History of development
Oksana Mykolaivna Kaletnyk is a Ukrainian businesswoman, public figure, and politician. She is a shareholder of the FIM Group of Companies, Member of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting (2010-2012), People’s Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 7th convocation, Honored Lawyer of Ukraine (2009), the President Emeritus of the Batkivska Zemlya Charitable Foundation, Member of the OSCE Parliamentary delegation (2012-2014); the public figure.
EDUCATION AND FIRST BUSINESS EXPERIENCE
I was born on December 10, 1972, in the city of Khmelnik, Vinnytsia region, in the family of an employee of the forestland and a teacher of Russian literature.
I was studying in Kyiv where I finished secondary school in 1989, and then obtained degrees in Psychology and Law Studies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
I was a student at the time when the USSR having been considered unbreakable before was transforming into a thing of the past with its civilization. The state was undergoing the Restructuring, pupils and students anticipated positive changes in the future. Before Restructuring life in the USSR was predictable and understandable. Having finished school with honors, I was able to enter one of the best Universities of a state – Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. The guaranteed hiring and huge profit have seemed to be easily achievable.
But the history had its own story – at the beginning of 90-s, the USSR collapsed with the long-held civilization beginning to fall apart. The process of building up new state – sovereign Ukraine, transition to the market economy model made us face dramatically different circumstances. We could rely only upon ourselves and our knowledge, our experience in these new circumstances and new society, trying to succeed in self-development and finding your own way. On the other side, it’s exactly the time you see how important are the people around you. I greatly appreciate my mom who inspired me to hold a degree in Psychology.
The perception of human consciousness in the works of different philosophers always attracts me; the works by Jung and Freud became my favorite literature. After the collapse of the USSR, having assessed the circumstances and realizing the challenges a young state was faced with, I felt a further demand on knowledge about the relationships in society. That was an incentive to hold the second degree –in 1992 I decided to obtain a degree in Law Studies.
The educational system of Ukraine was changing together with the strengthening of its independence. That education was quite interesting and rich in content since the professors were not afraid of the overall control and had an opportunity to share their best discoveries and ideas with the students.
At the same time, obtaining degrees in two specialties I was sure I wouldn’t find a job – a new state was constructing a liberal labor market and thus relieved itself from the responsibility to provide workplaces for a new generation of specialists.
Therefore, being a first-year student I started thinking over that fact how I will use obtained knowledge in my work, how I will earn money for my family. That made me search for real solutions and gain new experience.
I have a lot of examples in my life to prove that real practice is the cornerstone of everything; despite studying at the University I was looking for chances to put my theoretical knowledge into practice. And I was lucky at this!
While studying, I decided to start working and began as a simple employee.
From 1991 until 1992 I have been working as an Advertising Manager of the Roksolana Foreign Trade Association. There were only 5 employees and I was hired by chance. While walking down the Andriivskyi Descent, I was attracted by a beautiful store-front with flowers, I liked it and entered inside and asked to meet with a Director. I remember the Director was stunned by my boldness when I said that I had some good abilities and wanted to work in his company. He was taken aback but hired me. I had plenty of responsibilities – wrap flowers, compose bouquets, order deliveries, draw up the contracts.
The first private enterprises at the beginning of 90-s were a quite popular social phenomenon where new people qualities and relationships among them were formed. All matters were dramatically diverse. Looking back I understand that time we had to follow the rules which resembled a social pact, a certain mix of the generally accepted rules, regulations, non-written norms, and arrangements. All these elements were applied by actors to a particular case when their interests coincided, and that was the basis for the emergence of business relationships, sometimes short-term, sometimes still ongoing ones. Society wanted to live the same it had lived before, in the USSR, but we wanted to breathe fresh air. Paradoxically, but for historical reasons a private initiative was indeed developing in the form of the socialist institutions that generated a great majority of difficulties and incidents then.
The initial period of the market construction gave a wealthy experience of the leadership role, innovations, and responsibility. Nowadays, this experience lets me consider business as an exciting field of the self-fulfillment of a person.
STARTING OWN BUSINESS
Having obtained knowledge and experience in business running at the Roksolana, in 1992 I decided to found my own advertising agency, named Dali. The name and logo of the company were chosen due to the artwork by Salvador Dali, inspired by his art techniques and exclusive creative approach. That’s why the company’s logo was made in the form of an egg, giving birth to a human being (I was totally impressed by a picture Birth of the New Man and his autobiographical one Diary of a Genius). While working we used and improved the psychological means of advertising effect on customers that backed efficient advertising campaigns for our clients, made first ad videos.
My agency managed to gain the right to support the sports events, including the commercial advertising rights for all sports events of Budivelnyk, the famous basketball club. That enabled to hold ad campaigns when had sports events and engaged the club in this activity. We collaborated with the Incom-trust company while producing the ad content.
