Editor’s Note: As the 26th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence as a nation approaches on Aug. 24, the Kyiv Post is asking Ukrainians who live abroad to comment on their lives and their reflections on their homeland. To participate, Ukrainians living abroad should send a photo and answers to the following questions to Kyiv Post chief editor Brian Bonner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyiv Post: Where are you from in Ukraine?
Andrii Zaitsev: Initially from Zaporizhzhia, I went to Kyiv Polytechnic Institute for higher education in 2006. In 2009, I was offered to participate in a double diploma cooperation with Université du Maine in Le Mans, France. After one year of language courses, in 2010, I quit Ukraine to France to follow master’s courses in chemistry. After two years, in 2012, I graduated from both universities (number 5 of 18 students, both Ukrainians and French) and started my Ph.D. thesis at the same university. In France, if you don’t have French passport, it’s quite difficult to find a job with high qualifications: too much administrative work for employer. Well, it depends on domain, because for IT and economical specializations there are no problems. So, I accepted a temporary position at Lyon University and after one year returned to Le Mans where I live nowadays and work on scientific projects on a temporary basis.
KP: Do you regret leaving Ukraine? Why or why not?
AZ: Sometimes. When I look how my classmates from university in Ukraine live – with permanent jobs, some of them have already bought an apartment – yes, I regret. But, surprisingly, all of them and even all my family say not to return as there is no job there. The thing is, here I don’t have a permanent position and moving from one city to another is a nightmare. On the other hand, during these years in France, I could visit a lot of places, which is impossible living in Ukraine. And when I return sometimes, I like the feeling of not looking at the prices in supermarkets and taking just what I want.
KP: What do you miss most about Ukraine?
AZ: The possibility to meet with people I grew up with, to visit places I grew up with, etc. This is stronger when I return to Ukraine.
KP: What do you miss least about Ukraine?
AZ: What I don’t miss is people’s rudeness. This summer I took a train in Ukraine and was shocked by the attitudes of passengers and staff. I think there’s a lot to do in this field.
KP: Are there better opportunities where you are now?
AZ: Concerning opportunities, this is complex. On the one hand, without the French nationality, I have few chances to get a permanent position, even with my qualifications and experience. And I’ve got some calls from Ukraine inviting me to interviews, but nothing in common with my education as there is no science in Ukraine. On the other, on a temporary position here I get enough salary to live without any problem and even to save. I don’t know if I could continue like this in Ukraine. And to remain here by any means, like as an illegal or to do a low-paid job, is not an option for me.
KP: Do you have relatives in Ukraine? Do you visit? Often?
AZ: In Ukraine, I’ve left all my family but since I’ve married (with a Ukrainian that came with me to France the same year) and got a child. So actually a part of my family lives with me. We try to visit at least once a year, sometimes twice. This is complex for 2 reasons: the flight is quite expensive and they live in different corners of Ukraine. It is exhausting actually. They came to France twice since 2014.
KP: Is Ukraine making progress as a nation or not so much?
AZ: I don’t know much. First of all, I don’t live among Ukrainians and all information I take from medias and social networks. I think there is some progress many problems are inside people and nobody wants to change him (her) self. This concerns attitude on the street, on the road, in transport.
KP: What would it take for you to return?
AZ: Absolutely nothing. To sell some stuff and to buy a ticket. However, I would not return without a job waiting for me. More precisely, I’ll try to find one here until the end, but if nothing comes I will return. That’s the main condition.
KP: What do you wish for Ukraine?
AZ: For my country, I wish it to be strong. Because that’s the main condition of survival and development. To stop all internal conflicts, to vote for right people (if there’s some). For everybody to revise his (her) attitude and to understand finally that changes start from them.
KP: Do you think this wish will come true?
AZ: I think this wish will come true one day, because there’s no reason for opposite.