RD: Ukraine has now been in war for a couple of months. Much has already been written about it. How long have you been familiar with Ukraine?
Salvatore Giacomuzzi: I have known Ukraine since 2005. I came there rather by chance. A friend invited me to go with her.
RD: What was your very first impression?
Salvatore Giacomuzzi: We arrived in Lviv by plane. It was still at the old military airfield. Everything was still very much shaped by the former Soviet Union. But there was a very positive atmosphere. I was giving lessons in psychotherapy at the time. People came from all over the country. They came from all around Ukraine and in some cases travelled for several days to attend the courses. There was a real spirit of change.
RD: Ukraine has an old Austrian history.
Salvatore Giacomuzzi: That’s right. The Ukrainians, especially Lviv, were under a very strong Austrian influence. People were particularly proud of the Austrian high schools. Martin Buber also went to the Gymnasium there. So, as Austrians, one already had a very positive reputation because of its history.
RD: How did you experience the people.
Salvatore Giacomuzzi: It was wonderful. They were and are open-minded, modern, pro-European, freedom-loving, funny and friendly. They have a great sense of humour and look at themselves very thoughtfully. There was already a strong desire to move closer to Europe at that time.
RD: You went there again and again.
Salvatore Giacomuzzi: Exactly. In the following years I spent more and more time in Ukraine. I got to know the country and its people very well. Many of the places you see in the News today I have travelled to by myself. Finally, I started teaching at several Ukrainian universities and became a professor there. It was always a very nice feeling to be able to contribute something positive to the country.
RD: So you also supervised scientific projects there?
Salvatore Giacomuzzi: That’s right. With time and the affiliation to the university, academic tasks were also assigned. I helped with the development of the UPU (UPU – Ukrainian Psychotherapy University – УПУ) and the establishment of a centre for behavioural economics. We also started collaborating with European industrial partners in the last few years and had some very nice projects.