In 1995 I decided to put my legal knowledge into practice and founded Alkom Kyiv Legal Firm. According to its Articles of Association, the company provided a wide range of services. That legal practice helped me to find the most efficient business fields, and with the requests dimension and value of the client companies, we were able to coin new ideas and sectors for the personal business development. One of those fields, paying attention to the ever-increasing growth of the legal activity, became a trade.
THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONTRACT – THE MEDIA CONTENT PRODUCTION
While running my business, the first exclusive trade contract was concluded with the ISPA company on the supply of Swiss professional TV and radio equipment. One of our key clients was INTER channel. Working upon this project and cooperating with the ISPA Company enabled to found Master Video Production Group. The activity of this Group allowed resolving a complex of the topical issues – to display a high quality of the equipment supplied, produce media content for the Ukrainian channels at our own production studio, make TV-shows and first music videos for famous singers and performers. It was quite fascinating to cooperate with the creative people of show business – K. Scriabin, S. Rotaru, T.Povalii, I. Bilyk, A. Ponomariov, N. Mohilevska, and others. The important partner of our company was Inter channel, the Director-General of which was Zinchenko A.A. (then he was the Head of the Administration of President of Ukraine Yushchenko V.A.). That time Master Video Group produced 50% of all the video content for the channel.
The further promotion at the media production market was the improvement of the Production Group and establishment of Telenedelia, the national-scale weekly magazine. This project was possible due to the creative ideas and collaboration with the Pyramida, ad agency in Kharkiv, and its owners – LozhkinB.Ie. andHunchenko A.A. The project was a success and then rights for it were sold to the partners. A little later, this project was included in the UHM media holding company.
We cooperated with such international companies as Nestle, Philip Morris, BAT. That gave me wealthy experience in business development following honest rules, enabled to master and implement new organization models and solutions. The communication with people – usually my business partners – was quite valuable for me since it allowed me to find out new business ethics, unknown before in Ukraine, and understand the business role in the modern world. That was also my success and it engaged all these world brands in this new Ukraine, the new business field - distribution and retail trade – began to breathe.
THE BIGGEST TRADE COMPANY OF UKRAINE
In 1994 when a group of the trade companies was established in cooperation with the bosom friends and partners (Tsyhanenko O.V., Ielmanov D.A.). We found 5 various trade companies. In 3 years, in 1997, our project became the biggest trade company in Ukraine.
Our group took the leading role in coffee (Nestle production) and tobacco distribution in Ukraine. OurpartnerswerePhilipMorris, BT, Reemtsma.
A FOUNDER OF A CORPORATION AND INTERNATIONAL HOLDING COMPANY
BUSINESS IN LOGISTICS, CONSTRUCTION, DEVELOPMENT
In 1996 I was a co-founder of the BM Group Construction Corporation within which ten business fields companies were united (trade, construction, immovable property) and I had occupied the post of Vice-President until 2003. Starting a new project was quite challenging, but therein laid its strength – the crisis period of 1998 was not only a hard problem for business but revealed new opportunities for its development.
In 1999, my foreign business partners and I decided to establish the integrated managing structure for the central planning of the operational tasks, financial accounting, overall business control – that is the way the DannmarScandinavia Aps, Dutch investment holding company, was founded. I had been responsible for the smooth running of its Ukrainian office from 1999 until 2006.
For a long time, the business basis was embodied in trade and distribution, but as years passed and the company thrived while searching for a reduction in expenditures we decided to single out each business sector as a separate field:
BM Trans Company was responsible for logistics and actively shaped up as an international carrier company. For 3 years the amount of vehicles in a carpool has increased from 10 to 250 that ranked the company third in the list of cargo traffic scope in Ukraine.
The warehouse storage transformed into the development of the logistic immovable property. In 1999, while engaged in distribution activity, the Company established the Beta warehouse in Hostomel settlement (Kyiv region). After a reduction in wholesale trade profitability, we made a decision to cease to hold trade business activity the said warehouse was sold to our strategic partner – international logistics company Kuehne + Nagel. That was the deal that opened the door to the Ukrainian market for the world logistics leader. Subsequently, it became our strategic partner.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW-STYLE SHOPPING MALLS
In 2000, having evaluated gained experience and knowledge and understanding the real market demands I decided to develop the new business field – commercial property construction.
Together with my business partner Partskhaladze L.R. there were constructed, opened and subsequently successfully sold the first new-style shopping malls in Ukraine (KvadratDruzhbyNarodiv Shopping Mall and KvadratHnataIury Shopping Mall, opened in 2000 and 2003 respectively). Together with Partskhaladze L.R., we opened O'Panas, the Ukrainian cuisine restaurant, which nowadays is one of the FIMCard restaurants. The establishment of the shopping malls in Ukraine is not the only business field, but also the construction of new social spaces, new environment, the formation of the socially conscious business.
