Science - December 9, 2004

Ukrainian student: ‘I expected fraud’

At present there is just one student from the Ukraine in Wageningen. Natalie Maksymova (27) arrived in August for the MSc Leisure, Tourism and Environment.

Maksymova would have been out on the streets if she had been in the Ukraine over the past few weeks. ‘Events have been quite exciting. Three years ago there were demonstrations against the government as well, but the police broke them up, using force. Some people were even imprisoned.’ Maksymova, who lived and studied in Kiev, found the situation too dangerous at the time and did not take to the streets. Nevertheless she was not surprised that the mass demonstrations of the past weeks remained peaceful. ‘Now everybody is tired of this government, even the army.’
In her opinion the elections were never going to be fair, and she cites a number of reasons. She starts with the presidential candidate Yanukovich, who supposedly was asked to become prime minister a few years ago because he was head of the Mafia. ‘This man can’t even speak Ukrainian and has been in prison twice.’ Maksymova recalls a car accident four years ago, a week before the presidential elections, in which the opposition candidate was killed. And the current president, Kuchma, who was elected then, is supposed to have been involved in the death of a well-known journalist a year later. ‘And this time they tried to poison Yushchenko. He used to be handsome, but doctors at a special clinic in Austria said it was some kind of biological weapon they used on him.’
Maksymova did not vote in the recent elections. ‘At the embassy they said I had to be registered first, although I am here legally in the Netherlands. But last Friday I go the final approval, so now I can vote. I have even changed my flight to Norway, where I’m going for a holiday, so that I can go and vote at the embassy on 26 December. It’s my duty to vote for Yushchenko.’ The election date is not ideal. ‘Half of the country is Catholic. But the elections can’t be postponed, people don’t want to wait any longer.’
She sometimes regrets there are no other Ukrainians in Wageningen, with whom she can discuss the situation. ‘I heard that Ukrainians demonstrated at the embassy in The Hague. If I’d known I would have gone. But I haven’t met other Ukrainians here yet.’ Most questions and reactions about the situation in her homeland come from other international students, people on her course and a few Dutch friends. ‘Now I hope for a normal government, one that focuses more on the European Union.’ / YdH