Turk of America interviewed Ulana Mazurkevich, the President of the Ukrainian Human Rights Committee; President of the Ukrainian Community Committee, Philadelphia. She recently received a medal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Turkish - Ukrainian relations
I am so happy that Ukraine's neighbor Turkey has become a good friend and ally of Ukraine. I remember when Turkey was the first country to recognize the independence of Ukraine, when Ukraine voted on December 1, 1991, to become independent.
Turkey's and Ukraine's geography make it essential for them to have a close working relationship. After the invasion and seizure of Crimea by Russia, Turkey responded with strong condemnation of Russia. The human rights abuses that Russia waged and is waging in Crimea were deplorable. The deportation of Crimean Tartars, which is going on in Crimea, was first used by Stalin in changing the nationality of parts of Ukraine; the confiscation of their property, the closing of Ukrainian and Tartar schools, the mass arrests of activists this list of attacks against the Ukrainians and Crimea Tartars is never-ending in today's Crimea, which is under occupation by Russia.
Ukraine Relationship with U.S. and NATO
It is very important for Ukraine to become a member of NATO. Ukraine, in its foreign policy, is a strong ally of the West. Today, Ukraine stands as a bulwark against Russian aggression. It is fighting a hot war in the eastern part of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians died or were wounded in this war with Russia. In this war, Ukraine stands alone. Many countries have voiced their support for Ukraine. I know that Ukraine appreciates this support. But, it does stand alone in defending its sovereignty. If Ukraine was a member of NATO, would Russia invade Crimea and western Ukraine? That is a question that is difficult to answer.
President Zelensky of Ukraine had a good and positive meeting with President Biden on September 1, 2021. In the Ukrainian Diaspora, we were encouraged by the joint statements issued after the meeting. Now it is up to the United States to deliver on its promises and for Ukraine to live up to its commitments.
There are additional things we would like to see from the Biden Administration. We would like the U.S .to revitalize the Strategic Partnership Commission and upgrade to the Charter of Strategic Partnership. We would like Russia to be excluded from the SWIFT payment system, which would be a strong solid blow to their economy. Of course, we would like President Biden to visit Ukraine shortly; a trip like that would send a powerful support for Ukraine.
Crimea is Ukraine
I defiantly think this will happen. Of course, it won't be tomorrow. But it will happen. It is too expensive for Russia to maintain. Once greater sanctions are implemented on Moscow by the United States and the European Union, this will speed up the end result.
When I think about Turkey and Ukraine, I remember when I first visited Istanbul. The one thing I desperately wanted to see was the grave of Roxolana, the wife of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. Roxolana was a young Ukrainian girl who was captured in a raid by Turks; she became the most powerful woman in the kingdom and advised Suleyman in his military conquests. In my Saturday Ukrainian school, I also remember that we would read stories about the Turks crossing the Black Sea, landing on the shores of Ukraine, raiding villages, and capturing boys and girls who would serve the Sultan. It was said that the young boys who were captured would become the fiercest fighters in the Sultan's army. Probably many in Turkey have Ukrainian DNA in part because of these raids. Ali, who knows, you might have a Ukrainian DNA link.!
Medal from Ukrainian President
I was very honored and humbled to personally receive a medal (award) from the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, for my human rights work on behalf of Ukraine. It was a wonderful moment in my life, and I will cherish the memory and the beautiful medal. It's a gorgeous metal inlaid with amethyst stones. When we have an in-person Ethnic Council meeting will bring my medal to show.