Running this business, Partskhaladze L.P. founded 21 Century Investment Company on which he launched the IPO. Having examined 21-century Company IPO experience, determined all the related risks and predicted the world capital market unsteadiness, I decided to leave this project and sold at the highest price my majority interest of all Kvadrat shopping malls.
DEVELOPMENT AND COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
After the crisis, we anticipated a sharp increase in demand for the commercial property in Ukraine as well as its quality standards improvement. Taking into consideration such a tendency, in 2003 the FIM Consulting Plus, the first company under the FIM, was founded. We provided services of the commercial property comprehensive management and development. We made progress fast and our company was ranked fifth among the biggest real estate development companies.
With fast progress, our necessity for investment funds has also increased. With a view to finding the investment funds and engaging new partners, we decided to start an IPO preparation process; this process was conducted by Nomura Investment bank. We used to call this process as development and its participants together with Deloitte, Wisars and other companies have performed the evaluation of our company, tax analysis, and property structure assessment of a holding company. That allowed us to become a reliable and fair partner for external market cooperation as important as a steady actor in the domestic market.
That time the company was about structuring its business processes, establishing the Board of Directors, Investment Board, and Legal Board. These management bodies allowed us to restructure the business and change individual control for the integrated joint team decision-making.
That time we tried to develop our consulting business energetically and dynamically. Among the first clients of the FIM Consulting Plus: Odesa Sea Trade Port Private Enterprise, Illichivsk Sea Trade Port Public Enterprise, Ministry of Transport and Communications of Ukraine for which the logistics real estate development roadmap, investment decision-making model for the enterprises having the state-owned real estate share were worked up. That was an unforgettable and valuable experience – it didn’t make a lot of profit, but improved our knowledge due to the ambitious project implementation.
THE BIGGEST LOGISTICS COMPLEX IN UKRAINE
The FIM Group of Companies established in 2000 the FIM Service, the biggest warehouse complex, the first and the greatest logistic complex of A class in Ukraine, constructed under the Built-to-Suit scheme for the international logistics companies: Kuehne + Nagel and DSV (FransMaas).
Our work is aimed at cooperation with reliable international companies. Besides some trivial lease losses, we had an opportunity to preserve our collaboration during tough economic times due to the steadiness of the major international companies. We improved and leveled up the FIM brand, having made it recognizable because of the fruitful cooperation with the world market leaders.
The Ukrainian business community may be divided into two particular sectors: those who support the potential opportunities of the socially conscious business and those who want to benefit from the shadow economy, adverse for a society. Having collaborated with both groups, I think such choice depends on the personality –by making a choice you define your future with special attention being paid to the ethics, perception of business as an integral part of your life. Both approaches have its strong and weak sides – but our future is determined by conscious, fair, and socially reliable business. I believe there are many smart people in the world – and it is also true when we speak about business. The collaboration with the big international companies became business wisdom for me, and readiness for cooperation promoted access to the new resources and financial tools.
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL POLICY
In 2006, FIM Center was opened at Liniina Street in Kyiv, as well as Trypillia hotel and restaurant complex. FIM Capital, an asset management company, was established the same year on the basis of forecasted growth of Ukraine’s financial market and the resulting demand for development of financial instruments. The key area of FIM Capital’s activity was the management of investment funds’ assets on behalf of investors to increase their capital. The companies were brought together to form FIM Group.
My forecast was correct: having achieved excellent performance indicators, the company made it to the top five companies in Ukraine’s commercial real estate industry in 2007. The same year, FIM Group received the Golden Stella award and a diploma of quality in the Investment and Property Development Group of Companies of the New Millennium nomination in the Golden Fortune international academic popularity and quality rating. And I as the FIM Group General Director was named the winner of the Person of the Year national program in the Manager of the Year nomination.
Reputation in business community and attracting investments
When others are prepared to invest in your business, it means that you received certain recognition and trust. Investment is always about the trust you must live up to. When I decided to bring in investments to fuel our growth, I thought about a new level of responsibility in a business relationship of higher rank and quality.
In 2008, FIM Group signed contracts with Citi Bank and investment bank Nomura Holdings. It helped me better understand the company’s value and consider possible financing options. As a result, Nomura Bank became interested in getting us ready for IPO. I found it useful advice to withdraw from business unrelated to commercial property development. After making an internal analysis of all risks, IPO was shelved and I decided to retain the entire portfolio and various areas of business it contained for diversification purposes. But I started looking for new and promising areas of development.
As part of this search, we implemented some small projects. We purchased and successfully launched a textile manufacturing plant and released Charivna Ukraina (“Marvelous Ukraine”) book. Soon we also opened a Vasa flower supermarket.
The society was changing, new social groups were coming of age and the role of social responsibility in business was growing, and we saw our role in it as a helper to small businesses. After taking part in Business Sharks TV project, we have opened a center for young entrepreneurs and established the Business Initiative Support Fund.
