Opinion / Christophe Cermak
I can hardly imagine the cognitive dissonance of Ukrainian officials who traveled to Davos for the World Economic Forum this week. Wandering the streets of this Alpine town and attending its parties as war rages back home must have seemed strange. Yet most consider it part of their job. I asked a Ukrainian MP, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze (illustrated), if she was simply planning to stay on foreign soil and her answer was clear: she would return to western Ukraine for a few days after Davos, before leaving for her next trip abroad.
The dignity, eloquence and patience of the representatives of Ukraine in the face of such a distorted reality – and quite a few personal difficulties – are striking. Still, it’s worth it. Ukraine needs guns and money, and what better place to meet the people who can help than at the World Economic Forum? Participation also helps control the narrative: the war would always have been a major topic here, but having a voice on every relevant panel certainly helped Ukraine dictate these discussions.
What is the next step ? Swiss President Ignazio Cassis – with Volodymyr Zelensky joining virtually – has announced that the Ukraine Recovery Conference will take place in July in Lugano. Talking about wartime reconstruction is another thing that might require some cognitive dissonance, but for Ukrainians, it’s all connected. An architect we spoke to for a story on rebuilding the nation for the June issue of Monocle stressed the importance of building temporary housing near ravaged towns that Russia has already evacuated, so residents can continue their life.
Ukraine needs support and it will not let Western leaders talk about its future behind its back. It remains a confident nation in control of its own destiny. Ukrainians can travel, fight, live and rebuild at the same time.