The Ukraine Connection – Kiron Reid (1989 Leaver)
The Ukraine Connection
Ukraine has been in the spotlight recently, first for the war and now for Jamala winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Kiron Reid (1982 – 1989) spent six months volunteering and working in Ukraine. He found that his education at Merchant Taylors’ came in really useful.
In 2014, I left my lectureship at the University of Liverpool so that I could combine my interests in law, politics and international matters by doing international election observation work. I’d already done this short term in the Balkans, but now wanted to get a Long Term Observer post, which is like being a regional organiser for an election mission. In May I gained a short term observer post with the UK team for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (the OSCE) , which monitors Ukraine during elections for a new President. I was sent to a city none of us had ever heard of before. Certainly not a sheltered nook.
Zaporizhia (Zaporizhzhya from Ukrainian) is bigger than Liverpool, a port on the Dnipro / Dnieper, from Soviet times a major vehicle and aircraft manufacturing centre. Zaporizhia is in the South East of Ukraine and is next to the region where the war is currently continuing. I met an English professor from the University, who invited me back as a volunteer when she heard I liked Ukraine. They made me a visiting Professor in the Faculty of Foreign Languages (which specialises in British English), Faculty of Law and Faculty of Journalism. I arrived in a heatwave at the start of October and left in December with snow thick on the ground. I knew about the weather pattern from Geography at school. I knew about the growth of the Russian empire and birth of the Soviet Union from History. The most difficult thing was writing being in Cyrillic, terrible roads and pavements, and some very strange food. Biology helped me understand flora and fauna; and Chemistry the important city industries.
I’d like to thank all of my 1980s teachers as they all contributed. My experience helped me get a Long Term Observer contract in Ukraine in September 2015 for the Mayoral Elections. I had two incredible months in beautiful Odessa, Kyiv and northern Chernihiv. It is a country I recommend visiting, especially to find out the truth against Putin’s propaganda.
Kiron Reid (1982 – 1989) is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool
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