Here’s an excerpt from my interview given at that time:
“If a business culture does not promote the right use of money, money begins to determine business culture and its role in life of the society, destroying public trust in social institutes. It’s a tragedy for society. Nevertheless, we’re witnessing today a gradual revival of national traditions of doing business that are oriented toward social benefits, thus becoming a hopeful factor for development”.
In 2009, our portfolio of office property assets was augmented by the second FIM Center at Mahnitohorska Street in Kyiv. This business center became an example of developing a rundown post-Soviet industrial zone.
The launch of another area of business development in the office property sector resulted in the establishment in 2011 of FIM Cleaning, a company specializing in comprehensive servicing of commercial property and providing quality cleaning services. Besides servicing FIM Group’s existing assets, the company provides cleaning services to outside clients.
We grew in the markets we had often pioneered, discovering many times that a new area of business was springing out of the needs of an existing one.
NEW AREAS OS BUSINESS IN UKRAINE
My native Vinnytsia region was always famous for its rich agriculture: its forests, gardens, and meadows always stay in my soul. While working on other business projects, I often thought about realizing myself in this trade, which my native Ukraine is a master of.
The decline of today’s Ukrainian countryside was caused by the wrong government policy and the lack of adequate support.
In 2012, after I analyzed promising sectors of the economy from the viewpoint of global trends, I decided to take up an agricultural production project. The success of this undertaking was predetermined by a quality partnership. After a merger with a local small agricultural enterprise, we were able to build a highly profitable, fast-growing business by structuring it and investing strategic thinking and capital into it. Presently, this project continues to grow fast, acquiring more land, becoming more technology-savvy and increasing the harvest. We are now considering the launch of a grain processing line and mulling over exports.
A hotel and restaurant complex
Our business remains very active in the service industry as well. Over the years of various changes, people have acquired new needs, thus giving impetus to the advent of a very interesting and productive market segment. In addition, to boost the national development, it is very important today to set new standards for the consumption culture, form and cultivate new lifestyles. All that requires proper infrastructure.
In 2014, pursuing this vision, I have opened, as part of the development of FIM Card restaurant chain, Trypillia Sun hotel and restaurant complex which, together with the previously-built Trypillia restaurant, made up a single suburban complex. This project offers a full range of services concerning the organization of various festive and corporate events. I am happy that people come to this place to celebrate weddings and birthdays or organize corporate events, conferences, and seminars. I am glad to see this place becoming a favorite family vacation place for many Ukrainians and visitors to our country.
Investments in IT telecommunications, working with venture funds
As a result of interesting talks (on the premise of Forbes Club founded in 2007 by Boris Lozhkin) with Oleksandr Halytskyi, a venture capitalist, the founder, and managing partner of Almaz Capital Partners Fund, FIM Group became a limited partner of the venture investment fund Almaz Capital Fund II. This fund specializes in financing the development of IT projects.
One of the Fund’s most successful innovative projects was Sensity Systems. This project was successfully implemented, and a large deal to sell Sensity Systems was closed in 2016. The buyer was Verizon, an American telecommunications company.
Joint efforts of FIM Group’s investment section and the venture fund not only produce a financial result but also open new innovative opportunities in the areas of business where we have long been present.
Now FIM Group’s project portfolio features a number of assets in the sphere of venture investments, commercial real estate, restaurant business, retail sales, textile manufacture, and also, consulting, property development and management, cleaning, and asset management services.
CIVIC ACTIVITY AND CHARITY
As a psychologist and a lawyer, I always took an interest in the nature of people’s actions in business. The business environment was changing before my eyes: people would come and go, and new practices would appear. Working on my business projects, I always remained an active participant in my country’s public life. The more one gets, the more one should give out; that’s why I always shared my business experience, looking for solutions to market problems on large constructive platforms. The first steps in this direction were the creation of a specialized construction association and active participation in its activity. The involvement in this process became an important milestone for our company in particular and for the entire commercial real estate industry of Ukraine in general.
You could often hear a well-known saying “money doesn’t smell”. Personally, I am convinced that money could contain different energy, depending on how you made it. A dirty business generates dirty money, so the energy emitted by this money would be negative. Profits from the sale of drugs or guns adversely affect both the owner of this profit and the society on the whole. Money is one of the channels of life energy, and this energy must be clean. That’s why I believe that the development of corporate social responsibility depends, first of all, on the company’s values and on the rules it adheres to.
Promoting reforms, enlightenment, and development of national infrastructure
I always saw life broader than just running a business. I was always interested in studying the world around me, sorting out problems, understanding the roots of these problems and finding ways to solve them. Figuratively speaking, it was my dream since childhood to climb a high mountain and find out how everything works.
A society is a very complex reality, not easy to comprehend, but without this comprehension, there would be no growth and development.
As our business grew, getting in contact with the external environment, the rules built inside our company conflicted with external rules. And more and more often, this conflict resembled a clash with the force of nature.
