CUPP Alumnus Volodymyr Omelyan on Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program

    Ambassador Roman Waschuk meets CUPP 2018 Interns and CUPP Alumni in Kyiv. Bottom ROW (L-R): Marta Franchuk (2018), Halyna Tytysh (Fall 2004), Oksana Smerechuk (Ambassador’s wife), Ambassador Roman Waschuk, Anna Novosad (2013), Ulyana Khromyak (2001) Standing first row (L-R): Yuri Kushnir (1998, 2005), Yuriy Chyzhmar (1995), Arsen Zhumadilov (Spring 2004, 2005), Vasyl Kramarets (2018), Yulia Uhorska (2018), Mariya Vasylyeva (2018), Olena Onufriv (2018), Yulia Popyk (2018), Olha Fokaf (2018), Alina Shymanska (2018), Linh Nguyen Phan Bao (2018), Yuriy Lubkovych (2009), Artem Shaipov (2014), Andrii Sorokhan (2014) Standing second row (L-R): Rouslan Kats (Head of Political and Public Affairs Section - Embassy of Canada), Yevhenii Konovalov (2018), Adriana Kryveshko (2018), Yaroslav Korotash (2018), Kyrylo Korol (2017, 2018), Artem Sahaidak (2018), Roman Tychkivskyy (2012), Karim Morcos (Director of Development Cooperation - Embassy of Canada), Victoria Chumenko (2018), Vasyl Myroshnychenko (1996), Andriy Pyvovarskyi (1999).

    Khrystyna Myhasiuk, CUPP 2019 Applicant;
    Maria Vasylyeva, CUPP 2018 Intern to Rosemarie Falk, MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Paul Yuzyk Scholarship recipient.

    On the 14th of April 2016, Volodymyr Omelyan was appointed Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine. Before his appointment Volodymyr completed almost 20 years of public service, having worked in the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the International Organisations in Vienna, ministries of Environment, Finance and Foreign Affairs. A graduate of Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and Lviv Polytechnic National University, diplomat, active citizen, true Lvivianyn at heart and CUPP alumnus. He is constantly challenging traditional pillars of the Ukrainian political system by introducing new technologies and reforms while his team is implementing strong anti-corruption practices in his Ministry. He an active contributor to the National Transport Strategy – Drive Ukraine 2030, having made low-cost airlines such as Ryan Air and modern railways available to the average Ukrainian citizen. Volodymyr is making efforts to incorporate innovation and improvement into the infrastructure sector of Ukraine, which has been neglected for decades. Although he often finds himself between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” he demonstrates strong political leadership and patriotic devotion to Ukraine`s growth. But such character has not been moulded easily. It has been a long path triumphs and failures. We spoke about his CUPP experience and the everlasting effect it has had on the professional career of the Minister.

    What did you acquire from higher education?

    I graduated from Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and Lviv Polytechnic National University. During the first years, I studied diligently to become an A-student. Whenever possible, I travelled but always returned for examinations. My teachers were supportive, and my time management was beneficial for my studies. When you travel you learn first-hand and get to know the world better. CUPP indeed had a great influence on my life. If not for CUPP, I would not have met Andriy Pyvovarsky, a fellow CUPP 1999 intern, who became the Infrastructure Minister in 2014. He offered me the position as his deputy. Had there been no CUPP, we would not have met, and most certainly I would not have become Minister of Infrastructure. CUPP unites people and creates lasting friendships.

    How did you learn about CUPP?

    My cousin Nazar Bobitski who completed the CUPP in 1994 told me about the program. When I succeeded to be selected for CUPP, I was going to Canada with a very specific dream and goal – I wanted to become a diplomat. In my mind there were no other options, and this idea stayed with me throughout the internship in Canada. The year-long competition for CUPP 1999 was demanding but fair. In Ukraine at the time the custom of bribes to someone in authority was still in vogue. It was expected to bring some alcohol or sweets to the meetings. With CUPP there was no such thing. We came to Kyiv for the final selection meetings and everyone lucky enough to qualify for the final selection meeting could only bring a pen into the examination and interview rooms. And we were all given assignments and could not leave the examination room until we demonstrated our fluency of language and some knowledge of government. You had to prove yourself to be worthy of the trip to Canada.

    What were your expectations vs. reality about the program and Canada?

    I did not know what to expect. And it turned out to be a marvelous opportunity to experience a different approach towards work. I understood better how to work productively. What’s better there in Canada, and what is better in Ukraine. I’m persuaded that Canada is Ukraine; that Canada is a successful Ukraine or Ukraine transformed. Many Ukrainians are playing an active important role in various spheres of life in Canada: politics, business, and jurisprudence. They succeeded. And we’ll succeed here, in Ukraine. And because of my trip to Canada, I no longer have any doubts about it.

    I had the opportunity to stay in Canada. But I came back to Ukraine. That was the moment of the crystallization of my inner patriotism.

    Why are you in Ukraine today?

    In Canada, I realized that culturally in a new country you’d always remain an immigrant regardless of the successes you may achieve. Only your kids will be real Canadians. That kind of life would not suit me. For sure, when things get tough here, I begin to question whether it would have been better to stay in Canada or Austria, where I had a job offer. But when you manage to reach your goals in Ukraine, it pleases and motivates you enormously. You can improve things in Canada. But in Ukraine you can improve and, more importantly, achieve new things for your country.

    Did you experience a cultural shock after returning home?

    Yes, the difference was significant. Just imagine: when you’re a CUPP program participant and you need to write an article or find some data, you call the parliamentary library. And in 30 minutes or so, a very pleasant librarian comes to your office and brings you everything requested. And it’s a completely different story when you’re in a very Soviet library of the Verkhovna Rada, where the primary question on your mind “Is it even possible to get such cooperation”? Well, but later you just stop questioning and pondering and adapt to the current reality here, and start working hard in order to actually eliminate those differences between the Western world and Ukraine.

    Do you keep in touch with other CUPP Alumni?

    We talk to each other from time to time. Facebook helps to keep us connected. CUPP Alumni hold reunions, which our Director attends faithfully whether in Kyiv, Lviv or London. I rarely have time to attend these meetings. But those people are like members of a fraternal lodge. They are all united with one purpose. And they are persevering. Something CUPP Director preaches endlessly.

    Who are they – CUPPers of your generation?

    They have become professional diplomats, businessmen. They have fully realized themselves. The main thing is that CUPPers are not only successful but they are also happy to do what they’re doing. I know many people who hold high positions but are broken morally. CUPPers are different. They’re committed to Ukraine and they are where they want to be.

    What advice do you have for the next generations of CUPP students?

    Use your time in the House of Commons as effectively as possible. I am happy that I not only worked on Parliament Hill, actually in the Centre Block, but that I had a chance to travel. The only advice I can give – don’t just sit in the office. Visit the parliamentary library, question period, caucuses, committee meetings and the numerous meetings of NGOs. Make your internship an interesting experience.

    CUPP is a very important and beneficial program, possibly Canada’s best foreign aid program as it helps train leaders for the future. It introduces you to the knowledge economy, which Canada is discussing and experiencing. If you experience this, you become determined to import this world into your country. You become determined not to return to the era of the Soviet Union. After CUPP, you are ready to work hard for Ukraine.