She became the main myths buster of our country, although she admits that she didn’t think that there was a real need in it. For the first time, she visited Ukraine at the age of 11 and moved completely when the Maidan had started. About childhood and the own principles of Acting Healthcare Minister, criticism and threats, changes, corruption and healthcare in Ukraine – the way Ulana Suprun herself sees it in the section “Who is…” from Opinion.
About childhood and first visits to Ukraine
My Ukraine was from the 50ies, the one that my grandmother and my parents brought with them to the diaspora.
In my imagination it was Ukraine, they told me about – small houses, village, Taras Shevchenko. But during the Brezhnev era, everything was quite different. Our relatives lived in Kyiv and Lviv. However, we were not allowed to visit their places – only they could come to our hotel. And not exactly to our suite – it was allowed to meet only on the street. And they were watching us all the time.
For the first time, I visited Ukraine in 1974 – during Brezhnev’s times. I was 11 years old, I was born in the United States, but I spoke Ukrainian and was went to our church, so I was Ukrainian.
Me, an 11-year-old child from the United States, couldn’t understand how people can live in this state of captivity. I think since then something has changed in me.
In college I was a member of Ukrainian Studying Youth Association Named after M. Mikhnovsky, it was more like a politically-ideological education for youth. We demanded the liberation of Ukraine from the Soviet Union, held conferences, and various meetings.
In 1992nd, my husband and I were attended the second anniversary of independence. It was a real buzz – everybody was patriotic, entire Kyiv was covered with a yellow-blue flag. Everyone wanted to see a new and improved state, everyone had great hope. Although at that time it was very difficult, people believed that it would be better.
The further the 90ies passed, the more cynicism we saw: nothing was changed. This period of frustration continued right until 2004 and the Orange Revolution when the hope for change revealed again.
About moving to Ukraine
Always, somewhere inside, there was a desire to settle down in Ukraine, but all the time it was interrupted by something: school, work, parents’ diseases.
We sold our house in New York and began to travel the world. We went around entire planet to see where we want to live.
In the fall of 2013, we put our affairs in order and said to ourselves: alright, it’s time to move to Ukraine. We thought to live in London for a month, and then to move completely. On the 21st of November, when the Maidan began, we attended local small Maidans created by Ukrainian Londoners. But in a few days, we thought: Why are we sitting here if we can go to a real, big Maidan? So we packed up and arrived.
The Maidan began, and there was no question whether we should devote time to this. We helped in many different ways: we supplied Western journalists with real credible information on events, translated news, directed to true leaders, and also we were engaged in humanitarian assistance. We began to coordinate the assistance from Ukrainian Diaspora through the Ukrainian World Congress. Then there was training for the military, we handed out first aid kits, and trained how to evacuate.
For all my life – since childhood and to this day I belong to public initiatives. It is that American culture – all your free time you devote to something that doesn’t concern your career.
About own views and beliefs
We shouldn’t wait for the state to do something, but start doing it ourselves. Over time, the process when the state will remove its people from these areas should begin – because there will be no need in them.
Ukraine has an incredible shortage of honest people with a complex character. Don’t make compromises when your conscience tells you that something is wrong. Don’t be afraid to listen to your inner voice, don’t make unions or partnerships with evil having in mind good intentions, do not legitimize evil – fight it, call things by their proper names and tell the truth.
Healthcare affects all of us. And if we can change this “Soviet” system with its mythical help, then it will mean a lot.
In Ukraine, there will be high-quality healthcare, if today a few dozen people decide to go to the state service and contribute to changes in the system, not faces.
How can one civil servant change a country? No way. It is impossible. No man is an island.
The main achievement of the Revolution of Dignity is that Ukrainians have driven out Yanukovych and chose the European path.
The main defeat of the Revolution is that judicial reform has never happened.
Today in Ukraine there is a window of opportunity that opens once every decade
About corruption in Ukraine
Corruption is rooted in all Ukrainian systems, from the very childbirth, getting vaccines, places in kindergartens, orphanages, schools, universities, internships, at work – unfortunately, this exists from the beginning and to the end.
In order for people to get used of the fact that it is normal, time is needed. For now, people see this as a norm. But this isn’t right and ethical, it is immoral and illegal.
Corruption and budget embezzlement are our poverty, illnesses, low life expectancy and quality of life. We create new anti-corruption tools, rules, and procedures to eliminate not only manifestations but also the causes of corruption in the healthcare sector.
