INTERVIEW: The Czechs are getting closer to the Ukrainians, they no longer only take them as cheap labour, says a singer of Ukrainian origin

Julie Skandjuk, originally from Ukraine, composed the song Lovers of God under the pseudonym Julay with musician Martin Harich.
| source: youtube

How do you perceive life in Ukraine after leaving the country?

Life in Ukraine has never been easy. People don’t have a lot of money, so they go to Europe to work, where they spend whole days at work and try to save every penny so they can send as much as possible to Ukraine. The younger generation finds it very difficult to find employment, and when they do, the money is so low that it is barely enough to run a household. In general, the family cares more in Ukraine than elsewhere and tries to help each other a lot. They would give themselves to each other.

My grandfather drew water from a well all his life and lit kerosene lamps. As everywhere in the world, there is a big difference between the life of the city and that of the village. Many things that we are used to in the Czech Republic do not even reach Ukraine, and if they do, they are very expensive. For example, I brought my father tuna, coffee, various syrups, cosmetics and sometimes some branded and unbranded clothes. Western products are at a different level of quality than in Ukraine, and if they enter Ukrainian trade, many Ukrainians will not reach them due to high prices. Also, they don’t have as many events as here in the Czech Republic, so they are able to carry various things – from paving and plaster to toilet paper rolls.

How is Vladimir Putin perceived in Ukraine?

I can’t speak for all Ukrainians, but for me and my family I can say that it is definitely not perceived in a positive sense. And currently not at all. At home, people always say that he has a Stalinist regime. Only punish and promise people.

So what is the relationship of Ukrainians with Russia in the long term?

The simple equation applies here, Russians don’t like Ukrainians. Ukrainians have a rather neutral view of Russians. Many Ukrainians speak Russian and travel to Russia to work. In any case, they are two very typically proud nations.

You have been living in the Czech Republic for years. Do you think Czechs and Ukrainians are close?

I think they are definitely closer than when I came to the Czech Republic. Today, I have the feeling that Ukrainians are perceived not only as cheap labor, but also as competent and reliable workers. In terms of nature, Czechs find me less emotional and more withdrawn. Ukrainians are very sociable and sometimes express their emotions too much. Moreover, in most cases, they are believers.

Considering the current war situation, do you think foreign aid is sufficient?

Foreign aid certainly means a lot to me and helps Ukraine put up so much resistance against Russia throughout the fight. Nonetheless, I would expect Western powers to get more involved and big Western players, both states and corporations, to impose even tougher sanctions on Russia.

What chance do you think peace agreements have?

Difficult question. Ukrainians are a very proud nation and don’t just want to give up a piece of land. The president brought them together with his behavior and his attitude and gave them a lot of courage. No other president could do what the current one does. I am afraid that if Russia does not give up its demands and demands, it will be difficult for everyone. But like everyone else, I want the world to go back to normal.

Are you in contact with Ukrainians who fled to the Czech Republic because of the war?

As part of my family is still in Ukraine, I am only in contact with them. I have no contacts in the Czech Republic.

Can you still say how the Ukrainians perceive the help of the Czechs?

Ukrainians are grateful for any help, but they consider help from the Czech Republic and neighboring states the most important. I don’t think anyone expected Czechia to defend Ukraine. I myself was surprised by how the Czechs united and what they managed to do for Ukraine. It’s really clear that the relationship between Czechs and Ukrainians has changed a lot over the years, and I’m very happy about that. Thank you all.

With your song, you try to support the Ukrainians affected by the war. What was the impetus for composing the song specifically?

For every song that I compose, I have to be guided and motivated by certain emotions and the mood of the moment. When the war started, I was very worried about my family. I wanted to write the song primarily for my dad and family so he would know I was still here and hope died last.

How long does it take to take a song from idea to publication?

We recorded the current song in one day.

It’s record time…

Since Martin Harich had already recorded the song, it was just a matter of adapting it to the current situation and translating the individual parts into Ukrainian. Anyway, we talked about it for a week. Then we came over the weekend and recorded it on Saturday and Martin’s dad shot a clip on our mobile.

What can people do to make the situation more pleasant for Ukrainians?

Do not stop following the news and support Ukraine as much as possible. Although even here it can be psychologically demanding for many people, the first two years of covid and now the war. There’s been a lot of negative things hanging over us everywhere lately, it’s always important to realize that there really are a few thousand miles of war going on, and the people who are still there need that help. . It is only when they feel supported by the rest of the world that they do not lose hope.

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