Picture: Helga Ewert / pixelio.de
The Ukraine and Romania share the Danube river and also some parallels in history, like the political Orange movements in 2004. The picture shows where the Danube flows into the Black Sea.

Romanian Letter

Dear Ivan,

I'm very glad to have come across an opportunity to write you this letter. Even though Romania and Ukraine are territorially neighbours, I've never had the chance to discuss the relations between our countries with a Ukrainian.

I must confess that your country doesn't have a very good image in Romania and I think history and recent politics are the main reasons. I should say stereotypes also play an active role in shaping the image of other nations so I guess the truth about the Romanian perspective on Ukraine is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between history and prejudices. My personal belief is that our past differences shouldn't stand in the way of our future cooperation.

box_vlad_badea Vlad Badea

Student of European Studies at the University of Cluj-Napoca. Vlad was awarded first prize in the Romanian history competition and participated in the Eustory Youth Academy in Belgrade in 2008 on stereotypes of the Balkans. Vlad is a member of «Asociatia pentru Informare despre Regatul Romaniei» (Association for Information about The Kingdom of Romania), which wishes to restore the monarchy in Romania.

If you ask me, the most consistent element of our common history was (and still is) the dispute over territories. The last century and especially the last World War made possible the loss of some Romanian lands amongst which Bessarabia and the northern part of Bukovina were included. These territories were annexed by the former USSR and then, after its collapse in 1991, became – some integrally, others in pieces – parts of the newly independent state of Ukraine. Our recent post-socialist history brought the same frictions into the foreground. This time the issue was the continental plateau of the Black Sea and Snake Island, which returned to the Romanian state after the verdict of the International Court of Justice.

On the other hand, Romania had territorial differences with almost all its neighbours, so I’m not sure anymore if this can be a 100 percent objective argument or whether it became a stereotype which formed our understanding of the relations with the countries we share borders with. However, I think it's fair to point out the fact that while Ukraine made territorial gains by force (Northern Bukovina, Southern Bessarabia); Romania obtained them by law (Snake Island). Do you share this opinion?

In spite of our different social, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, we do connect to each other in some key moments and Romania is compared, or wants to compare itself with Ukraine. Although we have our differences, we do acknowledge your country’s superiority in some domains, and its power of change, and we also want to emulate that. For instance, the year 2004 has a special significance to both our countries. The "Orange Revolution" initiated in Ukraine sort of became a pattern not only for Romania, but also for other states. After the events that occurred in your country, Traian Băsescu, the leader of a right-wing coalition, was elected President of Romania, also under orange flags and also marking a change of political power. He succeeded the social-democrat Ion Iliescu, who was elected three times in the office of President (1990-1992, 1992-1996, 2000-2004). So, I believe this is somehow similar with the situation of Viktor Juščenko succeeding Leonid Kuchma in power. Nevertheless, what happened in your country had a more powerful meaning.

Picture: Google Earth
Not that big, but quite a big issue between Romania
and Ukraine: Snake Island in the Black Sea.

Considering that we share a post-war history and some political circumstances after 1989/1991, I ask myself how come we're not in the same boat now. I'm referring to the EU and NATO. From my point of view, your adherence to the European Union will be a triumph not only for your people, but also for the Union itself. I’ve heard Juščenko is a pro-European but I haven't heard about further initiatives from the presidential office nor from your government. Did he changed his mind meanwhile or was it only a strategy to win the elections in 2004? It even surprises me that you are not part of the European Union and we are, even though you have more wealth than we do. What is it, then? Is it a lack of political will? Or do you not feel all that European?

I do hope Ukraine will some day join the European project, because I believe this is the only path that can in the end bring far more productive relations between our people.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Vlad Badea

Ukrainian Answer

Dear Vlad,

I was carefully reading your letter and I am impressed by your fundamental approach to the topic of Ukrainian-Romanian relations, especially territorial. The issue of Zmiyiny Island in the Black Sea was discussed in the Ukrainian media as well, and as a result of the Hague Court, Ukraine lost several of its sea territories with oil-bearing potential. At the same time, after the court decision the Romanians started treating Zmiyiny as an island, and not just as a rock. I know that court decisions are never acceptable for all parties, but some consensus is always preferable to no consensus. You also wrote about other territories, like Northern Bukovina, where a lot of Romanians used to live, and which were taken by force from Romania right after the Second World War. I agree that at that time the power principle was a determinant factor in totalitarian politics. Both Ukraine and Romania were part of totalitarian countries or their allies. Look at it from this point of view: I have found from historical sources that in November, 1918, when Romania annexed Northern Bukovina along with other territories, Romanian territory grew from 131.3 thousand to 295 thousand square meters, and the population from 6.7 to 18 million people. I wonder the same data is found in Romania historical sources as well; it would be interesting to see how your historians treat that fact. So history gives us many examples of acquiring land by force, but in my opinion the law is a very important achievement of democracy.

box_ivan_kendzorIvan Kendzor

Was born in Lviv, Ukraine. Is 18 years old studying Management at Lviv Polytechnic University. He took part in the Eustory Youth Academy in Spain in 2008. His hobbies are playing guitar and football and travelling. He is a member of the Board of European Students of Technology.

But I don't want to keep on calculating lost or gained territories of Ukraine and Romania. No one was a winner in that situation: many people suffered especially during army forced situationdue to the army's occupation etc. I think that geopolitical factors play the main role in the history of your country and mine. And my country's totalitarian past influenced our people and policy so much that our recovery is taking long time. I think this is the main reason why we are not a member of EU.

It's sad that behind territories we lose the sight of regular people, or that we only listen to the point of view of one group. We could go on and on disputing about the post-war territorial division, and yet each party will remain dissatisfied. We have all lost a lot: both the losers and the so-called winners. The victory only belonged to some ambitious politicians, while regular citizens had to bear all the burden of the war on their shoulders and saw no improvement in their lives

I have friends both in Romania and Poland, our family has friends in Russia. We keep in touch and meet once in a while. To tell the truth, we do not discuss the territorial issues with our friends - instead we talk about youth life, wishes, interests, work possibilities. And I do agree that we should remember our past, but in my opinion it's more important how we use this information and how it helps us to live together in a common future.

I was talking to a Romanian friend of mine and I am jealous of her. The Romanians need to pay tribute to their Romanian and European politicians, who no matter what, at different conflict times, were united around the single European direction of your country's development.

But I am also happy to live in my home country where I probably feel most comfortable. Among my Ukrainian friends and among a large part of Ukrainian youth I meet people who want to live a European life. And these are the people who will be ruining the stereotypes about Ukraine in Romania or in any other country. I think the Romanian youth has a similar opportunity to create a new image of Romania in the EU - and this is the challenge which faces all young people, from old or new European countries, members or non-members.

<table class="profileBox_right">\ <tbody>\ <tr>\ <td>\ <p><strong>This initiative is supported by:</strong></p>\ <p><a href="http://www.eustory.eu"><img class="smallimageright" style="border: 0px none; float: right;" src="UserFiles/File/ABOUT_US/PARTNERS/eustory.gif" width="120" height="68" /></a><span style="line-height: 20px; -webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 0px; font-size: 12px;"> </span></p>\ </td>\ </tr>\ </tbody>\ </table>Best wishes,
Ivan Kendzor

IN -1022 DAYS