interview

My biggest impression

01.02.2013 | By Jessica Pacheco

My biggest impression the diversity of this nation

Coming from Long Island, New York is Roy Nygaard, Business Development Manager for Opel in Ukraine. He is in charge of all Opel business operations in Ukraine. World traveled and adventure-seeking, Roy is also a natural linguist, with the ability to speak German, French, and Russian. Today Roy resides in Kyiv with his Hungarian wife, who he says, is always organizing great Ukrainian cultural excursions, of which we both enjoy.

KW: What brought you to Ukraine?

R.N.: Have you any personal connections, family roots, friends, etc.? My most recent reason for coming back to Ukraine was work related. I worked for General Motors in Budapest for two years, and when I joined in 2007, I let them know immediately that I would like to work further east. So, two years in, they called me up and sent me to Ukraine, and I arrived in 2009. Before this, however, I have a much longer history with the former Soviet Union. My first visit was in 1992, when I decided I would make a two-week visit to Moscow to see a pen pal. On my way back West I took a train from Moscow through Ukraine to Budapest and my entire experience along the way was just absolutely eye-opening.

KW: What were your expectations about Ukraine before arriving and how has your view of the country changed?

R.N.: Before arriving to Ukraine- I really had no specific predispositions about the country as a whole. Of course I had knowledge of the region, of which I learned from old soviet newspapers and propaganda, and the fact that Im a big World War II buff- but what I knew didnt make me think of Ukraine in any terrible way. In fact, I remember looking at the Cyrillic alphabet in these World War II books I collected and thinking, Wow! This looks from out of this world! Id like to understand that. And of course I tried to teach myself, but got nowhere with it, and so I eventually decided Id come to Eastern Europe and learn by actual experience. So, again touching back on my 1992 experience, when I first came to Ukraine I was traveling through the country by train during summer- and this experience still stands out to me to this day because the people were so nice and the nature was incredibly beautiful- but, aside from these things, one particular situation still sticks with me; I remember saying to my cabin mates that I would go to the dining car to eat. Well, they insisted I dont and instead join them and share their homemade meal. The food was modest, with seasonal vegetables, fruits and homemade Ukrainian dishes, but the overall experience was really, really touching- and so upon my arrival back to the States for my last year of college, I knew Id have to come back, somehow and someway. That was solved when I signed up for a study abroad program and returned to Moscow in January 1993. My view of the country has changed, of course, in that during the early 1990s people were different, things looked different, and overall life was just different. I believe today that people are definitely more guarded and busier with their lives, Khreshchatyk definitely has the whole wedding cake deal going on with it, now there are fewer trees in Kyiv, and time has taken on an entirely different concept.

KW: How long have you been here and how long do you plan to stay?

R.N.: What do you do here? And what do you want to do in the future? Although Ive been back and forth to Ukraine since moving here in 1994, collectively Ive spent twelve years here. Currently I am the Business Development Manager of Ukraine for Opel Southeast Europe LLC. In terms of the future, I would like business to run a lot smoother. Sometimes work can be stressful, of course this only benefits me in that I stay sharp, but I think all businesses in Ukraine would benefit if the system ran a little bit more smoothly. Id also love to manage additional countries, requiring I travel to new places. I think that would be great.

KW: Have you any amusing anecdotes concerning your stay here?

R.N.: Well, this is an anecdote my ex-wife told me, but I find it interesting and unusual. My ex-wife and I were living in Odessa at the time this was in 1995-1996, in a third floor apartment, which happened to have a balcony. One afternoon, while my ex-wife was home and I was on my way home from work, she saw a man climb through our balcony window. He ended up pardoning himself and showed himself to the door. When she confronted him, he said that he was with his mistress in the apartment next door when that womans husband came home. To escape, he climbed onto our balcony! I guess its one of those anecdotes you seldom hear.

Do you have family here? What kind of friends do you have here? I have no family roots here, aside from my ex-wife and my son, both of whom live in Moscow. Currently, we have a fair number of Ukrainian friends, who I have met over the many years of my working, living and traveling throughout Ukraine. I still have friends here that I met way back in 1994. I also have a lot of expat friends from all over the world.

KW: What do you like most in Ukraine? I definitely like the people- after all, what is a country without its people?

R.N.: I think Ukrainians are very optimistic people, open to challenges, sharp, and certainly dynamic. In fact I consider Ukraine a very dynamic country overall, with a lot of potential. After all, one of the first aspects that stood out to me when I first came to Ukraine was the genuine and natural hospitality of people. I also am amazed with a Ukrainians natural connectedness to nature- for example; I look at the wide open expanses with amazement and awe and even a little foreboding, with its villages, way of life and wide open spaces, whilst a Ukrainian looks at them with comfort- they wouldnt have life any other way. The actual impact of nature is incredible. Overall, Ukrainians are incredibly tolerant people.

KW: What is your main language of communication and why?

R.N.: My main language is definitely Russian, for business and for practicality reasons. I am around Ukrainian speakers so often, however, that Ive picked up a few things here and there and can definitely get by with my understanding of the language. In terms of written correspondence, I use my native English- just for the sake of clarity and understanding. And socially I use both Russian and English.

KW: How widely have you traveled in Ukraine? What is your strongest impression?

R.N.: Do you see differences between western and eastern Ukraine? I have been to every oblast in the country and I have to say that my biggest impression was definitely the diversity of this nation. Yes, you can divide Ukraine into many parts, based on history, international influence, westernization, language, culture, etc. etc. but at the end of the day there is a definite sense of cohesion. You know, in the 1990s, it was very rare to hear anyone speak Ukrainian on the streets, and today, youre hearing it spoken all of the time. I think this is great- its a sense of national awareness among all Ukrainians, an underlying Ukrainian-ness, so to say.

KW: What are your informational sources in Ukraine? What are the most reliable/believable sources, in your opinion?

R.N.: I read local and international publications. I also read a lot of international news via the internet; I think the internet provides the most array selection of information. I also speak to my local friends about the news, and of course each interpretation is different from one friend to the next. Some of them are successful businessmen, so their views on current events in this country are relevant. Thus, I think my social and professional contacts and the internet are definitely my most reliable sources.

KW: Where do you go for fun and culture? What do you know more now about Ukraine?

R.N.: For fun I like to go to the different and eclectic bars and pubs in Kyiv. There are a lot of great restaurants as well. My current wife and I also try to visit the opera occasionally, which is a culture of its own- its absolutely great and so accessible. What I know more now about Ukraine is that Ukrainians are incredibly tolerant people. And as crazy as it may sound, I know better of what makes a Ukrainian tick than I do of what makes an American tick. I also really admire the culture and people and Ill always have a part of me that really enjoys and connects with Eastern Europe in general.

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