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Chernovetskiy interviewed by Segodnya

Your birthday parties are second to none in terms of ingenuity and scale, usually your guests have lasting memories about them. With whom are you going to celebrate this year?

– Today, the focus of my “ingenuity and scale” is not my birthday party, but rather business and philanthropy. That’s where the scale is… You wouldn’t believe! Come to talk about it – I’ll be happy to provide more details. Besides, this won’t even be my anniversary. And I get tired from large-scale events. I’ve never liked them. Indeed, my jubilee was quite epic, but there were only my true friends: not a single member of parliament, or a minister, none of the so-called high society. But there is a tradition, and you have to respect it. I turned 60, so I had a grand jubilee party! And I had a long and interesting life! There’s a lot of fuss and noise – mostly my guests had a good time, not me…

– Are you going to invite your children and grandchildren?

– I have to disappoint you but I’m not going to throw a party. Obviously, we will have a nice evening get-together in a restaurant with romantic atmosphere. My wife and I (her birthday is on November 23, so wish her all the best just like I do now). That’s it! Nobody else is coming. It will be a classy restaurant with candles, soft background music and a very positive ambience. During the whole evening, I will be telling Elena the story of my life. By the way, I am a very good story teller! I had so had many interesting and exciting things happening in my life. Miracles… I’ve met with so many kind and beautiful people! And so many stories! Of course, I will mention my father and mother, I will tell their love story, too. There will be many phone calls. But I don’t want to answer them… except for those from my children, of course.

– Where are you going to celebrate?

– I won’t tell you. Because you will come and bring other journalists, and I do not expect any guests! It would kill the romance…

What kind of gifts would you like to get from your wife and children?

– The most precious gifts: the words of love and respect! I can get myself any gifts. After all, is there anything that would surprise me? I can hardly imagine… And by the way, for me giving gifts is more satisfying than receiving them.

What are you up to these days? Where do you live – what country, city? How often do you come to Ukraine?

– I’m into business and philanthropy now. And on a very large scale! Every day, I review a few new proposals for my investment company. There are great ideas and great people who want to achieve success in business. And I have money to support talents, create new opportunities for those who want to realise their potential. I can see huge prospects for them and for myself… It’s breathtaking…

I expand my charity projects. Each day it becomes more important to me! I provide food for the homeless and the elderly in Kiev, which is 1,500 meals a day at the moment. We bought three new foreign-made vans which deliver food to 30 locations in different parts of Kiev. Now we are getting ready for the winter season, so people do not suffer from cold. By the way, these people do not vote, and I’ve never asked anything from them! Especially now! I said goodbye to politics forever!

I have started a charity foundation in Georgia. Four months ago, I launched a new programme: I hired nurses for three hundred bedridden elderly people who have nobody to look after them, give them their medicines, food, do basic medical procedures. Once I gain experience, I will set up the same thing in Kiev. I enjoy doing it! I feel the importance of this cause, I want to engage business people and those who simply cannot turn a blind eye on the misfortunes of others; I want to make these projects the most ambitious initiative in the former Soviet Union.

I can’t tell you what country I am staying now, as I don’t want any visits… But thanks to modern technology I can keep abreast of developments here. And I do come to Ukraine quite often to make sure my investment company operates as it should.

– How often do you come to Israel? It’s unstable there again… Do you plan selling your apartment there?

– I’m not selling or buying anything. I’ve never known how to do it! I tried but it didn’t work out for me.

I often come to Israel, and I do hope the situation there will stabilise. According to the Bible, this is the chosen country. Who could harm it? Honestly, I do love this country. And besides, I’m half Jewish (on my father’s side). And I’m proud of it. My father was a war hero (for six years fought for his country), but when I was a child he often told me that I couldn’t tell anyone he was Jewish. That was how things were back then. After the war, he couldn’t find a decent job in Kharkov, so he had to leave the family and join the Virgin Lands campaign. He got married there… and I was left without a father. If only they knew my father was Jewish, I would have never been able to get the positions I held at the prosecutor’s office and at the Kiev State University in the Soviet time. When I was trying to get a job at the university I was invited for an interview in the Party’s Central Committee with a very important executive, the head of science section. I was recommended by my friend, instructor of the Central Committee, who was also a big shot. So after I talked to that man, that friend of mine entered his office. Through a close door I could hear them talking. “He is Jewish.” – “How comes?” And then he started his “lecture”… Because, he said, the last names of the Jews are derived from the names of the cities where they come from: Vinnitsky, Chernigovsky, Borispolsky, Chernovitsky, etc. He also said that Jewish last names often come from the names of animals. Quite a revelation it was for me. Note that this was a very high-ranking official talking, who was in charge of all higher education in Ukraine. Fortunately, my last name had “e” instead of “i” (Chernovetskiy, not Chernovitskiy) – otherwise I wouldn’t have got the job of deputy vice-principal of the Kiev State University. So it was an oversight of the anti-Semite apparatchik. His lecture is a lifetime memory! But I must say that in the majority of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party weren’t anti-Semites…

On the internet people are talking about your house being on sale for $20 million – the famous house in Koncha Zaspa, where you used to meet with journalists. Back in the summer, you mentioned in an interview to our newspaper that you lived in that house. Are you really selling your house?

– My house is famous only because I’m famous and attract the interest of people in Ukraine! But as you could see there is nothing special about that house. It is quite frugal compared with houses of the Ukrainian nouveau riche and politicians. About 20 acres of land. I would even say it is rather unremarkable. I never had enough time to build a house I always wanted and dreamed about. I’ve been working around-the-clock… I was in big business, then I got into politics. I have accomplished everything! Except for building the house I wanted. This house is not worth even a tenth of the amount that those crooked journalists on Ukrainian TV channels claim it costs. The sum they mentioned – $20 million – is absurd. Wake up, guys! By the way, should somebody wish to buy the house for at least half of that price, I’ll be glad to sell! I’ll give half of that money to the journalist who wrote this story, and donate the rest to charity. By the way, I’m not holding a grudge against those storytellers. The channel owner told them they can only pick on me of all the big politicians and businessmen. And the audience craves something spicy – a bog scoop with the mayor involved! Millions and millions! And that’s in dollars! One day he sells something, the next day he buys something really expensive abroad! First there was some real estate abroad which ostensibly cost a fortune, then they started to gossip about my personal life. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to discuss this anymore. Besides, my birthday is approaching… During the party I will remember nothing but good things. And so many good things happened to me, and I’ve met so many nice people whose kindness and generosity are beyond words. It is a pity that many of them have passed away. But that’s a different topic and different stories… And these stories are always with me, and I always share them with my loved ones! I could share them with your readers, too. You won’t be disappointed!


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