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KW: What brought you to Ukraine? Have you any personal connections?
A.D.: I came to Ukraine with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When I first heard of the news that I would be posted in Ukraine, I was quite surprised and I didn’t really know what to expect. But nonetheless, my wife, being Russian-born and from St. Petersburg was especially happy to be coming back to this part of the world. I was excited for the new opportunity and experience, of course, and can remember thinking how it would be very interesting to be surrounded by a Russian and Ukrainian speaking environment- two languages so vastly different from wherever else we’ve lived. My wife also has a good friend who is also married to a foreign diplomat that was, and still is living in Kyiv; she and her husband helped us transition here tremendously.
KW: What were your expectations about Ukraine before arriving and how has your view of the country changed?
A.D.: To be frank, I didn’t know much about Ukraine and so everything about the country has come as quite a nice surprise to me. I think the lavish nature, cultural richness, and endless touristic attractions are just great. I even remember, quite well, in fact, that during our first weeks in Ukraine, and without a car, that we managed to move around the city just fine; we walked for hours exploring the many attractions and new places. Every day we were discovering something new and great, and we were positively surprised. My wife being from St. Petersburg considers Kyiv to be like their “yuzhnye narody” (southern nation), and so we were both quite excited for the experience and opportunity to see a new brother state.
KW: What exactly does your job entail?
A.D.: As Head of the Economic and Commercial Office to the Embassy of Italy, I do a number of important projects congruent with investors and businesses coming to, and already established in Ukraine. My job entails two very active sides, one defensive and the other offensive, in economics and commerce. The offensive side of my job would be promoting trade, organizing and holding events, and promoting projects that exhibit our visibility. The defensive side of the business, of course, is my helping businesses and investors in their legal processes either coming to or establishing themselves in Ukraine, as well as help them with international customs, all of which ultimately includes my giving professional advice. With that said, Ukraine is home to a very large Italian community of more than 300 firms with the Italian capital. I love my job, it requires I do one of my favorite hobbies - traveling. I believe there is a huge potential here, in everything from agriculture to infrastructure. In fact, just to state an example, a large Italian company just finished a major infrastructure project, a fully repaved road that leads from Kyiv to Zhytomyr and started another from Kyiv to Kharkiv. In sum, Ukraine will continue to see a healthy and mutual partnership with Italian investors.
KW: Have you any interesting anecdotes concerning your stay here?
A.D.: My wife and I decided to take a road trip to Crimea - it was during our first few months in Ukraine, so everything was still very new to us. At this time, my wife was pregnant with our first child and so we had to make some quick stops every hour or so - thus the trip took us a total of 13 hours one way. We stayed in Crimea for two days and enjoyed so much of the place, the touristic atmosphere, the international people, architecture, the overall feel-good vibe of things, and the perk was just coincidentally running into a few fellow Italians at the beach. Our spending two days in Crimea gave me extensive time to explore and see all of the new things, but in reality, the further I explored, the closer to home (Italy) I felt. Crimea reminded me so much of southern Italy where the mountains are so close to the sea, and you’re surrounded by lush wild. Also, history feels alive in both places. To be more specific, I was completely blown away by the Genoese fortress in Sudak. It was very impressive and surprisingly very well preserved from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Period.
KW: What do you like most in Ukraine?
A.D.: I would definitely have to say nature - it’s worlds beyond impressive here. Everything is so lush, and Kyiv is an unbelievably green city. I’m also thoroughly impressed with the lavish cuisine and comfortable hospitality. Next would be the attractions and history-rich cities. For example, Lviv is a very great place to visit - old and full of interesting history and time periods, as well as one of the most western cities I’ve been to in Ukraine. Not to mention, transport is extremely cheap throughout the country, which is just amazing. You can go practically anywhere for nothing, and yet see so much!
KW: What is your main language of communication and why?
A.D.: I speak Italian at work, of course. I speak English with the international community and with diplomats. And I speak Russian with locals. Initially I was interested in learning Ukrainian along with my Russian, because it is spoken so vastly throughout Ukraine, but for me I learned quickly that it would be much easier for me to learn one Slavic language at a time, which was and still is Russian. It’s been a fun process for me learning the local languages; now that I can speak Russian, of course, I can understand Ukrainian just fine, but if I were to try and speak Ukrainian, it just wouldn’t really come out. I can also speak French and Spanish, with the necessary practice, but nonetheless they’re there.
KW: How widely have you traveled in Ukraine? What is your strongest impression?
A.D.: I’ve been to every major city within Ukraine as well as to some other little places and provinces. Just to list off, I’ve been to Crimea, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Lviv. In all my travels, I’ve noticed the same anomaly between Ukraine and Italy, in that both countries look different from a regional standpoint. To be more specific, Ukraine can be categorized from east to west, where the east is more industrialized and the west is more international, and in Italy, the country looks different from north to south, where the north is more industrialized and the south is more international. In terms of my future travels, I would really love to visit Chernobyl.
KW: What are your informational sources in Ukraine? What are the most reliable/believable sources, in your opinion?
A.D.: I read most major news sources, at both the international and national level, in nearly all of the languages I can speak. In terms of Ukraine and locally, I like to read the Ukrainska Pravda and Kommersant Ukraine. Of course, if you really want to get the full picture of things, you should also speak with sources.
KW: Where do you go for fun and culture? What do you know more now about Ukraine?
A.D.: Well, I’m Italian, so it’s natural I attend the opera, and I also like the Russian drama theater, football, traveling, the many restaurants and delicious Ukrainian cuisines the culture has to offer. Ukrainians by culture are really hospitable, and we’ve always jumped at the opportunity to be hosted or host our Ukrainian friends. In my spare time, I also play on an organized football team, which originally started off as an Italian team, but now has become mostly Ukrainian with a few Italians including myself. I also really enjoy Kyivska Rus Park and Pirigovo Park. In my opinion, Kyiv is such a great city for a family, we feel really safe here and are aware of the endless sources of entertainment and opportunities it has to offer. In terms of what I know more now about Ukraine, I would say, quite a bit, all of which I wouldn’t even be able to list in one sitting. But, to clarify, and I think this is important for all to understand, Ukraine is a very unique country with loads of opportunity. It’s a country everyone is witnessing blossom, and it should be known abroad for what it is and who its people are. Whenever I am abroad, I always speak very highly of Ukraine, not because I feel I have to, but because I want to, because Ukraine has become my home.