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“We don’t ask if you are a Ukrainian Brazilian, we all come from different origins” – Brazil’s Ambassador to Ukraine

Norton de Andrade Mello Rapesta, Brazil’s Ambassador to Ukraine
“We don’t ask if you are a Ukrainian Brazilian, we all come from different origins” – Brazil’s Ambassador to Ukraine

One of the largest Ukrainian diasporas in Latin America lives in Brazil, so Kyiv not Kiev had a great time talking about it with Mr. Norton de Andrade Mello Rapesta, Brazil’s Ambassador to Ukraine.

“We are a multinational country. We do not ask if you are a Ukrainian Brazilian. We are all Brazilians. But we understand that we all come from different origins,”

said, Rapesta about his country, noting that his father was also an immigrant from Argentina. Ambassador also told about:

  • the contribution of Ukrainians to Paraná one of the most prosperous regions in Brazil, where Ukrainians constitute 50% of the population.
  • the planned visit of the Brazilian president to Ukraine
  • the denunciation of the agreement regarding the use of the Cyclone-4 launch vehicle in 2014 and current possibilities for other joint space programs

On 130 years since the beginning of the emigration of Ukrainians to Brazil

In 2021, we celebrate the 130th anniversary of Ukrainians` emigration to Brazil, which began in 1891, before World War I, and lasted till the end of World War II.

The diaspora of Ukrainians in Brazil is one of the most remote to Ukraine. However, the local Ukrainians have managed to preserve traditions, culture, and care for their homeland even from afar.

In 1891, the first organized group of Ukrainians arrived in Brazil. These first Ukrainians were residents of the Zolochiv district (now the Lviv region), settling in Paraná. Nowadays, Parana state, out of 1 million citizens, has more than 500,000 Ukrainians. Local people from Ukraine try to speak Ukrainian, and their children study it at school.

There is something else that resembles Ukraine very much – many wooden churches typical of western Ukraine. Parana has the lowest level of crime among other states. And if you stop a regular citizen on the street to ask where borshch is served – there is a chance you’ll hear the answer in Ukrainian!

We asked Ambassador Rapesta whether there is Ukrainians’ merit that Parana is one of the most prosperous regions in Brazil.

“It’s an important contribution, yes!” answered the Ambassador.

According to him, people from Ukraine were coming to find a new life in Brazil. At the end of the XIX century, people were running from all the problems Europe was facing. In Ukraine, people were frightened by the Bolshevik revolution, religious problems (the vast majority of modern Ukrainians in Brazil are Greek Catholics, a church that was banned during the Soviet era).

“They put all their strength, tradition and experience to build something new. Each one brought his history, education and culture. Brazil was being built like this,” –  stated the Ambassador.

On the future meeting of Jair Bolsonaro and Volodymyr Zelenskyy

“The visit is planned,” states Ambassador Rapesta.

Although the presidents have already promised to pay an official visit to each other, the global Сovid pandemic has thwarted these plans. The last personal meeting of the heads of states took place in 2019 in Japan, where the presidents met as part of Zelenskyy’s working visit. After that, they spoke again, but on the phone.

“Maybe they could meet now in the United Nations in September,” said the Ambassador.

Mr. Rapesta reminded that a Brazilian President’s son and Member of Parliament, Eduardo Bolsonaro, visited Kyiv this July. He had met Chairman of Ukrainian Parliament Dmytro Razumkov. The parties discussed closer inter-parliamentary ties between the countries. Razumkov thanked his colleague for supporting the Ukrainian community at the state level and creating conditions for the free development of Ukrainian culture, faith, language, and traditions.

“There is more to come. More visits and more ministers to come. But we also have to bring them [Ukrainian representatives] to Brazil,”  jokes the Ambassador.

On reasons of denunciation of agreement on Cyclone-4

In 2003, Ukraine and Brazil signed an agreement on long-term cooperation for building the Alcantara spaceport, located on the Atlantic coast. The Brazilians undertook to create the infrastructure of the launch complex. Ukraine has pledged to develop a new launch vehicle for the spaceport and new generation satellites. The first launch of the Ukrainian Cyclone-4 launch vehicle was planned for the end of 2014, but it never happened. In 2015, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Brazil was handed a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the denunciation of the agreement regarding the use of the Cyclone-4 launch vehicle.

“The problem with Cyclone was management difficulties: misunderstanding and miscomprehension,” emphasized the Ambassador.

Now two sides are working hard to clear the past mistakes and write a new story. Thanks to a recent visit of Volodymyr Taftai, Chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine to Brazil, the parties have real hopes that this project will still take place. Volodymyr Taftai is fluent in Portuguese, understands the culture, and there should be no more misunderstandings. After all, as Mr. Rapesta has put it, “It’s a billion-dollar business.”

On business cooperation

Now Brazil and Ukraine are trying to build their cooperation on a business-oriented approach. The main thing the parties are looking for is a solid base.

The Embassy of Brazil to Ukraine, The Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and The Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency will organize a web seminar on business on September 15.

“We have to use our capacities and “know-how” in different areas,” highlighted the Ambassador.

According to him, Ukraine and Brazil have many spheres to cooperate into: IT, agribusiness, investment, health, and pharmaceutics. “We have to think outside the box,” concluded Mr. Rapesta.

Victoria Dubiv is a project manager at TRUMAN, editor of KYIV NOT KIEV

Tetiana Gaiduk is Creative Services Director at TRUMAN, co-founder and co-host at KYIV NOT KIEV

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