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'We are not afraid,' says director of Aspen Institute Kyiv

Yuliya Tychkivska, who has been displaced amid the Russian attacks, says her country is fighting for world freedom and democracy.
Yuliya Tychkivska, director of the Aspen Institute Kyiv, speaks at the Forbes 30/50 summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Yuliya Tychkivska, director of the Aspen Institute Kyiv, speaks at the Forbes 30/50 summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday.Colin Baldwin for Forbes

More than 1.7 million people have fled Ukraine amid Russia’s attack, including Yuliya Tychkivska. But don’t call her a refugee.

“I don’t consider myself a refugee,” the executive director for The Aspen Institute Kyiv, said at Forbes and Know Your Value’s 30/50 summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday. “I’m an ambassador of freedom.”

Tychkivska came to the United Arab Emirates for the summit for just 12 hours, flying in from Bucharest, Romania to plead for help and tell the audience what her country is going through. From Bucharest, she plans to take her three children – who are all under the age of 6 – to Poland until she can return Ukraine.

“This war is not just about Ukraine … We are not fighting just for Ukrainian independence,” said Tychkivska, whose husband stayed in the country to fight. “We are fighting for European peace, and we are fighting for world freedom. It’s not just about our country. It’s about good, democratic values …We are not afraid,” she told the audience, which included generations of women from both Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list and Forbes and Know Your Value’s “50 Over 50” list, which celebrates age-defying leaders and entrepreneurs.“

Tychkivska added, “Millions of people in Ukraine, people like you, people who are internationally connected…educated, entrepreneurs…they’re sleeping in shelters every night…I would like all of you to understand that you could live in a European city, in Kyiv, in the city center, in the heart of Europe and the next day your city could be bombed.”

She asked the world to show their support through action, calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO has so far rejected, stricter sanctions on Russian elites and more humanitarian aid to help Ukrainians flee.

Despite the escalating turmoil, Tychkivska said she has hope.

“I’m teaching my kids that values are not declarations… Values are your actions,” she said. “I don’t feel like a victim…I’m so sure we will win, and the truth will prevail. We will rebuild our country.”