A thought was frequently crossing my mind: why businesses and the government are not capable of working together for the benefit of the very society in which they exist? Why government bureaucrats seldom get to the bottom of things taking place in business, often preferring to “push against each other and tax the more obliging ones, giving them preferences”?
All these questions were becoming more and more challenging for me, motivating and prompting me to participate in educational projects. One of these projects was Business Sharks, a TV program and a sort of an educational platform for those who wanted to realize themselves by turning their ideas into small business projects.
The next step in this direction was the establishment of Batkivska Zemlia (“Fatherland”) Charitable Foundation. The Foundation had three key program goals:
- Developing creative initiatives among the active part of society;
- Training and consulting, free legal consultations, and implementation of project management for small businesses and the self-employed;
- Creating a business incubator; investment and joint search of financing for various business initiatives.
The very name of the Foundation revealed that its main activity was focused on my little fatherland, the Vinnytsia region. Many people took advantage of our grants to launch their business. For example, it was how Zhinocha Pratsia (“Women’s Labor”), an enterprise producing hand- and machine-made textile products, was revived. The Foundation supported many initiatives in sports, science, and education. I am proud that we were able to give hand to someone when they needed help, to support someone with good advice, helping earn their starting capital. Today, the Foundation’s key message remains the same: a business in our country must be socially responsible, it must support and unite civil society.
We must help entrepreneurs in our country if we want to change it. A full-fledged civil society is an indispensable condition for the country’s continuing growth.
Interaction with the state to develop new business conditions and improve the quality of life in the country
My public activity found its reflection in business. A consulting company founded in 2002 became а test range for new ideas and the basis for new standards for the entire FIM Group. In the beginning, this business unit was intended for building clear business processes in our own areas of business, but over time, we saw for ourselves: everything that worked good for us and benefited us became in-demand for others. Therefore, services offered by our consulting company enjoyed demand among other market players. This area enriched us with not only our experience but also the experience of others in other areas of business. Realizing this effect, we wanted to work with large companies and even public organizations. It wasn’t about the financial result, which was small; what we gained was a huge knowledge and experience!
Thus, right after the Orange Revolution, we developed a system for reorganization of the Presidential Administration and created its departmentalization matrix at the initiative of late Oleksandr Zinchenko (the-then Head of the President Yushchenko Administration) and with his direct support. It helped optimize costs, reduce the overhead, expand the functionality and improve logistics of all processes at the Administration.
In 2005, as an advisor to the Minister of Transport and Communications (at the time, it was a young and ambitious Mr. Viktor Bondar), I suggested developing and implementing a system of investment decision making for state enterprises. As part of this initiative (which received support from the Ministry), FIM Group worked with Odesa and Illichivsk Commercial Seaports to develop projects envisaging construction of a dry terminal and devising new seaport logistics processes.
In 2010, FIM Group participated in the organization, on behalf of the Crimea Economy Ministry, of a working tour to China that featured meetings between representatives of government agencies of PRC and Crimea and presentations of investment opportunities offered by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
All that was the priceless experience that drove many positive changes in our company and represented our contribution to the rehabilitation of Ukraine’s public administration system.
While developing our business and achieving leadership in the markets of our presence, I sharply felt the inadequacy of our laws and their harmful impact on, in fact, any business. Looking at this situation from the practical angle, I arrived at the conclusion that our country needs systemic changes by developing institutes for civilized lobbying of business interests in Ukraine’s political and legislative areas.
We live in an absurd situation where laws and government regulations adversely affect the private sector instead of supporting this foundation of the country’s full-fledged life. The way laws are lobbied must show people the transparency of political parties and their independence from influential business groups. It would help civil society control lawmaking mechanisms and clearly see whose interests are being pursued, where and how.
My public stance was shaped up by the 2004 Orange Revolution, which I welcomed very optimistically. I actively supported the protesters, seeing the desire of people for free expression of their will. This event offered a real chance to overthrow the oligarchic regime, reduce the government’s role in the development of large companies and start developing medium-sized businesses. Unfortunately, this chance was missed amid the bombast of political speeches accompanied by intrigues of ambitious politicians. The force of popular quickly receded, and results of the Orange Revolution became largely the opposite of what was said at the rallies and what people dreamt about in cafes.
Fighting corruption: experience of legislative decisions
During that time, I began actively working, on a voluntary basis, with the parliamentary committee for combating corruption and crime on developing anticorruption legislation. Unfortunately, the realization that there was no difference whatsoever between the ruling elite and the opposition came to us only much later. Both of them were part of the system: swapping places, they take power in their hands and begin to do exactly what they have been criticizing just yesterday.
The failed Orange Revolution of 2004 showed that the very system needs to be changed, not just people. Of course, if you want to change something in your country. Having realized all that, I took an even more active public stance. I also realized the difference of practical situation in a business system and in the society, the political environment. It’s one thing if you’re a founder of a business, but if you’re a part of a large team you didn’t create, it’s something totally different.
