Roland Franko: the world must get to know Ukraine!

He was born in Lviv, studied in Kyiv, worked in the UK. He changed his place of residence (through the forced eviction of his family from Lviv), he was forced to become a technician, however, he did not cease to be a Ukrainian and praise the greatness of his grandfather. Roland Franko not only managed to master new environment, but also created the Ivan Franko International Fund. Ukrinform journalists had a talk with Ivan Franko’s grandson about the fund projects and challenges facing the popularizer of creative heritage of Ivan Franko.

– The idea of ​​the Fund creation – how did it arise and how much time and resources it took to launch it?

-I have worked my whole life to make the Ukrainians get to know the greatness of Ivan Franko, so that they did not consider him to be just the Great Stonemason, because he was the mind and the heart of our people, he is ahead of us today and opens our eyes to our present life. I dreamed that a full-scale monument to Ivan Franko was erected in Kyiv, but, that turned out to be not so easy. My colleagues convinced me that in my grandfather’s memory, I have to do something greater and more fundamental than a monument, and then I came up with the idea of ​​creating the Ivan Franko International Fund. We established the fund in June 2015, whose main activity is aimed at disseminating positive information about Ukraine in the world and creating a positive image of Ukraine beyond its borders, as well as promotion and popularization of Ivan Franko’s scientific and creative work.

Currently our Ivan Franko Fund runs four projects. Last year we launched the All-Ukrainian Student Literary and Artistic Contest “Stezhkamy Kameniara” (Along the Stonemason’s Tracks) for children, the Ivan Franko Apartment-Museum was opened in Kyiv in 2016, we hold an exhibition of paintings by Taras Franko (my father), and the most important project is the Ivan Franko International Prize. In addition, the fund advises the creative team that shoots the feature film Zakhar Berkut!

– That is, you started this project with your friends, like-minded people, with those who, in fact, shared your interests and united…

– Actually, yes. I am a co-founder and a chair of the board of the fund. You know that I am already 86, so all the current work is carried out by the Fund’s management. My friends, with whom we decided to create this organization, Ihor Kurus and Olha Nyzhnyk, assumed responsibility and carry out the major part of the work. Individual people run other projects. However, we are all inspired by one idea and do that all for the sake of Franko and for the sake of Ukraine.

Please, tell me more about the Prize.

– Ivan Franko International Prize was founded on the model of Nobel Prize. The fact is that in 1916, my grandfather applied for this honorary scientific award, but his death did not allow him to get it. Therefore, we, in order to pay tribute to Ivan Franko, are looking up to Nobel. However, like Franko himself, the prize in his name is aimed at humanitaristics. The Ivan Franko Prize is awarded in two nominations: “For Significant Achievements in the Field of Ukrainian Studies” and “For Significant Achievements in the Field of Social and Human Sciences”.

Are there winners already?

– Yes, we already have five winners of the Prize. Our first winner in 2016 was His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar, a Major Archbishop-emeritus, former head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, won with his monograph “Andrey Sheptytsky, Metropolitan of the Galicia (1901-1944), a Precursor of Ecumenism”. There were two winners in 2017. Professor of the Institute of Slavic Studies at the University of Vienna, Michael Moser, won in the nomination “for significant advances (achievements) in the field of Ukrainian studies” with his monograph «New Contributions to the History of the Ukrainian Language”, and an honored professor of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, academic Oleh Shabliy, won in the nomination “for significant advances (achievements) in the field of social and human sciences” with his scientific work “Social Geography” in 2 volumes. This year, on June 22, during the meeting of the international jury at the University of Vienna (Austria), we learned the names of this year’s winners. This is a Finnish professor Johannes Remy from the University of Helsinki and the work about Franko by the Doctor of Philology Yaroslava Melnyk, who works at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

This is really an international prize, because the winners are foreigners. What is the reward for their work?

– This prize is international not only because the winners are professors from other countries. We receive scientific works from different countries annually. This means that the prize named after my grandfather is gaining recognition in the world, and the scientific world will get to know Ukraine on the positive side. In addition, an international jury, sitting annually at the University of Vienna (where Ivan Franko defended his doctoral dissertation), consists of 12 members. Each year 12 doctors of sciences from different countries of the world elect the winners. The geography of expert representation is also wide, for example 49 scholars from 11 countries around the globe, including from Columbia University in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Israel, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovakia, were presented at the expert council this year.

As for the reward, the solemn ceremony of awarding the Ivan Franko International Prize is held annually in the city of Drohobych on August 27, on Ivan Franko’s day of birth. Winners in each of the nominations receive a monetary award and a golden sign. The prize fund constituted UAH 500 thousandin 2016 and 2017.

– Does the state help you to implement such a grand project?

– There are Ivan Franko International Fund and Ivan Franko Prize. We do not have any state support. It is good that they do not interfere (laughs – Ed.). We cover all the expenses and the prize fund content mostly at our own expense, but we also have financial support from sponsors and “friends” of the Fund. We can safely say that the prize is completely independent and the selection criteria are completely objective, and the winners of the prize are uncontested.

– Why do you look up to the Nobel Prize?

– Firstly, Ivan Franko was the first Ukrainian contender for the Nobel Prize. I have already spoken about this. Secondly, the Nobel Prize is the most desired scholarly prize of the world. We want the Ivan Franko International Prize to gain the same popularity among humanitarian scientists. Thirdly, we are doing everything to ensure that the evaluation of the works of scientists, which are submitted for the Prize,was objective! We are for honesty and transparency in the selection of laureates. Certainly, we still need to grow to the Nobel money reward, but I hope that in the near future we will all be able to raise the prize fund and encourage more scientists from Ukraine and the world to participate in the prize. Today, we are doing our best to show the world an intellectual and smart Ukraine.

– What are your plans till the end of the year? Perhaps there are certain points that are important to implement?

– At the moment we are working on the arrangement of the third ceremony of awarding prizewinners. It will be held in Drohobych on August 27. Together with the Drohobych City Council, the Lviv Regional State Administration and the Ivan Franko Drohobych State Pedagogical University we are working to ensure that the winners of the prize are honored at the highest level. Activity of the Ivan Franko Fund does not stop there. We continue to make excursions to the Ivan Franko’s family apartment museum in Kyiv, where archival documents,photographs from the family archiveare preserved. We plan to announce the All-Ukrainian Contest for Schoolchildren “Stezhkamy Kameniara” in December and we are working on the release of the catalog of my father’s paintings.

– What advice could you give to those who want to join your initiative?

– We need Ivan Franko today, because his wise word can influence a person, make him/her better and understand his/her purpose in a century. Ivan Franko was, is and will forever remain the genius of Ukrainian national-cultural self-awareness. Do not forget his words: “We have to learn to feel ourselves Ukrainians – not Galician, not Bukovynian Ukrainians, but Ukrainians without official borders” – because they are still relevant. We invite everyone to join our work.


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