What most people don’t realize is that bagels originated in Ukraine. They are associated with the Jewish community in North America but there are no Middle Eastern bublyky per se. The Jews that were fleeing the pogroms at the turn of the last century, came to the major cities and introduced bublyky to the North American market. We are doing the bublyky in the old Ukrainian style. Come spring I am also hoping to build an extension of 16,000 square feet on to MC Dairy so that we’ll have the capacity to further expand into Western Canada.
NP-UN: What are you offering this Christmas season?
Borys Wrzesnewskyj: What we’ve learned in North America is too few people still make a traditional twelve-course Ukrainian Christmas dinner at home. We make sure we cover all twelve courses prepared here at our factory outlet store with Aunt Irene’s which is our third company that produces the various Ukrainian and Polish cuisine dishes. We recently introduced burkes, a Balkan food that is now very popular. We’ve also recently introduced apple and other strudels, popular items from the Austro-Hungarian days, for the Christmas season.