I can hardly imagine the cognitive dissonance of the Ukrainian officials who travelled to Davos for the World Economic Forum this week. Roaming the streets of this Alpine town and attending its parties while war rages at home must have felt odd. Yet most consider it a part of their job. I asked one Ukrainian MP, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze (pictured), whether she considered simply staying on foreign soil and her answer was clear: she will be returning to western Ukraine for a few days after Davos, before setting off on her next overseas trip.
The dignity, eloquence and patience of Ukraine’s representatives in the face of such a warped reality – and no small amount of personal hardship – is striking. Yet it’s worth the effort. Ukraine needs weapons and cash, and where better to meet the people who can help than at the World Economic Forum? Attendance also helps to control the narrative: the war would always have been a major topic here but having a voice on every pertinent panel has certainly helped Ukraine to dictate those discussions.
Where to next? Swiss president Ignazio Cassis – with Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined virtually – announced that the Ukraine Recovery Conference will take place in July in Lugano. Talk of reconstruction amid war is another thing that might require some cognitive dissonance but for Ukrainians it’s all connected. One architect we spoke to for a feature on rebuilding the nation for Monocle’s June issue stressed the importance of building temporary housing close to the ravaged cities that Russia has already vacated, so that residents can get on with their lives.
Ukraine needs support and it won’t let Western leaders talk about its future behind its back. This remains a confident nation that controls its own destiny. Ukrainians can travel, fight, live and rebuild all at the same time.