Ukraine has invited representatives of different nationalities to take part in our project on happiness. Accomplished personalities, both loving and loved, share the same basic humane values all over the world.
The World Happiness Report is published every year on the occasion of UN International Happiness Day on 20 March. It names the happiest and unhappiest countries of the world.
Researchers from the World Value Survey say that the level of happiness around the world is increasing year by year. Residents of Northern Europe feel the happiest while people in Africa consider themselves the most miserable. The World Happiness Report analyses such data as GDP per capita, social support, healthy years of life expectancy, freedom to make life decisions, generosity and responsiveness, perceived absence of corruption, level of pleasure, joy, troubles, sadness and anger.
And although Ukraine is not at the top of the World Happiness Report, there are many happy people in this country despite a huge number of different kinds of problems.
Inna Katiushchenko, Edipresse Media president. Oleg Katiushchenko, businessman
Oleg Katiushchenko: In harmony with inner state
Happiness is a very subtle yet powerful feeling. For me, this is when what I am doing is in harmony with my inner state and the world's needs. It is when I see the result, regardless of whether it concerns business or relationships. When I see my loved ones happy. When I create new opportunities for myself and for others. When I am surrounded by people who do no stop developing.
Inna Katiushchenko: Being happy takes efforts
Happiness is an exclusively inner feeling and therefore accessible. But for some reason we often put it on the back burner, hinge it on some achievements or events. But the essence of happiness is exactly about acknowledging it instead of running away from it. Even during some difficult stages in our life, we can draw a whole list of what we associate with happiness or at least a list of what we can thank the life for. For children and parents who love us and people we love, interesting communication, for exciting work... Also, I realized that being happy takes efforts. It is point No 1 on women's job description to be happy and thus make their near and dear happy.
Luc Jacobs, Ambassador of Belgium, with wife Anne
Children are the embodiment of happiness, and instill in their parents an incredible sense of pride, but also a colossal sense of responsibility. The birth of children gives a sense of belonging to the greater cosmic process – to what happened and will happen to parents and children before you and infinitely after you are gone. This sensation gives you wings and an understanding of how fantastic life is. This realization is especially strong when you are present at the birth of your baby. I was at my wife Anne’s side when she was delivering all our five children. Of course, the first birth made an indelible impression! I was 28 then.
Photo: Family photo. Belgium, 2012.
I am absolutely happy and proud of my family. Anne and I have been together for 30 years. We met when I was making my first steps as a diplomat. She was a graduate student of the same university as I was (note: the Leuven Catholic University is the oldest and most prominent university in Belgium). We feel good and comfortable together. My wife has a degree in law but she never worked in this field, because of my numerous diplomatic stints abroad on which she accompanied me. Anne engaged in other professions, as a teacher of Dutch for foreign language speakers and as a designer of children’s clothing, women’s scarves and shawls. She is very creative. She fell in love with Ukraine and found new sources of inspiration for her work here.
Photo: Telč, the Czech Republic, the 1990-s.
We, as a family, have lived together for many years. Because of my diplomatic service, we often changed places of residence, moving from one country to another. All our children were born abroad. Two sons were born in Dublin, Ireland, two daughters were born in Ottawa, Canada, and the youngest daughter was born in the Czech capital, Prague. Our children repeatedly changed schools, environments. Every time they had to re-start, but, as a rule, adapted very quickly. And they taught us how to do this in a very elegant manner. Anne and I watched and tried to analyze what was happening in the minds of our children. We did not underestimate , of course, their courage, and were happy about their openness and readiness to explore the new.
Ole T. Horpestad, Ambassador of Norway, with wife Birgit Hovet Horpestad
I think that a sense of happiness is born in harmony, in a peaceful and safe environment; when there is good job, good health and there is time for rest, sports and travel; when your children have opportunities to grow, discover and realize their potential. Norway is a country where everyone has equal opportunities. It may sound a bit idealistic (smiles). But it's true! We have nature available to all. By law, any resident of the country and their guests have unimpeded access both to forests and the sea. You can walk and swim wherever you want. If the land is private, it is advisable to ask for permission, simply out of courtesy. We have clean environment, water, air, fjords, mountains and forests. The population density is relatively small, there are only 5 million of us. Plus, the stable economic situation, high living standards. We all understand why we pay high taxes. Everything is transparent there.
Photo: Son Terje Horpestad.
We have a wonderful policy of support for families with young children! Maternity leaves for moms and dads (smiles). I took paternity leave myself. My son was born in Oslo 19 years ago when I was on diplomatic service in Moscow. But I returned to Norway and spent six weeks with my family as a happy father. Now fathers can take leave from work for 10 weeks, and soon it will be 14 weeks. Mothers have even more weeks. Thus, parents can share a leave and still be paid full salaries. By the way, Norway was the first country to give men the right of paternity leave in the early 1990s.
Stina Murakas, Estonian artist
Happiness means the ability to stay present no matter what is going on around me and feel that I can handle everything that comes my way whatever a challenge happens to be. To receive and accept everything! Even when this everything is very uncomfortable or unpleasant. For quite a long time already, happiness has not meant any kind of a euphoric or overwhelming feeling or condition but rather simple and quiet joy that is filled with fulfillment of everyday life. That is when I feel with every cell in me that I am the creator, the creator of my own world. It is realizing that perhaps I cannot do much in this world (like end wars etc.) to change things for the better but I can do something in my own world. It is understanding that every moment is full of opportunities and my wellbeing and happiness are connected with my ability to find a point of view.
Photo: Stina with composer, photo artist, film producer Marten Kross
Life is like a painting: you can add layers, a lot of them and make changes all the time. It is good to know that you can change your canvas of life for the better, make it more perfect, more sensitive, thicker, lighter, darker, more colorful, more flowing, more joyful, more whatever and less whatever. I like it when all kinds of different things, colors, people meet and match. New worlds are born – tiny and big, visible and invisible and maybe a little chaotic, mysterious, beautiful and abundant. It is happiness to understand that life is full of gifts and the biggest of them can be hidden behind the mask of the so-called problems. To understand this is not the easiest thing but if you do, it makes you free and love being free!
Photos provided by Katiushchenko, Jacobs, Horpestad, Murakas, shutterstock.com.