The Right to Happiness

To celebrate World Children’s Day (20 November 20), the United Nations Children’s Fund and Cosmopolitan magazine interviewed Ukrainian celebrities about their childhood, generational differences, and changes in how children's rights are understood

UNICEF
29 November 2019

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most important document to protect children and their rights. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 30 years ago. The document has 54 articles that explicate various rights that young people have, including civil, political, social and cultural rights. All children have equal rights, regardless of their nationality, gender, religion or other characteristics. 

 

Anita Lutsenko, fitness coach, TV hostess

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UNICEF

My most vivid childhood memories are about our family trips to the Crimea. Each year from when I was 4 until I was 16 years old, my parents and I would go to the seaside. It was a total thrill: swimming in the sea, cooking on the fire, reading, hiking in the mountains, and eating chebureki [deep fried turnovers] with “Korean carrot” salad.

When I was a child, I worried that all the girls had boyfriends except me. But when my mum asked me “Who would you date if you had to chose one of your friends’ boyfriends?”, I answered: “No one! They are all terrible.”

The main challenges in my childhood were related to sport and relationships with my athlete girlfriends. I learned how not to offend others and how to not be offended myself.

Kids today have hard times, as their parents are attached to their phones all the time and do not show any interest in life. Children’s lives are way more interesting – the whole world is in front of them, so beautiful and so big. And today children enjoy more rights. But, unfortunately, some parents raise their hands against little ones or insult them. Society should protect children in such situations. For me, violence against a child is like the violence a man (a stronger one) perpetrates against a woman (a weaker one).

My husband and I have a rule that our child should feel our love and protection.

I wish for the current generation of children to be united and have respect for each other. I hope that their lives will not be full of competition, but rather support. Let it be full of understanding, as each person is unique and instead of judging others we would be better to work on our own development.

 

Sergiy Babkin, artist, musician, actor

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UNICEF

I loved my childhood and have the warmest memories of it. Back then, I was always looking for something, and I always found something, and dragged it home with me [laughs]. These adventures took me everywhere: to the ravine behind the house, to a construction site, rubbish tips, or abandoned houses in Kharkiv. My friends and I made everything we wanted to play with by hand. It was a great time!

I was a fairly well-behaved boy and tried to do everything my parents asked me diligently. I took part in lots of different extracurricular activities and had no time to get bored. The only thing I worried about was not getting into some kind of trouble, like falling or getting hurt. There was only one incident I was worried about: once my brother and I were caught at a construction site. The workers threatened to report us to the police! At that moment I was very scared of how parents would react . I was terrified by the fact that they could find out about everything. I still remember that moment.

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Our children have more things we did not have and could not even think of. Today, they have all sorts of gadgets, electronic devices, and everything is different. But who said that everything should be exactly the same? Then things would be identical, everyone would be doing the same thing, and it would be boring. I like what our children have. I could have defended my childhood and say “everything was cooler back then”. We did not have smartphones or computers, and we spent more time getting together like: “Hey, let’s go and play football!” But if we were in our children’s shoes, we would behave exactly how they do. And experiences of childhood are only getting better! It is very interesting to see how our children will raise their children, our grandchildren.

Each generation should surpass their parents. Today’s children are bolder, they are more open to doing certain things. At the same time, I observe that they face more limitations and psychological restraints. Often, this is because people are social online, but when it comes to interaction in person, they cannot approach strangers and initiate a conversation. People are different. And therefore it is very important to be involved in a child’s life on a daily basis, to participate in their activities, to offer them advice.

I think that I was raised well. I try to follow the same approach when raising my kids. Mum helped me since I was little, she enrolled me in all kinds of out-of-school activities. So my son plays football, my daughter is in theatre club, takes singing classes, and dances. But just like our parents did, we ask them to be home by eight in the evening.

I wish for young families not to be afraid of difficulties. Our lives are full of difficulties we overcome. A child is the most beautiful thing that two halves can bring to this world when they merge. Do not be scared!

 

 

Dana Pavlychko, Osnovy publisher

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UNICEF

My best childhood memories are of my mother and father. We used to spend weekends together travelling and taking road trips. Unfortunately, my mother passed away when I was eleven, so my childhood ended early.

I’m raising my daughter smartphone-free, as I want her to enjoy active playtime, outdoor activities, reading and music.

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Today’s youth are better than us. The new generation is free, and it is super cool. I always learn from people who are younger than me. I dream that my children will be free and happy. I want them to know that they do not need to follow stereotypes or parental impositions. They can be whoever they want to be!

As a child, I was afraid to be myself. I lived under the constant stress that I had to be the best for my family. It is very important for me that my children are happy on their own terms.

 

Taras Topolia, singer, Antytila frontmen

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UNICEF

When I was little, nothing fascinated me more than my dream to be on stage. I wanted to be part of a band and perform thousands of our songs for the public. Well, it so happened that my childhood dream came true. Today, Antytila sells out arenas, but I started my path toward this dream when I was a kid. I was in my first band in the school basement when I was in tenth grade.

My first childhood difficulties were restrictions of freedom. My parents, mostly my mother, controlled many things. At times, she thought that pursuing my dream should not mean that I neglected other important things. To be honest, my passion for music overshadowed other areas of my life, including education. Mum didn't like that very much.

