Olena Sotnyk is a Ukrainian politician, lawyer, and human rights defender. As a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, she is a well-known legislator and public policy maker in areas such as rule of law, judicial system reform, anticorruption, and youth policy. Olena also represents Ukraine in the international arena—she is one of the leading the voices of Ukrainians against Russian aggression. She holds prominent positions in the working bodies of several international organizations, including the Council of Europe, and focuses on issues including Euro-integration of Ukraine and female empowerment. Prior to her political career, she was a lawyer and served on the board of The Ukrainian Bar Association and Aspen Ukraine Alumni. Olena has degrees pertaining to law, economy, and psychology.
I believe that politics is a mission if you really want to help people and career if you want just to help yourself and praise your ego.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m optimistic and a strong believer in the very the best part of humankind
You are a politician. Can you explain why you chose this career? Is it difficult being a woman in a man’s world?
You can choose your career, but you can’t choose what is your mission. I believe that politics is a mission if you really want to help people and career if you want just to help yourself and praise your ego. I’m not building a career in politics, I’m just trying to fight for something that I really believe in. That’s what makes a difference and helps me get confidence.
You are “fearless” in your current position. Help us walk in your shoes and understand where you get the strength from.
I think that my main strength is from the people and their stories: all over the world, there are thousands of them who are making differences with so much dignity and faith in a better future.
What excites you when you wake up every morning?
A new day is always about new opportunities and experiences, but what is more crucial is that if you have something important for yourself which brings you up and make your personal “weather forecast”.
Share some examples where you have made a difference in your country and community.
The most important story in my life is how and why I made the decision to enter politics. In 2013, thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets for four months to protest against a corrupt and despotic president. We were successful but we paid a brutal price where hundreds of innocent citizen lives were lost. And it was in that moment, the moment of choice for many people, including me – stay away from re-building the country or risk their careers and usual lifestyle and try to make changes, bring new perspectives. I was one of the latter. I resigned from my successful law career and went to Parliament. It was momentum, and I believe that the role of personalities was very important. We’ve tried to change the “business as usual” – but we weren’t a critical number in the Parliament, that’s why we couldn’t do enough to bring crucial changes. At the same time, we built the bridge to new opportunities and political mindset and I think created long-term grounds for important changes. My colleagues and I, young politicians, demonstrated the difference: in countries where politics is associated with corruption and fraud, we showed that politics can be different and it can be human centric and not populistic, at the same time.
What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
I think the main challenge is the lack of people’s trust in the state, governments and institutions in general, they undermine authorities more and more often. I still don’t have a secret pill to heal the deaths, but hope that appealing to the inherent goodness of humans can wake up positive feelings and hope.
In countries where politics is associated with corruption and fraud, we showed that politics can be different and it can be human-centric and not populistic, at the same time.
How do you manage self care? Do you believe in work-life balance or integration? What are some of the strategies you adopt?
I’m not the best role model for work-life balancing, but life becomes more easier and harmonious when you can find the work you really like.
Do you consider yourself a “Global Girl”? Why?
Yes, because I am always thinking that there’s nothing separate in this world, everything is interconnected and mutually influencing. The butterfly effect is always there.
What is the advice you would give your 16-year-old self?
To learn how to communicate things better and build strong and reliable relations, and not spend time on those who don’t appreciate you and value as you are.
What are three values you think are most important for a global leader?
Integrity, love for humans and dignity.
What’s next for Olena?