Guo Kai is a Main Board member of the International Citizen Organization “Culture and Research Center of Ukraine and China”, headquartered in Lviv, Ukraine. Since arriving ten years ago to study art and language at the Lviv Academy of Art, Guo Kai has since evolved into a true Lvivian citizen, loving the fine arts, coffee culture, delectable dishes, and breathtaking beauty of Ukraine’s surrounding untouched nature. Guo Kai, today, pursues the diligent role of an aware and intelligent Chinese citizen in the world of western Ukrainian culture, often organizing large-scale and educational events tying both Chinese and Ukrainian communities as one. When asked what his greatest goal is in living abroad as an ambassador to his country, Kai stated, “to change the opposing opinions Ukrainians and Chinese have of each other, and to live as a meshed and coexisting Chinese-Ukrainian community” This is his story…
KW: How large is the Chinese community in Lviv?
- GK: Well, first of all, there are not many Chinese people in Lviv. There are less than 100 Chinese living in Lviv, to be close to exact. Most Chinese people study at the Lviv Music Academy, second the Lviv Academy of Art, and third the Lviv National Ivan Franko University. Every year the Chinese community in Lviv decreases.
KW: What does your position as a community leader/organizer entail?
- GK: I love Ukraine very much. I have lived here for a long time and I am pleased with the Ukrainian culture. My job is to develop a strong Ukrainian-Chinese cultural exchange. One of the main goals of our organization is to change the opposing opinions Ukrainians and Chinese have of each other. In fact, one of the surprising things I have come to learn about the Ukrainian nation is that we share a very similar history, especially of that when our countries were at war; not with each other, of course, but simply in the act of being at war with, at the time, our enemies; we share a similar series of events and lineage of heroism. Also, I have come to learn in my ten years of living here, that Ukrainians and Chinese practice, in some ways, very similar culture and traditions. Part of this reason alone has been a large aspect in our communities completing a number of Ukrainian-Chinese projects and programs.
KW: Do you have any ill treatment as a Chinese national living in Ukraine?
- GK: I have been living in Ukraine for the last ten years. In the time that I have spent here, I have had no problems whatsoever, as well as, most of the Ukrainians I have come to know and befriend have been nothing less of pleasant and hospitable toward me. It is very rare that I will meet drunk or impaired individuals on the street at night that would gawk at me, or say something irrational. There are some situations; however, where people make fun of how we Chinese speak Ukrainian- we’ve even had some situations where individuals would stay next to us making jokes toward how they don’t understand what we are talking about. But this is ok, people are people, and we Chinese still live comfortably here.
KW: What brought you to Ukraine? How did you come to learn the language?
- GK: Eleven years ago a teacher from our Lviv Academy of Art, Andriy Pokodyp [sic], went to China to have meetings with board directors and students, as well as conduct a series of interviews. I passed my exam, which was a painting assignment, and was accepted into the Lviv Art Academy. Then I went to Kyiv and studied the Ukrainian language at the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management.
KW: What do you like most in Ukraine? What are the problems that come with being a Chinese National conducting business in Ukraine?
- GK: I like a number of aesthetics and characteristics about Ukraine and its people. For one, I know that Ukraine has very good soil, and has, historically, stretched over the largest amount of pure and black soil in the world for centuries. Ukraine has vast and seemingly endless free lands, which means a lot of potential in the understanding of Chinese people; in fact, Ukraine and China can do a lot of common business, even more than we’re already involved in. And not to undermine, of course, for the last twenty years, Ukraine has done quite a lot, but business between China and Ukraine could always progress, if you ask me. If Ukraine would let Chinese companies build roads, freeways, business centers, malls and shops here, I think that these sorts of developments would be very good for Ukraine. Right now Ukraine and China actively cooperate in the agricultural sectors. For example, the Chinese lease a lot of Ukrainian lands where we grow beans and corn.
KW: What are the main differences you see between China and Ukraine? Was it difficult to get used to Ukraine? Was it easy?
- GK: When I first came to Ukraine, the biggest difference that I noticed was the weather. China for the last 20-30 years has very quickly improved its economy by building a lot of its infrastructure, but in order to do that they destroy a lot of the nature, which has impacted climate. Ukraine still has clean soil and air and beautiful nature. I think this is the most important feature of our world for the benefits of people’s health. Ukrainians and Chinese are very similar in their thoughts. I think Chinese and Ukrainians are very clever people. Ukrainians respect their families, their relatives and their traditions and religion. I am really used to Ukrainian life. However, my first two years it was a bit hard for me, because I had very few friends and knew very little of the language. But after two to three years everything got much better. I was happy to live in Lviv because Lvivians are very nice people; and a benefit of living here has obviously been my being able to learn Ukrainian faster and in its natural environment. This has helped, of course, in my making friends.
KW: What would you recommend for people from Asia in terms of establishing life here in Ukraine?
- I think people from other Asian countries should establish their organizations and cultural centers wherever they shall live in this world. And the key, of course, is to not live, as separate communities, but as a community within the larger community, like a team or appendage to something bigger. I think there in no problem with life in Ukraine for potential or interested foreigners, no matter where they come from. Of course there are some personal battles once must overcome when they make the decision to uproot their lives back home, in their areas of comfort, to come and live among strange people in a strange land. But, for the most part, and specifically, Ukraine holds a lot of nice people here. For Asians seeking good and fast business here, they should shoot for Kyiv or Donetsk. For Asians seeking vacation destinations, I would suggest Crimea, Odessa or Lviv; Lviv is really good for a two to three-day vacation. And for those seeking strength-defying adventure, I would recommend the beautiful and spacious Carpathian Mountains, where nature is unmistakably beautiful, and the best time to be there is during October when the mountains appear gold from the changing of the season.
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