At that time, I also became an active member of various business associations. I worked in an initiative group under Assistant U.S. Attorney Bohdan Vitvitsky to study U.S. anti-corruption laws. The training took place both in the United States and in Ukraine. As a result, in 2009 I was awarded, per Decree of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, the title of the HonoredLawyer of Ukraine for active work with the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption. Building upon the new knowledge and experience, a lot was done in developing and promoting the laws improving Ukraine’s anti-corruption legislation.
Wisdom based on experience comes to the one who can understand the simple by going through the complex. After the Orange Revolution, I realized that if you don’t handle politics, politics are going to handle you. I clearly comprehended the depth of Socrates’s wisdom, who said once that “every people get the government they deserve”. We and that includes businesses, expected some quick and rosy changes. Riding the wave of emotional uplift, we thought that a civilized and competitive environment in our country is just around the corner and that the national budget will not only be planned but actually allocated as stated in that document. We trusted that everything will happen according to loud and so appealing rallying cries of the “revolution’s showmen”, and therefore, got back to our businesses. But our expectations never came true, and the time was lost and public support withered away. One can use a chance but never can get it back – chasing a runaway train of social changes was a futile exercise.
It was a priceless experience, proving that government processes significantly affecting the business cannot be changed without independent political activity. You have to force the necessary changes yourself, for nothing would ever happen by itself: it was obvious that public activity must be conducted in the political sphere as well. It was when I finally decided to leave the business and devote myself to political activity. As they say, “if you want something to be good, go ahead and do it yourself!”
Media and culture
In June 2010, with the support and recommendations from media market participants, I became a member of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting. While on the Council, I had to actively defend the interests of TV and radio companies in borderline areas, pointing out their vulnerability to takeovers and blatant informational sabotage from external forces. I initiated and sent a number of appeals to the President of Ukraine and the Security Service of Ukraine regarding the acute problem of broadcasted content and technical state of TV and radio companies in borderline areas. In my appeals, I regularly stressed the need to strengthen these companies to repeal media attacks and combat manipulations of public opinion in border regions. Back then, my suggestions seemed untimely, and my appeals were coming back from high offices, NFAed (No Further Action).
In June 2011, I took the helm of the organizing committee of Kryshtalevi Dzherela (“Crystal Springs”), an international children’s and youth festival of audiovisual arts. It was something like a public duty, and I understood very well how important the upbringing of the youth is for the country’s stability and development, and therefore, was very serious about my duties. My former business contacts helped me get sponsorship support for this festival and revive it, turning it into a “Talents’ Mecca” and at the same time into a platform for communication between generations. In arts, the contact of creative youths with outstanding personalities is very important, and we were able to make that happen. During the festival, young people had an opportunity to learn about achievements of Ukrainian and global cinematography, television, radio, and photographic arts, to show their abilities as filmmakers, TV personalities, radio reporters or photography artists and prepare for the work in real conditions of an information society. Long after leaving this position, I kept receiving letters of gratitude, which was the biggest reward for me. That was how I was gaining, step by step, my public experience.
The key impetus for my decision to go into politics was the question I asked myself for the millionth time: what’s next? Are we destined to have inefficient processes, inefficient government, inefficient Verkhovna Rada, inefficient society and state? New practice and new development were needed. So, realizing that one cannot influence the situation in the country without being in power, I decided to run for the parliament at the upcoming parliamentary election in October 2012.
I started the election process a year before the campaign itself, and it was a very interesting and important time for me. Having won the election in the Vinnytsia Oblast’s 16th district, where my main opponent was Oleksii Poroshenko, the father of the future Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, I became a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament after a tense contest. A new, interesting and fruitful period of my life began.
The experience of working in a public administration system was invaluable. I was able to see for myself from the inside, not from newspaper articles or TV reports, how the government system is organized and how the society functions; I could draw my own conclusions regarding the state of national political ideology, rules, and conditions of life in the country. As a person always striving to build efficient, successfully growing systems, I was eager to find answers to these questions: What’s wrong in our country? Why there is no cooperation among all sources of power, between the society, public officials and businesses? Why our government is not efficient enough?
Through the prism of this practice, I began to understand what today has become an open problem: our society is split into fragments – public authorities, businesses and common people called, in Viktor Yushchenko’s words, “little Ukrainians”. But there are no “little people”, as there are no “big” ones.
Being a lawmaker, I always was of the view that equality of rights and opportunities must be the cornerstone of relationships in the country. Otherwise, we’d be up for neo-feudalism and violence as the basis of relationships, followed by inevitable and widespread upheavals.
