Miss Abravitova, please share your personal and professional experience in this country. How would you describe it thus far?
I have been here a year and a half already and I must say that this is an absolutely amazing country. A country with huge potential, a country of huge diversity and that makes it really interesting to live and to work here. Of course, when you come from another culture, another country, the first thing you investigate is the way people live and solve different problematic issues. For me, it is really interesting and pleasant that the country is very peaceful and that the people are very friendly – that makes it quite easy to work [in South Africa]. I will admit that communication between embassies and the different ministries of South Africa has been complicated because of the bureaucracy, but this exists everywhere – Europe, America and here.
From a professional point of view, of course, this is a good place in Africa to be. Here, all the embassies of all the countries are concentrated and the role of South Africa as the regional leader and, I would say, the leader of the African continent makes this work not only interesting but also prestigious.
How has the Ukrainian-South African bilateral relation developed since its beginnings? What are the main areas of co-operation between both countries?
Last year we celebrated 25 years of diplomatic relations, so they were established in 1992. I would characterise them as quite fresh and developing now. Both sides are trying to find the roadmap of co-operation in different spheres: the economic sphere; the sphere of culture; of science and technology. I should mention that we are already actively engaged in political dialogue. We have been having political consultations between the ministries of foreign affairs, which brought to light spheres of development we are going to focus on. We have signed at least twenty inter-ministerial and inter-parliamentary agreements. Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations and different spheres of cooperation (economic, military), we have continued to work on some very important bilateral documents.
Many South Africans visit Ukraine every year. What are your visa requirements and how easy is to obtain it?
Not many people travel to Ukraine from South Africa, about 1500 people per year. That is not because the visa procedure is complicated. I would say it is about the same as travelling to any other European country, where you have to indicate why you are visiting, whether you are a tourist, whether you’re private or a businessman. Of course, you have to be insured, and you must have assets to visit Ukraine.
It is quite budget-friendly, many South Africans can really afford it. This year, the Ukrainian side initiated the abolishment of a visa between Ukraine and South Africa. It is quite a long and complicated process but I think that at the end of the day we will be at the stage where we can travel between countries without visas.
Can you name some of the main tourist attractions that your country offers to visitors from the rest of the globe?
Both countries are similar for tourists in that they offer different attractions for both active leisure and passive leisure. We have beautiful seashores, mountains, nature reserves and the cities themselves.
Ukraine is rich in history – going back to the eighth century – and you can actually see and touch all this history. One can find medieval castles all around the country, there are at least 5000 to find in Ukraine. Most are still inhabited, and they have fascinating architecture. The cities are very different – Kiev is known as the kingdom of golden domes, because of the churches.
These are just some of the many beautiful places I would recommend to my South African friends.