History of Ukraine India Association

Ukraine India Association is the oldest non-governmental organization in Ukraine that has been promoting the development of Ukrainian-Indian cultural contacts and people’s diplomacy since 1991.

Ukraine India Association was registered on 10 July 1991, i. e. one month and a half before Ukraine declared its independence!

Friendly relations with India were among important areas of state policy as long back as during the times of the Soviet Union. Ukraine occupied one of the leading positions in the implementation of such international relations. Ukraine’s contribution to the development of large industrial centers in India accounted for 35-40 percent. Ukraine was well-known and respected in India. Obviously, that is why India was among the first nations to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Republic of India visited Kyiv in 1982. During Mikhail Gorbachev’s term in office the Ukrainian capital was visited by the Indian Ambassador to the Soviet Union. He met with Ukrainian youths in the great auditorium of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and talked about yoga. The 600-seat hall was packed with people who arrived in much greater numbers. The lecture included a demonstration of exercises by Volodymyr Nychyporuk and turned out to be a great success.

Establishment of the Friendship Society

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Division of the Soviet-Indian Friendship Society operated in Kyiv as part of the Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (abbreviated in Ukrainian as 'UTDKZ'). Ihor Pasko (years later he would be appointed Ukraine’s Ambassador to Pakistan) served as its Executive Secretary at that time.

In 1985, Valentyn Adomaytis (in 1998 he would take the office of Ukraine’s Ambassador to India) was assigned to take this post. Since 1987, while serving as deputy head of the UTDKZ’s Division for the Countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, he had actively worked to get independent in its operating activities because all the non-governmental organizations in Ukraine were harshly guided from Moscow.

At that time, the UTDKZ was headed by Vasyl Osnach, chairman of the board. He assigned Valentyn Adomaytis to create a Ukrainian Society for the Friendship between Ukraine and India, which would operate independently from Moscow. Mr Adomaytis’s job was to gather interested people and organizations together, create a board, collect all the necessary approvals from Soviet government agencies, develop a statute and register it with the Justice Ministry of Ukraine.

In the Soviet Union, people’s attitude towards India was traditionally based upon the historical sympathy between Ukrainians and Indians. The Ukrainians were well informed about friendly ties with India. Indian films were very popular and attracted a lot of spectators in cinemas across the country.

In 1987, an all-Soviet cultural festival was held in the Soviet Union on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of India’s independence and the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia. Concerts by Indian singers and performance by Indian dancers and musicians were held all over the Soviet Union. Indian films were shown both on the Soviet TV stations and in cinemas. The so-called 'creative groups' made of representatives of different Soviet republics were sent to India to promote the ’Soviet lifestyle’ through the performances by singers, folk and ballet dancers, and musicians, some of them coming from Ukraine. Such visits always received warm welcomes from the Indian public in every corner of the great India.

Within the framework of the festivities, two exhibitions took place in Kyiv, too. The first one was held at the Kyiv Teachers’ College No 2, which was home to a very active Club for International Friendship between Indian and Ukrainian students under the presidency of Valentyna Ustinova. The second exhibition was held in the center of Kyiv at the Foreign Literature Bookstore (it included special displays dedicated to the USSR-India Festival) and at the Poetry Bookstore where the organizers set up an expo of paintings by Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetoslav Roerich, posters, and photographs showing the life of common people in India, and played Indian music. Hundreds of Kyiv residents and tourists visited both exhibitions every day.

One would think that establishing the Society was an easy task to do at that time, especially considering India’s populary in the USSR. However, as Valentyn Adomaytis recalls, "my job involved going through lots of bureaucratic obstacles along the way. I had to send a number of letters to all the institutions possible, government agencies, organizations, enterprises, etc. And I had to hold talks with their representatives about their involvement into the Society’s activities and its governance." The next step was to get all the approvals and permissions from Communist Party organizations. The process lasted for several years. Finally, an implicit permission for the creation and registration of the Society was received despite the fact that the authorities had denied including some people into the Society. During the constituent meeting of the Society for the Ukrainian-Indian Friendship in 1991 the board elected Yuri Olenenko as its chairman. Mr. Olenenko was recommended to that post by the then leadership of Ukraine, in particular, because he held the post of the Minister of Culture of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic at that time.

Creation of the Association

Just a few months before Ukraine declared its independence, in summer 1991, Valentyn Adomaytis had been invited to join the diplomatic service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Because of this, he was no longer capable of holding a post in the Society. He prepared all the documents necessary for the re-registration of the Society for Ukrainian-Indian Friendship into the Ukraine India Association and handed them over to its most active members, in particular, Valentyna Ustinova and Volodymyr Nychyporuk.

The main aim of the newly created non-governmental organization, the Ukraine India Association, was to join the efforts of Ukraine’s citizens and organizations showing a great interest towards India in establishing contacts with India in various areas and helping the peoples of the two countries learn more about the history, cultural traditions, achievements in such areas as science, education, and sports of both nations. The Association worked hard to facilitate a broad dialogue between the non-governmental organizations of Ukraine and India, and promote contacts and exchanges between the citizens of the two nations. Such activities were of particular significance in the first few years of its work when the Association served as an important connection link between the Embassy of India in Ukraine and the public in general and helped coordinate joint projects and events.

First President of Association

Volodymyr Nychyporuk was elected as the first President of Ukraine India Association in 1992 and served in this capacity until 1995. Now he is the head of the Aftercare Department of the Ukrainian Center for Sports Medicine under the Health Ministry of Ukraine and President of the Movement for a Healthy Lifestyle Association.

Thanks to his management our organization became stronger and broadened its activities in Ukraine. The first composition of the Association’s board included Valentyn Adomaytis, Volodymyr Nychyporuk, Valentyna Ustinova, Stepan Nalyvaiko, Yuri Shylov, Olena Ryzhei, Svitlana Vratska, Oleh and Leonid Pavlov, the Bruks, Serhiy and Alina Tsypliayev, and others. During this period the Association was based at high school No 137 in Kyiv where Valentyna Ustinova worked as deputy director. It was there where the first Oriental Studies class started and Hindi was offered as a major. These classes included a course on Indian Studies; there were groups that studied Yoga and Indian dances. Lots of interesting meetings, celebrations, exhibitions, and other events were held at the school.

At the same time, in early 1990-s, a Hindi class opened at Gymnasium (school) No 1 in Kyiv, which only used to offer Chinese as a major to its students before that. Kateryna Dovbnia who had graduated from the Leningrad University started teaching the Hindi language there. In 1995 the first group of 12 students started learning Hindi as a major at the Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University. Hindi was taught there by Stepan Nalyvaiko, the only expert in Hindi in Ukraine at that time, and Kateryna Dovbnia.

India opens embassy in Ukraine

The Embassy of the Republic of India opened in Ukraine on 17 January 1992. It was headed by H. E. Shri Sudhir Tukaram Devare. Our Association invited the Indian ambassador and members of the Indian embassy in Ukraine to celebrate the Republic Day of India at school No 137. There was a big concert that was staged by students who studied Hindi, an Indian dance group made up of Ukrainians, and members of a yoga center. Mykhailo Kryvchuk, one of the first teachers of Indian Dance in Ukraine, gave a nice performance for the spectators.

The Association grew stronger with the financial support from the Movement for a Healthy Lifestyle Association and was able to partially sponsor different exhibitions, festivals, and celebrations of Diwali, Holi, and the Republic Day in Ukraine.