The fact is, the way a society is organized in general bears upon the place politicians and public bureaucrats occupy in it. Currently, every public sector is left to its own devices, and there is no proper interaction between them. Business people complain that nothing can be done because the government is bad. The government maintains that they’re trying to push reforms that businesses need, but are threatened by people who want to overthrow it. People say that they have nothing to eat and that businesses, together with the government, are just in their way. It looks like a vicious circle where everyone fights and takes revenge on everyone, but at the same time, many want us to simply get used to it. We need a practical, efficient social dialogue, and it is politicians who have to organize, for that’s what they are actually for.
The experience of a parliamentarian helped me get closer to very different people with their problems, desires, joys and grieves, achievements and mistakes. It was new, real contact with society, and it changed me.
In the Ukrainian parliament, there are many MPs who for years have been wandering from one convocation to another: some need parliamentary immunity, others became slick at making money on political corruption, and still, others are lobbying interests of a particular business group. I wanted real changes, and therefore, quickly came to realize that I could not work while remaining politically independent. There was very strong pressure from the Party of Regions, who forced independent MPs to join their party. There were threats. But my thoughts were about how to make what I conceived come true. The most appealing to me was the ideology of social equality and the country’s industrial development, and therefore, I decided to join the CPU (Communist Party of Ukraine) faction in the parliament of a new convocation. At that time, this move gave me real independence in views and an opportunity to express my opinion in various mass media. In addition, it was the only political party that, considering the specifics of the national economy, wanted to organize a referendum concerning the signature of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. I knew that the Association Agreement requires a weighted approach and that a decision should be made only after discussing all aspects of the Agreement with the society. In other words, we needed to make sure that the Association Agreement would not become a “pig in a poke” for Ukraine.
However, CPU was a very complex formation on the inside as well, and the opinion and stance of many of my fellow members of the faction often differed from my stance. As a result, I withdrew from the CPU faction in 2014, explaining my decision that in such a difficult time for the country, this political force took a waiting stance and abstracted itself from the solution of state problems.
During my tenure as an MP, I worked on the Budget Committee as a first assistant chair, and also, I was a member of OSCE, actively and frequently advocating the equality of budget and curbing corruption payments to MPs. As part of the government decentralization policy, I was doing educational work, surveying public opinion and mood among various social groups of the country’s population as regards the problems occurring in this way.
Reforming the relationship between the government and businesses and rooting out corruption in the relationship with public authorities is a very complex process requiring broad thinking, understanding of historical processes, patience and ability for innovations. Corruption is a very complex civilizational phenomenon thriving on one of the achievements of social progress: public administration apparatus. A “cavalry charge” would not be appropriate in this case, for acting hastily and without knowing the facts could even make things worse. There is a danger of destroying the very foundation of modern society: statehood. Reforms must take place with a clear understanding of the process of implementing these reforms and of the end social goals. A reform must have no other goals, for otherwise, the reform itself would turn into political corruption. To understand this process, we have to initiate a broad social dialogue, establish working groups, and work with specialists in the relevant fields and representatives of local communities.
During my tenure as an MP, I represented Ukraine at OSCE. International diplomacy is very different from international business: interests are pursued differently, and the price tag is relations between nations. While working in an OSCE mission as a Ukrainian representative, I was an initiator of a closed Russian-Ukrainian negotiation group for the unfolding conflict in the Donbas. Back then, I actively initiated and promoted peacekeeping initiatives at all possible levels. I am convinced that armed struggle could have been avoided at the time, but history took another course.
In order to prevent aggression and armed conflict, I was in constant contact with the opposition. I believe that back then, politicians simply could not agree on their relationships within Ukraine’s political and legislative space, resorting to the “last argument of kings”, armed violence. Low quality of the social stratum pompously called “political elite of Ukraine” has duly manifested itself. The situation was very unstable, but it was necessary and important to preserve peace. The most important matter for the public was to prevent bloodshed. However, the absence of negotiation process on Kyiv’s part led to the outbreak of fighting in the Donbas and the subsequent referendum in Crimea on the secession from Ukraine. Today, one could take a different look at what happened in 2014, but the matter of fact is that a civil conflict caused by unacceptable mistakes of the country’s leadership and the entire political elite of Ukraine turned into an armed conflict involving external forces. They started to put out a fire with gasoline.
Back then, this stance of mine was very unpopular, as many people were enveloped in revolutionary ecstasy. But what I saw in those events was the repetition of what had already taken place during the 2004 Orange Revolution, and also, something I didn’t want to believe in – the prospect of war. Today, many begin to realize that only a weighted stance of the parties to the conflict could prevent the consequences we are witnessing today, but at the time, heads were imbued with radicalism. That was when I saw for myself how important morality of the elite is, how vitally indispensable the presence of educated, experienced and responsible people in the government is. Unfortunately, Ukraine was deprived do fall that.
