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7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.

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Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.

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Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.

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My Kyiv

The Man Who Leads The Winners Team

Bohdan Kulchyckyj (or Dan) was born in the US to parents from Western Ukraine whod emigrated during the war. He grew up in Philadelphia, but was raised as a Ukrainian, speaking Ukrainian at home and going to Ukrainian school. He always longed to visit his homeland, and as soon as the Soviet UNI0N collapsed he was on his way over. Despite the fact hed graduated as a mechanical engineer, he came to import cars.

It was dark and dismal times, and business was a foreign concept, but despite seemingly impossible hurdles to overcome and many setbacks along the way, 20 years later he leads Winner Imports Ukraine, one of the most successful car importers and distributors in the country.

When did you first come to Ukraine and what brought you here?
When Ukraine became free in 1991 I came out here for Christmas. A little while after that a guy called John Hynansky gave me a call. He was a friend of my parents and he had the opportunity to bring Ford to Ukraine. He asked if I was interested in going in to business here and of course I said yes. So I came here in May 1992 like a guy off of a boat, with nothing but my suitcases. And now, 20 years later, you can see what weve got.

What was it like when you first arrived in Ukraine?
I came here almost immediately after independence. It was a bizarre feeling. Even though we were American, we were raised to be Ukrainian, and were very proud of our heritage. I was coming back to my homeland, even though I wasnt born or raised here. It was really weird. I mean, if you take my life in the US, I went to Ukrainian school, I went to Ukrainian church, I spoke to my parents in Ukrainian, and our house was decorated in Ukrainian national style. So it was pretty cool to come here. 
And after that first visit, I wanted to be here. I wanted to work here. So when Hynansky made me the offer I jumped on it, and in May 92 I was back. I was 28 years old, single and willing to work, and thats all that was needed.

How was it back then, trying to set up a business in Ukraine?
The whole storys surreal if you think about it. First of all, I didnt know anybody. Some guy met me at the airport and drove me to the National Hotel. I lived there for about three months. Even renting an apartment back then was virtually impossible because no one knew what they were doing. There was no business here. There was no currency. I came here when it was still the rouble, and they were trying to move to the coupon. 
At that time, they were trading hard currency with local currency on the street, mostly outside TSUM. There were no cell phones, no Internet, and you couldnt even make a phone call to the US. I just spent my days walking the streets, trying to rent real estate, trying to understand the banking system, even registering a business was completely unknown. I mean, our first company registration has the Hammer and Sickle stamp on it. I couldnt do it now, but I was proud to be Ukrainian and I was proud to be here.

When did you manage to import your first cars to sell?
That year. The first car we imported was a Ford Scorpio for me. We made our first order for sale that year too. We ordered seven cars from Ford and sold them to the one guy who was converting local currency to hard currency because of the devaluation. But those early years it was squat. I think our best year was 95 when we sold around 1,000 cars. It didnt really become big business until 2007. Until then, it was really Mickey Mouse business, but to us it was big.

What do you consider the main milestones on your path to success?
The first was registering the company in 1992, and the next would be the opening of our first dealership in 93, which was a garage. Then, we opened the first Ford dealership in 97 and in 99 we became the official distributor for Volvo. In 04 we added Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche and in 2006 we opened the multibrand Winner dealership. This year, of course, we celebrate 20 years of doing business and have sold 75,000 cars.

To what do you attribute the success of Winner Imports?
A love for the country. We love being Ukrainian. When you look at the people who come to do business here what you have is, firstly, the multinationals. They do business in one hundred and twenty countries, and Ukraine is one hundred twenty-one!  They come in with all their systems and processes and they do business. Then you have your investors who view the country as an opportunity, and come and invest then get out. But were different. Were expats of Ukrainian origin whore proud to be here. You've got myself, you've got Petro Rondiak, Robert Kulewicz and Mark Parekh, and some others through time, and all of us have a tie to the country which gave us a tolerance. We dealt with all the nonsense because were here for a bigger reason. We werent just here to build a business and make money, we were here to build a business in the country thats our homeland. That created something different. Another good choice we made was not to take on local partners. A lot of guys who came here in those early days felt they needed a local partner to navigate the waters and to provide land or real estate or whatever. We decided not to do that because we recognised the risks. A lot of westerners came here, took on local partners, gave them the know-how and then were pushed out of the business. Of course, there were risks in not having a local partner. There were a lot of issues in the beginning with the mafia, people running on us, extortion, corruption and everything else. But we were kind of protected because we were importing Ford, and Ford decides who its going to do business with. So its not something you can steal.

Has the car market in Ukraine recovered since the crisis, and how do you see the future for Winner Imports?
The market recovered and now its stagnant. The car market now is 235,000 units a year when it was up around 660,000. For the market to grow again, people need to make more money, theyre only going to make more money if the economy grows, the economy is only going to grow from internally or externally, and foreign direct investment is low because people dont want to put up with this stuff. The future depends on the banks lending more money, but thats only going to happen when theres the stability to allow for foreign investment, or Ukraine growing on its own over time, but thats the longest ride. 
We have always have a positive outlook no matter how hard its got, weve always remained positive, and thats what keeps us going. The country still has tremendous potential. I mean, at the moment there are 4,600 cars sold per million of the population, and in Germany its 38,000. So the market can still grow seven, eight, nine times.

How has the country changed since you first arrived in 1991?
Its different. Its completely different. You cant even compare it. But things havent happened as fast as one would want, and it goes forward and backward. The country doesnt have a clear vision: its spreading itself between Europe and Russia. Its making it very difficult for foreigners to come in. I mean, I can look anyone in the face and tell them theres a lack of rule of law and corruptions getting worse. But how often do people want to hear the elections are fraudulent and the systems are corrupt? Its twenty years later but those things are still the same. People are tolerant, but why would people come here? Theyll take one look at the place and say, I dont need to be there. Were here because were Ukrainian. Not everyone has that

Your parents are obviously very patriotic. How was it for them to return to Ukraine?
My mums from Lviv and my dads from Sambir. My father is and will always be an extremely proud Ukrainian. Hell live and die for this country. And I was raised that way. I mean, if I ever spoke English at home I got in trouble. My mum was more pragmatic, but for my dad it was an extremely emotional experience: he cried non-stop when Ukraine gained independence, and again the first time they came here. Theyre older  now, but they used to come all the time. 

What do you like to do in your spare time and where do you like to do it?
My life is just work. As sad as it is, or pathetic as it is, thats what I do. I work or I might hit a bar at ten or eleven at night. If it wasnt for my wife, Id be a social leper. What usually happens is an expat's wife gets caught up in the community, and then the guy follows. Thats how I make friends: my wife makes friends with someone elses wife and then we all get together. We have three kids, and of course we want them to be happy. So my life revolves around work and the kids. I work, and we travel as a family. 

Neil Campbell

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Comments (1)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
Ricardo | 15.04.2014 12:01

Thank you for the encouragement, Rebecca!And often, pepole hear loving actions more clearly than words I\'m grateful too that the language difficulties you describe didn\'t prevent the team from making such a helpful contribution to the holiday club.


 
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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.


    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

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