This week marks the first anniversary of Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian diaspora around the world has been a key factor in supporting Ukrainians through this crisis and the Ukrainian community in Costa Rica has been part of this solidarity.
In commemoration of this historic milestone of Ukrainian resistance I had the opportunity to speak with Nataliia Koptiuk, president of the Ukrainian Association for Cultural Promotion in Costa Rica.
Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in Costa Rica.
My name is Nataliia Koptiuk, I work in the cybersecurity sector, and I am a president of the Ukrainian Association for Cultural Promotion in Costa Rica. I have been residing in Costa Rica since 2017 when peace and nature made me fall in love with the place.
What are your responsibilities with the Ukrainian Association here in Costa Rica?
Compared to Canada and any country in Europe, we have a relatively small number of Ukrainians here.
The idea of creating the association was mainly for uniting our forces with the purpose of sharing Ukrainian culture and customs with Costa Rican citizens, organizing different events and during these extremely difficult times to deliver the correct and proven information about the current events and fight the well-known propaganda of lies coming from the aggressive source.
We work as a team and every single person contributes.
Our main responsibilities are to serve our community as a diplomatic voice to talk to the government officials. The closest official Ukrainian representation is in Mexico City, so we had to gather to become our own voice in Costa Rica.
February 24 marks the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Please share your thoughts on what this means for Ukrainians both in Ukraine and around the world?
It is a very difficult question to answer and it makes me extremely emotional. Since February 2014, when every Ukrainian stood up against the pro-Russian plan not to move forward with the EU integration, the invasion of Crimea and complete destruction of the eastern part of Ukraine, we have witnessed the cruelty of a neighbor.
The 24th of February of 2022 Russia launched a full-scale invasion which was a continuation of the act of hate and desire to erase Ukrainian culture, language and dignity, which began in the 1700s and has been progressing since. We have been threatened that it would take 3 days for the terrorists to sit down in Kyiv, to make us a part of Russia and many more horrible things that one would think are so unlikely to come from human-beings.
This February 24th we are going to think of all the brave women and men from Ukraine and other countries, who didn’t let that happen. We are going to gather and remember that so many people are fighting not only for our independence, but also for the freedom of the entire world.
Geographically, Ukraine appears to be the entrance to Europe, nowadays Ukraine represents the shield for the entire world’s safety. We are very grateful to every single nation that understands that, provides us the help and in return, we are fighting for the bright future of every person.
What do you imagine Ukraine will be like after the war ends? How long do you think the war will go on?
Every single morning I wake up imagining that. Before having my coffee, I follow the international and Ukrainian intelligence reports. Now, success depends on the constant international help with aviation, ammunition and defense systems, because if we stop fighting back, Ukraine will stop existing.
The Ukrainian soldiers are going through learning processes abroad of all new high-tech up-to-date devices provided by our developed and experienced partners. We work non-stop, which makes us unbreakable.
One year later, the counterpart has lost about 150 thousand invaders, has many more wounded, 48% in armored combat vehicles and 41% in artillery and the numbers are growing every second due to the lack of purpose of this invasion.
Hopefully, there will not be much time left to wait, a couple of months, so we can start rebuilding our country. Our president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is doing an amazing job as a strategist and probably the best communicator we have ever had.
The unbeatable Ukrainian spirit will attract new investors, there will be a lot to do with infrastructure, flora and fauna, and the psychological state of its inhabitants, economy and restoration. What will remain unchangeable is the desire of all Ukrainians to move on and flourish.
Can you please share some experiences that your family and friends are going through in Ukraine?
My family is from the western part of Ukraine, I talk to them every day and they live the reality of hearing the air defense system alarm in the middle of the night while sleeping or my nieces have to interrupt their school day and hide in the bunker during their lessons. Unfortunately, the 10-year-old children understand the reality of war, they know what it is and why it is happening. They received and helped many refugees from central, eastern, and southern parts of Ukraine.
The girls help teach the Ukrainian language to those who haven’t been speaking the language since they were born. Everyone is living a new reality, but somewhere on the way they became fearless and stronger than they used to be.
How can people get involved in supporting the work of the Ukrainian Costa Rica Association?
We gather pretty often, sometimes to have a simple Ukrainian meal, or to have a specific event, like we had for our independence day in the Calderon Guardia Museum.
Our community consists of not only Ukrainians and we get bigger. We contribute to our society on a daily basis, we receive donations and will be happy to see every one joining our whatsapp group Cultural Diplomacy, our Facebook page Українська Культурна Асоціація в Коста-Ріці – Ucranianos en Costa Rica where we post news and invitations to our events.
You can reach us via the email email@example.com so we can share all the respective links to join our society. The next event will take place on Saturday, February 25th, in order to remember every single person who kept our independence, share personal stories and simply have a conversation. Please feel free to contact us.