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Trail 4: Ukraine-UK relations

Embassy of Ukraine

As early as 1919-23 there were diplomatic missions to London from the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic. However, full diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the United Kingdom were only established after Independence, on 10 January 1992. Since 1996 the Embassy of Ukraine has had its premises at 60 Holland Park. In addition to its day-to-day diplomatic activities the Embassy hosts official receptions and other events, as well as serving as a polling station for expatriate Ukrainians voting at elections.

Consulate of Ukraine

The Ukrainian Consular Section in Kensington Park Road is housed in a building originally owned by the Federation of Ukrainians in Great Britain, which the latter ceded to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for diplomatic use. Initially, the Ukrainian Embassy was located here, until 1996, when the present building in Holland Park was acquired.

First Ukrainian MP at Westminster

The Portcullis House Gallery features a group portrait of MPs in the House of Commons Library and Smoking Room (1987). Prominent among the members, in the foreground, sitting in the centre bottom of the picture, is Stefan Terlezki (1927 –2006) who was the first politician of Ukrainian descent to serve as a Member of Parliament (Cardiff West, 1983-1987).

Ukraine has been mentioned or discussed in parliamentary debates and addresses since the 1830s. There is an All-Party Parliamentary Ukraine Group. The British Ukrainian Society holds its annual Yalta Lecture at Westminster (the Society also publishes the quarterly ‘Ukrainian Dialogue’).

BBC Ukrainian broadcasts

The BBC World Service broadcast Ukrainian language programmes (from Bush House in Aldwych) from 1992 until 2011. Although live broadcasts have ceased, the BBC Ukrainian website continues to present news, podcasts and other materials in Ukrainian.

When, after 70 years, Bush House ceased to be the hub of the BBC World Service (in July 2012), staff from the service gathered at the head office of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain for a farewell reception. During the evening, a painting of Bush House, by the London-based Ukrainian artist Dmytro Dobrovolsky (in red in the photo), was unveiled. The painting was commissioned and is owned by Volodymyr Muzyczka, studio manager at BBC News.

Farewell to Bush House…

Ukrainian gold at the Bank of England

Legend has it that the Cossack Hetman (leader) Pavlo Polubotok (1660-1724), seeing that Ukraine was losing its last vestiges of independence, sent his sons to London, with a barrel of gold and instructions to deposit this at the Bank of England. The Bank was to return the treasure only to Polubotok’s descendants or to representatives of an independent Ukraine. Today this gold would be worth many billions of pounds. There have been many attempts, over the centuries, to lay claim to the gold, but mystery continues to surround its whereabouts.

In 2010 the London-based writer Anna Shevchenko published ‘Bequest’, a novel about the treasure and attempts to retrieve it.

Professional organisations and charities

London is the base of a number of professional organisations, including the Ukrainian British City Club, the Ukrainian Medical Association and the British Ukrainian Law Association.

The Ukrainian Medical Association also undertakes charitable work, in common with other London-based charities and support organisations, such as the Ukrainian Migrant Network, Ukraine Charity and others.