We're stronger together: Volunteer Yulia Troyan on psychological connection to the military
The military volunteer and the specialist in technical assistance Yulia Troyan said about Open Media Ukraine, where she works, and about the help of the army.
Andriy Kulykov: Hello and welcome to the podcast from Hromadske Radio. This is the English language podcast called Ukraine Calling, and today’s guest is actually one of the voices that you may hear or at least imagine when you hear the word «Ukraine». She is Yulia Troyan, she is a military volunteer since 2014, and she is also a specialist in technical assistance.
But why is she one of the voices? Because she also is a translator for the public organisation, or non-governmental organisation called Open Media Ukraine, founded by Dmytro Gutman, who is a battlefield medic and I would say, a very talented and insistent video blogger. So, let’s start first from this Open Media Ukraine and what do you do there?
Yulia Troyan: Well basically, that’s an honour for me to contribute to such a lovely and honorous initiative of our veterans. The founders of this organisation are mostly either veterans or people from Ukraine’s Armed Forces or Maidan, practically all of them are deployed in action as of the moment. So, they count on the support of volunteers to cover up their back and the organisation is aimed to sustain and support the independence during the martial law in Ukraine. It is very important to give them a say, to give them a voice. Basically, it unites MoJo, the so-called «MoJo» journalists, people who are using more authentic knowledge to express their view and their author’s position on the activities, on the current developments and on the most recent news from the grassroots. The organisation was founded by a bunch of patriots, most of them MoJo journalists including Mr. Zolkin, Mr. Gutman, and other colleagues whom you may see and reach out to via the website, omu.org.ua. They provide most recent and up-to-date news and fresh facts, like freshly-baked stories from the grassroots. That’s very important because all of the traditional media have some time lag and MoJo is a tool that provides the most fresh and up-to-date information which is very important in the current situation.
Andriy Kulykov: But when I talked to Dmytro he told me that understanding these security requirements, he and his colleagues may also wait for some time with publishing some news.
Yulia Troyan: That’s so true, but it depends on the news actually. This is true if you have clear and strict regulations regarding what can be discussed, what cannot be discussed, and that’s applicable mostly to the conflict zones, to the line of active warfare. Regarding other relevant news or news that is allowed to be published, there is no limitation to that. So, they are freshly baked.
You may also listen and read: 2022 helped Ukrainians to overcome the inferiority complex — Volodymyr Yermolenko
Andriy Kulykov: Why do they feel that they have to have a media platform of their own? I have talked about this with Dmytro, but we talked in Ukrainian, so, please be a good interpreter and explain to us.
Yulia Troyan: Well, to the best of my knowledge, that’s my humble opinion, but from what I know that’s a pathway. Traditional media always have editorial policy. And the aim of the OMU organisation, Open Media Ukraine, is to provide unbiased views, not editing their contributions and their contributors in any way. It’s about what the person thinks, what the person believes and what the person is committed to. And that’s actually the core of this organisation: you get a live opinion from the person in place there, and you get, let’s say, the most unedited information you possibly can.
Andriy Kulykov: Yulia Troyan, a military volunteer from 2014 and a specialist in technical assistance is our interlocutor in Ukraine Calling, the English-language podcast from Hromadske Radio. But she is also a skilled interpreter, simultaneous interpreter at that, and of course because she translates for the Open Media Ukraine she’s a translator as well. To which extent do you interfere with the material? Not as an editor but as a translator.
Yulia Troyan: Well, basically that’s my volunteer contribution because we have to support our defenders and that’s what I can do and what I was trained to do though I do not always do that now because I had shifted a bit from this direction. But if you cover any piece of information and if you translate it or interpret it, a sign of a good interpreter or translator is that you don’t alter it. So, the reader or listener should perceive it as if pronounced in their own language and that’s what I try to do, I’m trying to do my best in that.
Andriy Kulykov: You say readers or listeners, what about viewers?
Yulia Troyan: Yes, actually the OMU, the Open Media Ukraine website has a lot of video content because most of the contributors are also video bloggers and it’s a good way to convey information. We are covering some of the videos with interpretation but not all of them. Mr. Zolkin has some of his videos interpreted, and some other colleagues, but we are expanding that feature, we are hoping to cover it 100 percent, you know, put in some time and I hope we will be able to cover the entirety of all the videos on the website.
Andriy Kulykov: Do you dub the videos or do you subtitle them?
Yulia Troyan: It depends on the video itself. Dubbing was the first option we tried to use and subtitling is a faster option so sometimes we opt for that because it delivers the content quicker to the audience.
Andriy Kulykov: Is it your initiative or did Dmytro ask you to do this for the Open Media Ukraine?
