A lawyer, writer, journalist, public activist and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Larysa Denysenko, never gets tired of pleasing the fans of her numerous talents, both in Ukraine and abroad, with her roaring success. Let's find out more about her.
The outgoing year of 2017 has been remarkable for Larysa Denysenko as she became a UN Goodwill Ambassador and had her much-debated book "Maya and Her Moms" published.
Goodwill ambassadors are people around the world who have impeccable reputation, true interest in humanitarian problems and high popularity. Our heroine ticks all the boxes.
What goals do you set for yourself, Larysa, now that you have a new international status?
It is important for me to raise the issue of crimes against humanity. The issue of violence. The issue of discrimination. The issue of gender equality. The issue of social responsibility. The issues of cultural development. The issues of legal protection. After all, anyone can be a rights activist: anyone can write a letter of support for a political prisoner.
You are so multifaceted. Do you succeed in anything you get involved with?
Keep yourself busy! Find the good in you. Let the good be funny and ironic because it will make it stronger. And if a fist needs to be clenched, the good may well do so. I find my work as live presenter to be very exhausting. Whenever I go somewhere, even for a short break, I try to take my mind off the news agenda and instead spend more time talking to people in the streets, listening to the sounds of nature, or simply reading. This empowers my creative side, be it a new text or a new concept of institutional reform.
Your new book, "Maya and Her Moms", which provoked hot debates, was published in 2017. Which problems did it expose in the modern Ukrainian mentality, in your opinion?
People once decided that the right family must have a mother, a father and a child or two. They wrapped it up with a nice ribbon and put a "Happiness" tag on it. Yes, happiness can be like this, or it can be different. Happiness is an absolutely individual thing. But not in our society. Starting with textbooks, it imposes its view of normalcy and happiness on children. And someone constantly falls short of these made-up stereotypical and formal criteria.
Having three children would often raise questions: why would they have so many when you can hardly feed one? A couple without kids (today we call them childfree)? They are pitiful or egoists. A single mother would evoke the whole range of emotions, from pity to contempt. A single father should be taken care of: one should find a mother for his child, if not a wife for him. Children – social orphans – were written off, their life being limited to shuttling between custodial settings. A child is left with a grandmother while parents – cold-hearted careerists – work abroad. A child is raised by two loving mothers: what a nightmare, they will bring up a pervert. And so on. It is easy to criticize, avoid and deny acceptance. No-one should even think you are different. However, acceptance and understanding do not require any extra efforts, just a little empathy, experience and culture.
You have travelled a lot. What are your favorite destinations, and why?
Myanmar struck me as absolutely cosmic, as if I were on a different planet. France, Spain and Italy are my unconditional love in terms of culture and history. Norway impressed me with its simplicity and style. Sri Lanka is all about water monitors, nature, and its diverse and dominating fauna. Georgia is like second home to me, I felt embedded immediately. You can find something so surprisingly close and strikingly different in any place.
What would you advise foreigners who are just getting to know Ukraine, planning to stay here for long to open a business or build a career?
Image: Larysa hosts cycle of programms Gen Spravedlyvosti, Hromadke radio. With colleague Iryna Slavinska.
Do talk to our students abroad. Learn more about the country and its cultural heritage. In Ukraine, "C" stands not only for corruption, which does exist, of course, but also for culture. Look beyond the ratings and risks. Come with the understanding that there are more involved and passionate people in communities rather than in authorities for now. Learn Russian just in case. Ask Ukrainian students, teachers or employees working abroad for contacts of good lawyers, teachers and psychologists. Do not get "toxic", do not accept "corrupt rules of the game", fight and involve others in your fight. Do not marvel at cheap beer, do not exploit cheap workforce! Build partnerships based on equal rights and mutual development.
What are your favorite places of power in Ukraine? Name the top three.
Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa.
Interviewed by Myroslava Makarevych.