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Children Question the Parliament

March 25, 2005, 0:00 1910 Author: Vyacheslav DARPINIANTS The Day, Ukrainian newspaper

NO DOUBLE VOTING

Without exaggeration, the January 22, 2002 event in the Ukrainian parliament could have moved even the most callous of hearts. Let’s make it clear — no landmark laws were adopted because the people’s deputies were in recess, gearing up for the forthcoming elections. Their seats in the session hall were taken by 130 orphans who live and study in 21 boarding schools all over Ukraine. Vice Speaker Stepan Havrysh who organized and chaired the event could not expect that children would treat playing the deputy game so seriously, something many of the grownup Solons definitely miss.

Mr. Havrysh organized the event according to parliament’s standing procedure: an opening address by a chairman, three minute speeches by orphans turned deputies, question time, and voting using the Verkhovna Rada electronic system. Everything was quite real and the vice speaker showed some good acting, making children officially address him only by name or title.

Treating children as equals, Stepan Havrysh informed them (in a mock report) that many of the laws that turned Ukraine into a European state have been enacted in the same hall. Lawmakers did much, he added, for the children not only to get an education, but to have a hope for a better future.

It is hard to say whether Stepan Havrysh realized that each of his words and smiles, as well as his wish to present Verkhovna Rada as parent for all children had a profound effect on his listeners aged 5 through 16. “I trust every word Stepan Havrysh says. This is my first time in Kyiv. I am happy that there are people who want to take care of us. I trust such people because I have no choice,” Volodymyr, 15, from the Tulchyn orphanage told The Day.

“Ukraine’s future will depend on how well we study and work. Let me tell you about our school,” Taya Koval began her speech and, overwhelmed with emotion, broke into tears on the rostrum. Surprisingly, none of the orphans present in the session hall had even a vague idea about the functions of parliament or laws enacted by Verkhovna Rada. Only the students of an elite Kyiv lyceum took the game in Verkhovna Rada with a pinch of commonsense salt: giving credit to Havrysh’s educational project, as many of the orphans came to the capital for the first time in their lives, they were quick to notice to us the propaganda edge of the whole event.

In general, the sitting went smoothly. Orphanage tutors excelled in exerting administrative pressure on the orphans turned deputies. In all fairness, Stepan Havrysh was almost stumped by many of the questions put by the children, as it is not easy to give answers to naive children’s questions like “Do you want to be president?” or “Do you also help deputies, the same as you help children?” and such. It is common knowledge that children are even more sensitive to insincerity than journalists. Faced with many awkward questions, Deputy Havrysh finally won the day, telling the children that any serious politician dreams of becoming president and help should be given not only to the weak but also to the strong. The strong may be in greater need of help, from the moral point of view, of course, he added. Hopefully, the warmth of the children’s hearts that will stay behind in the Verkhovna Rada session hall will help our Solons, one of the boarding school tutors said. While the ideas unanimously implanted and approved by children deputies in their laws On The Right of Children to Free Medical Treatment and Education, On State Subsidies (in the amount of a minister’s pay) For Orphans, and On the Love of Ukraine for Its Children will be picked up by deputies in their future legislative work.

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