Yulia Troyan: I think it was еру initiative of Dmytro and the other members, and also of Anatoly Gunkov, the chief editor of the Open Media Ukraine website, and we are always happy to help so if there is anything we are always like who is covering that? Me! That’s our approach.
Andriy Kulykov: But when you say we, whom do you mean beside yourself?
Yulia Troyan: Well there are other colleagues, also colleagues who are residing abroad who are supporting this as volunteers. Of course, they are doing it to the extent that they can, to the extent that they have the ability to be involved because everybody has their family obligations and so on, but the thing is, it’s a collective effort and the product which we receive is quite a quality one, and I hope it’s going to be better of course.
Andriy Kulykov: Wow.
Yulia Troyan: There’s no limit on perfection.
Andriy Kulykov: Yes, no means of avoiding this. How often do you receive feedback from abroad? Or from Ukraine, but from those people who prefer to read or listen in English?
Yulia Troyan: Well, quite frequently, and they want more, they always want more. They sometime like to see something freshly baked in Ukrainian and they use Google Translate and they are asking, when are you going to deliver the translation? Therefore we are sourcing all kinds of technical assistance. The project itself was founded as part of technical assistance and it was contributed to by several donors, so we are hoping to continue receiving technical assistance. We’re bidding heavily on other opportunities and we would be happy to connect to donors and other media organisations to do like consortium bidding, to cover a bigger scope because everybody’s now interested in Ukraine, we’re on the cutting edge, and that’s basically what the world would like to listen to and to hear from and the more the better. So we are hoping to get a bigger, let’s say, coverage.
Andriy Kulykov: Before we switch to some other very important things that you do, may we review a sort of a personal information about our pre-recording conversation.
Yulia Troyan: Yes, for sure, please feel free.
Andriy Kulykov: When we talked with Yulia for the first time, she said, yes, I am an interpreter, I will say qualified interpreter but obviously she is too modest, and she said: «I’m going to enjoy this for the rest of two or three years that we as interpreters have left before us». Why did you say that?
Yulia Troyan: Aactually, we’ve entered the phase, I mean everybody in this interpretation and translation field: a very new and interesting phase, though challenging, of human-machine interface in interpretation. And from my background, when I was very young, I was starting to provide simultaneous interpretation at high-level events. It was very challenging because you only had paper sources and whatever the clients preferred to share with you. So, you had a paper dictionary and that’s it. And simultaneous interpretation, it’s about milliseconds. You decide on the spot how to enter in the flow of your thinking, enter in the flow of your speech to cover what the speaker has said. And now we have all those lovely instruments like, for example, digital dictionaries and digital translation platforms and we are seeing the emergence of other platforms, like for example the GPT Chat and also Zoom that we’re using now, it has a function of subtitles and you can also see them translated, so we are now talking in- speaking in English for example, but somebody can view it in Chinese, or French, or German, in the language they’re more comfortable with.
Andriy Kulykov: Yes of course, but yesterday I was watching one of the films made recently in Ukraine and I wasn’t aware that it was not subtitled by the authors but this was an automated translation, and of course, when one of the speakers mentioned Ivan Franko, it was translates as Frank. So, I think that there still will be place for people like us in the future. Anyway, you say when you were very young, I don’t know what you mean by very young, but certainly in 2014 you were nine years younger than now-
Yulia Troyan: Definitely!
Andriy Kulykov: Harking back to this year, what made you become a military volunteer? And what is actually meant by this, because different people may perceive this in different ways. Please explain.
Yulia Troyan: Well it’s an obligation, it’s an honour to defend your country and it’s an honour to support the defenders of your country, and it’s not an option or a choice, it’s something when your country is attacked, it’s something you just have to do, that’s right thing to do, and that’s the only right thing to do. Whatever you have nagging you, you have to set a little bit aside. Sure, you should care about your job and your family and things like that, but nothing of that will sustain if you don’t defend your country.
Andriy Kulykov: What sort of job did you have then?
Yulia Troyan: Basically, the same job. I was involved in consulting in technical assistance contract. I did some interpretation as well, so it helped me a bit because I was already aware of things like technical aspects and medical aspects like tourniquets, like IFAK. I had some glimpse on that, and that helped me a bit.
Andriy Kulykov: What were your immediate duties as a military volunteer, or should I say, your self-appointed duties?
Yulia Troyan: Well, it’s not self-appointed. You are committing to subordination of some military unit and the thing is that you have a commander, and the commander is requesting something and you tell them either it’s feasible, or feasible in the, let’s say, midterm perspective, or not feasible at all. But this was not considered as option: we were trying to do it either very soon, or in the midterm perspective. So if they wanted something like from the impossible, I’d ask a military volunteer and they were bringing it.