About criticism and threats
I am often asked about this – why others are against what I do. But I can’t tell you why they are against. I can only say about what they write and how they act. If there were constructive reasons, we could sit down with them to discuss everything.
When they come and say: you’re making genocide of the Ukrainian nation, then there is simply nothing to talk about. We are open to constructive criticism.
Would I leave the office under pressure from the media that don’t check facts and want to talk only about a scandal? No. I don’t work for ratings, I work for Ukrainians.
Threats to me only made me stronger and showed that I have to continue my work, it was a sign that we’re moving in the right direction.
About Ukrainian and Russian languages
How did I learn Russian? I didn’t. Within the family, we spoke Ukrainian. At school, we spoke Ukrainian. At the church, we spoke Ukrainian. Among friends and colleagues – in Ukrainian or English. At work – mostly in English. This is the norm for the Ukrainian diaspora in America. For the vast majority of Ukrainians in Ukraine, such a linguistic environment is fantastic.
The Russian language has such powerful influence in Ukraine, not because it was intuitively understood by Ukrainians, but because once Ukrainians were occupied by a regime that chose Russian as its official language.
The question of the Ukrainian language is also a matter of struggle with very common for Ukraine inferiority complex. The protection of the Ukrainian language is a matter of exclusively protecting the Ukrainian language and promoting its development. That’s it. The rest is manipulation.
About work, sexism in the Cabinet of Ministers, changes, and PPD.
Usually, I arrive at the ministry at 7: 30-8: 00. Sometimes in the morning, I drink coffee with advisors, we discuss agenda for a week, problems, and successes. On Monday, we have governmental meetings, on Wednesday – the Cabinet of Ministers, during session weeks there is a committee, on Thursday – governmental committee, on Friday, it’s a time of questions to the government. In addition to this, there are meetings, trips to the regions. Mostly all of this lasts until 21:00. After that, you need to read mail and documents for the next day. Altogether, it is a lot of work.
I didn’t even understand why we had to write about PPD. I thought everyone knows that. And now people in the street thank me. But I explain, it’s not me, this is evidence-based medicine.
In fact, we are thinking of a book that would destroy all these myths about healthcare and medicine.
I don’t feel any sexism, I do not see it because I don’t recognize it. In the Cabinet, we have three women, I, Liliya Hrynevych, and also Klympush. And together, we work the same way as men do. I think we are equal to them, and there is no feeling that there is any difference between us.
When I go to the hospital, the first thing I look at is a place where administration works. I look at their toilets. If everything is very well done there, and in patients’ premises, toilets are very bad, I know that the chief physician or manager doesn’t care about patients. If I see that they have invested more in the patients’ chambers, their toilets, operating rooms than in their own premises, I understand that these people really want to improve the conditions for patients and workers.
That’s right – to change the healthcare system. The very reason why we stood up at the Maidan – we have our own values and we believe that human life and health are important. And power does not exist for the sake of power; it’s here only to help people.
About problems of the Ukrainian healthcare system
Surprisingly, the lie about free medicine in Ukraine still spreads. It has not been here for a long time
The biggest problem in Ukraine is the lack of preventive medicine. It doesn’t exist at all. 65% of people die from cardiovascular diseases. In the 1960s, prophylactic medicine was set up in the United States, they taught people to eat properly, exercise, visit their doctors, monitor blood pressure, check cholesterol level, take medication if they have problems. For 20 years, the mortality rate from the same diseases has been reduced from 65% to 30%. And in Ukraine, people are waiting for the last stage and before that, they either self-medicating themselves or do nothing.
In States, every year since 1991, deaths from cancer is falling by 2-3%. Why? – Preventive medicine and early detection, and only a small percentage happen due to the other ways of treatment. In Ukraine, neither the first nor the second one is made. In the United States, every woman goes through mammography every year. This is a requirement for insurance. In Ukraine, women go to the mammography only when they see a problem.
Currently, in Ukraine, there are 1.5 times more medical institutions per citizen than in Europe. At the same time, we are not healthier than Europeans because the available resource is inefficiently used. The updated system should have employees of the modern medical sphere only.
Nurses and doctors can be re-certified, or transferred to other healthcare facilities where there is a shortage of workers. I would like to see more efficient use of personnel and finances.
People think that something may get worth. But we are changing the system. The situation can’t get worse. It’s already at the bottom.
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel
The publication was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, and appeals of the material’s protagonist.