This August marks 30 years since Ukraine gained independence. Turning 30 is an important moment, as we remain young enough to achieve anything, yet we are also old enough to look back on our experiences and to learn from them.
Now is the time to reflect on Ukraine’s journey so far, and to find ways to guide the country towards an even more successful future. What do people all across Ukraine think of the key events of the last thirty years? Which values, passions, and behaviours unite? And which only divide? What makes Ukrainians proud and what do Ukrainians aspire to? What, ultimately, does independence mean to Ukrainians?
These are the kinds of questions we have been asking in more than 20 focus groups carried out over the last six months, with participants from a range of ages, demographics, and regions. “We” are a group of Ukrainian and British social researchers, journalists, historians, and political scientists. The constraints of the pandemic have meant that our focus groups have had to shift online, and recruitment in the temporarily occupied territories is particularly challenging. But we have been both surprised and inspired by what we have learnt, with clear patterns in people’s attitudes emerging alongside viable means of strengthening Ukraine’s resilience, democraсу, and cohesion.
Four of these focus groups involved participants in the temporarily occupied territories. This requires some sensitivity, and we adapted our questions accordingly, focusing less on recent politics and more on history, values, and aspirations.
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