Andriy Kulykov: Hearing that you speak English so well, I presume that in the course of your duties as a military volunteer, you meet some foreigners as well, and what are the things that strike you most in those people and what is your presumption that they are impressed with you the most?
Yulia Troyan: Well I cannot speak for them.
Andriy Kulykov: I say presumption.
Yulia Troyan: Okay, okay. Basically, they’re just the same as our guys. So I mean, a lot of it, it was different in 2014, 2015, and ubtil 2018. There were not so many foreign weapons. But starting from February last year, a lot of people felt inclined and a lot of people felt obligated to go and at least train our soldiers, our defenders, because they were aware that a lot of them, they were just patriots, they did not have any military training at all. So anyone with a military background was warmly welcomed to provide training. And they are pretty active, so the whole world supports Ukraine. And it’s not just like Canada, or the United States, or Great Britain, or France, or Portugal, or Finland or Sweden, the countries that are here and sort of interested and worried about the turmoil that is ongoing at the moment. But a lot of quite unexpected countries, too, like Australia, New Zealand, like South American countries. You would never tell the first time you see the person, if they do not speak at you, you would never tell where they’re from. There can be a lot of options. Even Israel has now joined us, so we’re very grateful for that.
Andriy Kulykov: This list of countries leads me to a side question. What was the most unexpected English accent or accent in English that you met in the course of your duties as a military volunteer, not as an interpreter?
Yulia Troyan: Well, they mostly speak very good English, at least professionally. I mean, it’s not about like Keats or Edgar Poe, or any kind of classic English, but they’re very good at the terminology. They’re very fluent in their conversations. They get to get through with our guys very well. So I hope more trainers are going to come to support us. And judging from what is going on, judging from what assistance is programmed and planned, definitely we’re going to receive more trainers and more support, and advisory personnel.
You may also listen and read: «Education, mental health, safety, heritage» — Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi about how UNESCO helps Ukraine
Andriy Kulykov: Yulia Troyan, who is a specialist in technical assistance, who is a military volunteer since 2014 and who is a skilled interpreter/translator, is our interviewee in this installment of Ukraine Calling, the English Language Podcast on Hromadske Radio. Remembering 2014 and the month of February last year, 2022, there’s of course quite a difference in the perception in the world of these years and of the dangers that arose. What do you think was different from 2014 in 2022, that the reaction was so larger in scope?
Yulia Troyan: Do you mean different for us or for the rest of the world?
Andriy Kulykov: For the rest of the world.
Yulia Troyan: That’s a good question. I think that’s something they banged their heads once against and then it took some time to realize the scale and the scope of the danger they’re facing. It’s not that they became suddenly aware, they discovered that it’s not about Ukraine as such or a piece of Ukraine, like Crimea or the military base which Crimea is. But it’s about the security of not only the entire region, but the whole world and the possibility of many, many negative scenarios. The probability of those negative scenarios in case of non-interference of other countries in the form of support or arms or personnel, it was quite high. And I guess there are people who have quite a good background and there are think tanks who are calculating possible scenarios. So I’m sure everybody knows of them. I will not list them at the moment, but they’re working, and there are so-called military games, if you have heard of this. They have calculated all those scenarios and they suddenly realized that they are in immediate danger. And that’s how they started to support Ukraine because they suddenly felt they’re part of it, you know? In 2014, it was pretty much the same for us. But it was like you had a very, let’s say, dubious situation when there was a catastrophe in your world. And there was this other, peaceful, world where people just lived happily with their lives and pursued oblivious everyday matters. And it was not even covered in their media, which brings us back to the question of the importance of unbiased information and unbiased media. And of first-hand information, because we didn’t have organizations like Open Media Ukraine at that particular moment. We only had, let’s say, traditional media.
Kulykov: Oh, well, this is not exactly true. But of course, you cannot and I cannot know all the media that we had at that time. For instance, Open Media Ukraine was a very pleasant and very useful discovery for me a couple of weeks or a month or so ago. Although I heard of Dmytro Gutman as a very interesting video blogger and a very dedicated battlefield medic, but I was not aware of the platform that he and his friends have founded.
Yulia Troyan: It’s not just Dmytro Gutman. There are lots of colleagues like Yuriy Butusov, and Anatoli Gunkov, and Leonid Maslov, and Leonid Dostalsky. They’re quite famous on the Facebook and within the blogger and patriot community. It’s not a one-person show. Though Dmytro is one of the most famous ones, there is a bunch of different people. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Everybody has a piece of truth. And when you get them together, you get a bigger truth, which provides more information.