In 2014, I initiated For Peace campaign that would propagate nonviolent resolution of the conflict in the Donbas. How hard it was to face the lack of understanding on part of the people thinking by George Orwell’s principle “War is Peace”. Instead of making peace between people and extinguishing the conflict, the “party of war” who came to power quickly set up an effective propagandistic war machine, and the maelstrom of the conflict began dragging in more and more people. The society underwent irreversible changes, the conflict’s agenda became different, the price of peace rose much higher, and the corridor of Ukraine’s future has changed.
Persecutions for peacekeeping and political activity
In 2014, I ran for parliament in a snap parliamentary election. I stood as a candidate in the same district where I was elected in 2012. It was clear from the very beginning that my views did not coincide with the official propaganda and that many people were blinded by the temptation to solve all problems by a quick victory in the armed conflict. I used my election campaign to convey the possibilities for peaceful settlement of political conflicts while exposing the methods used by government officials to profit from war. I tried to convince people that only peaceful actions could save and preserve the country. Having taken an open and honest stance, I openly and directly accused the Petro Poroshenko Bloc of unlawful actions.
These actions resulted in the attempt to open a criminal case against me on the basis of conjured up and unconfirmed information. Therefore, I had to leave Ukraine.
NEW ERA: RETHINKING, COACHING, MUTUAL DEVELOPMENT
Reforms and development as the vector of optimism
Having left Ukraine, I returned to business and engaged in public activity outside my country. I opened my own school teaching business processes to the youth and a personal master class in this area, and have devised a new development strategy for FIM Group, expanding the partnership horizons and geography of presence. The New Era has begun!
The irreversibility of life makes us think more about the future than look back into the past. For me as a practical person, thinking means doing, because, as ancient Greeks used to say, “Gods won’t give anything without work and care”.
Today, I continue with my public activity, actively supporting public initiatives via Batkivska Zemlia Charitable Foundation. The new period allows generalizing experience and learning something new. I now have an opportunity to attend training classes from world-renowned business coaches, such as Antony Robbins. I am mastering coaching, a new area for me, and interact on a contractual basis with my brainchild, FIM Group presently placed under management of our partners, where I work on strategic business solutions. It’s a captivating part of life, for business practices update and expand every day, not stopping for a minute in their development: he who really entered this river once would never want to come out of it!
The world goes through another drama of historical changes, and we all are the participants in it. This participation makes us contemporaries, compelling us to find common language and common solutions for different problems. The former system of life order becomes history in all countries of the world, giving way to another system that nobody has full knowledge of. People are conservative by nature – we want to live in a world we are used to and which we have mastered. It was always so, and not surprisingly, many believed that they won’t be affected by the need for changes, that changes are just a picture on the TV screen. Experience proves that it was an illusion. “The future will definitely arrive; the question is whether we will be ready for that future”, Fyodor Dostoevsky prophetically said back in the 19th century. Many found themselves not ready for the future that came, and when the reality they were used to began to change, it caused a shock that was hard to relieve. People are lost, and swindlers of all sorts take advantage of that, and therefore, our time is full of extremes and causes “lead pessimism” in many. I often think about what the society can rest upon when everything is set in motion. Technological optimism, new organizational solutions, global communications are surely efficient means of moving into the future, opening new opportunities and bearing new risks. But these are means, not ends. One can get carried away with new means, but sooner or later, the question would arise: what do you need them for, how exactly do they change our life? Do we want these particular changes for ourselves? The answers to these questions determine behavior of people, creating a real corridor for our possible future.
I think that there is one thing that didn’t change: the human being, his or her inner world, and real abilities have always been and remain the basis for development. People realize themselves in the social conditions arising as a result of politicians’ activity, and that’s where their responsibility before the people who trusted their fate to them lies.
Today, we carry a heavy burden of reforms; the world is shaken by conflicts, and situation becomes more complicated. The world order is changing, today, right before our eyes. And every one of us has to find their constructive place in that process. One has to understand that over the past quarter of a century, the world underwent profound changes: risks have grown exponentially, and unfortunately, societies haven’t learned to handle them yet. Looking at today’s realities, a saying from the Bible comes to mind: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). The wisdom of the Holy Script was given to us so that we won’t be the blind, that we understand the historical drama of our days. But the knowledge alone is not enough; experience, willingness and ability to assume responsibility are also needed. Like-minded persons are needed. I believe in the ideals of democracy, for that’s the only way the world can solve its problems. Mass media often present ordinary people as foolish and naïve, attributing to them the feeling of inferiority. My entire experience tells me it’s not so! We are not the blind; we understand very well who does what today, and we realize the consequences that would inevitably come.
The effectiveness of today’s global transformations can be manifested only when all peoples of the world, all our generations come out of the present endurance test renewed, strong and independent. The path to this goal lies through wisdom, love, cooperation, the joint creation of our beautiful world. To that end, every one of us must cognize oneself, and on that basis, we’ll be able to efficiently develop each other, our close community, our country and the world on the whole.
I am convinced that my knowledge and experience, and experience of people with whom I have been working for many years would help make that possible, and that’s what my real optimism is based on.