Andriy Kulykov: I mentioned Dmytro several times because first of all, he made quite an impression on me first when I saw his video blogs, and then when we talked. And I recommend those of our listeners who understand Ukrainian to find our conversation on Hromadske.radio. After you have listened to this English language podcast with Yulia Troyan, listen to Dmytro himself. So far what I hear from Yulia only corroborates what Dmytro has said. So you may actually train your Ukrainian, comparing your notes and what you hear from Yulia and what you will hear from Dmytro in this recording. But coming back to us and our reaction I think that you remember how since 2017, probably 2018 even the domestic interest, even the domestic concern for what was happening in the country started to go down and one of the phrases that we used even in Ukraine was «the war in the East of Ukraine». I think that by saying this we tried to distance ourselves from the imminent and present danger, or to distance the danger from ourselves. And what has worried me for a couple of months already is that now I seemed to observe the same trend in our internal mood, before the Russians started again this wave of missile attacks on major Ukrainian cities. Yes, there is an awareness of the war but it’s again somewhere there in the East and in the South. How do you view this situation?
Yulia Troyan: You’re so right. It’s called «the Ukraine fatigue» for our Western partners because they have their own problems to attend to and they’re also a bit distracted and they’re calling it «the Ukraine conflict». But from our perspective, the perspective inside Ukraine, the trend is a bit less than in the previous years. In 2016, 2017 it was like «war in the East of Ukraine» and that was coined by some very influential people. People investing a lot of money in this concept because it was not an accident, let’s say. Every volunteer or people’s movement, it lasts like three months, and then, when people get exhausted, they just tend to switch to more immediate needs which are closer to themselves. These days it’s a bit different because Russia cannot let us alone, they’re keeping their bombing activities up and their other terrorist activities up, and that keeps everybody alert. But what I would think is an immediate need at this moment is to support those people who are defending us. It’s a very bad situation when people come back from the frontline and find themselves in a totally ignorant environment – and that refers both to their family, to their neighbors, and to the neighborhood, to their city or region in general. This creates a disruption of the world which is very traumatic for them. It’s more traumatic than seeing somebody killed in front of your eyes at the frontline because there, this is normal. You perceive it as a normal thing. You are at war. The enemy is shelling. Like they are the bastards and somebody from your kin is killed: Okay, nothing doing, you couldn’t help it, that’s it. We go on and we defend. But when you go back and you can see the attitude, like «we never sent you there», that’s breaking your mind. That’s breaking your psychic capacities. And you just break down and you could resort to some compensating behaviors like violence, or drinking, or other things we would prefer to avoid.
So the most important thing is psychological connection to combatants and also military volunteers, because they also have some kind of traumatic experience which would be good to compensate for, wherever they are based initially, like their home or their home town. And then it’s kind of «We’re stronger together». That’s the motto of the European Union. And that’s true. We’re stronger together. So when a person comes and they see that they are supported, that they’re in a friendly environment, that their values are shared, that if they have any sudden immediate needs, then everybody is there to help them, then they’re good. They are balanced. Their psychic abilities are not hurt in any way. And if anything, if they have any problem, they’re going to come to you. And the problem can be resolved. Anything can be resolved if we’re together.
You may also listen and read: «Everybody in this country and beyond its borders are involved in this war» — Canadian lawyer and soldier in Ukraine’s territorial defense Daniel Bilak
Andriy Kulykov: Yulia, several times you have said our defenders, and I appreciate this, but how acutely you realize that you are a defender as well. And for instance, you are my defender, although we came to know each other probably a week ago. But for many, many years, you’ve been my defender also.
Yulia Troyan: That’s an honor and an obligation.
Andriy Kulykov: I would talk to Yulia Troyan for many, many minutes or probably even hours more, but serious research shows that a podcast should have its limit. This is why we are finishing this conversation. However, before I will make the final announcement, what do you want to tell those who are listening, apart from what you have already said?
Yulia Troyan: Well, I would appreciate if we get together all the organizations who are covering the information front. Major or smaller international media organizations, which would be happy to connect with Open Media Ukraine to form alliances and to withstand the psychological warfare and the informational warfare, which is no less important than the actual combat, maybe even more. So that we could put our heads together and we could at least cover this front with, let’s say, an iron curtain from our enemy.
Andriy Kulykov: Thank you very much. Yulia Troyan was our interviewee in this installment of Ukraine Calling the English Language podcast from Hromadske Radio. And she is a skilled interpreter; she is a selfless military volunteer. And she is presumably a very good specialist in technical assistance. Thank you very much. Keep up the good work.
Transcribed by Caitilín O’Hare and Leah Wagner
This podcast is produced within the project «EU Emergency Support 4 Civil Society», implemented by ISAR Ednannia with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Hromadske radio and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.