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Today's children have fast access to information. They can easily find their interests and have strong opinions. They do not need mediators; they just need smartphones and Internet access. This has dramatically changed the lives of generations, including the generation that my children belong to. They are more liberated, more freedom-loving. They learn fast to take responsibility for their actions. More opportunities are available for children today than when I was growing up.

My wife and I can fulfill our children’s requests and wishes, as we can afford financially to do so. This was not a case in my childhood. We also give our children a lot of freedom, and they make their own mistakes for which they are held responsible. I try not to limit their fun, even if it seems dangerous at times. If my son walks on the edge of the pool and bends over to take a leaf out of the water, I would not run to prevent him falling. I would rather get him out of the water, but let him learn about the consequences of his action. Besides this, we empower children to debate with us and encourage them to present their arguments.

Modern children grow up self-centred. It is important for teens to learn how to unite for a common purpose. Anyone who learns how to work together will succeed.

 

Masha Efrosinina, TV presenter, UN Goodwill Ambassador

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UNICEF

When I think about childhood, I am carried back to the times with my parents. I remember how on weekend mornings I would run into their bedroom, climb between them under a warm duvet, and just cuddle and play. It was like diving into an infinite realm, created with love and emotions. Since then, love has been a driving force of my life.

One of my brightest childhood memories is the day when my mother gave birth to my younger sister Liza. It was summer time and it was very hot. They unbundled the baby from swaddling clothes to show me and said, “This is your sister Liza.” At that moment I realized that I was the happiest girl in the entire world, but I was no longer a child. I felt as if I had suddenly grown up and it was wonderful.

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The main challenges of my childhood were the relationships with my friends. I could not explain to myself why my peers were so unfair. Why would they make fun of you if you came to a school party wearing a cheap coat? Why would they ignore you and ostracize you for two weeks if you chose to stand your ground in the classroom? Why are people so cruel? I still can’t explain this today.

Introspection and life online deprive kids of activities, fresh air, and vitality. Today’s children are more preoccupied with comparing themselves to othera. They look up to standards they cannot achieve, which can break their knees and foreheads. Our generation absorbed everything with the dust of the roads, with kefir and sweet buns, while the current generation can speak several languages and prefer healthy food. We are very different.

My parenting approach is no different from the way my parents raised me. I also think that you cannot spoil your child with love. You can harm them with lack of attention, care or kindness. I love my children very much and can always discuss everything with them while still being a respected parent.

I would like to see the upcoming generation being more humane. I hope that they will not betray anyone, but will stay concerned, sympathetic and compassionate.

 

Kateryna Osadcha, TV presenter

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UNICEF

My warmest childhood memories are of my summer holidays, almost all of which I spent by the river with my friends. No school and no additional classes made me so insanely happy.

Unfortunately, many children in small villages and cities have no access to the Internet today. But globally the Internet has simplified lives for today’s children, with online school journals, email communication with parents, and generally easier access to knowledge, which is wonderful.

Children have more freedom in their rights and desires. They know exactly what they want. They have a clear vision of their future, learn about the experiences of kids in other countries, and follow successful and famous people. They explore different areas by following good examples. They know how to stand up for themselves, and that is something that we did not know in our time.

My advice to young parents is simply to listen to your kids and understand that a child is not your property, but individuals with their own personalities and goals.

 

Dmytro Shurov, musician

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UNICEF

As a child, I had my share of parents and grandparents, joys and troubles. I had pals, but always had only one best friend. I enjoyed hanging out with my grandparents at their dacha (country house): my grandma was always busy with growing root artichokes in her garden, my grandpa kept listening to the radio, and I just wandered along the beautiful shore of the Southern Bug river composing symphonies in my head. Sometimes musical whirlwinds would flit through my head, almost blowing me away. But as soon as I returned to the house, I couldn’t remember any of them. I liked to wash grandpa’s Volga car, read novels by Jules Verne, ride a bike, scramble over rocks and walk in the woods. And in the evening all three of us would play cards. I am grateful for everything - both good and bad – that happened in my childhood, as it made me who I am.

When I look back at my early childhood, I can say that I was worried far too much about school and my class. I had some difficulties communicating with others, was often afraid of being misunderstood. Generally, I felt better by myself. At the same time, I had tons of things to do: all these concerts, dances, singing in choir, school performances and many more. I got used to the stage very early, but was always afraid of it. I hated school concerts. From the moment I got my first piano and when I heard jazz and rock’n’roll, I basically withdrew from formal musical education. I just wanted to stay in my room. When I was ten, I saw in my life a live show of cool musicians for the first time. I though I would never get to that point, but it stimulated me to practise constantly.

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My childhood was non-digital, I was surrounded by books, records, and tapes. We had no access to anything except what we had in the apartment. Therefore, I kept exploring the apartment and always knew where things were, like stashes or cigarettes. I did not have my own games console or computer, and this fostered my creativity. I came up with my own version of The Beatles biography, when I was listening to their records. I fantasized about where the musicians were from and what they liked. I had an idea that they all died tragically, and often cried when listening to the song Michelle.

Modern children stay on top of what is going on in the world. If, for example, piranhas ate a man in the Amazon half an hour later kids will be watching a video of it. They are digital children with digital minds, comprehending the world at a different pace. They constantly demand something new and need some dopamine every half an hour. But their hearts remain warm and they just want some love. I feel sorry for them, as I imagine that their lives are not easy.

Parents give a degree of freedom for their children, as they believe in their kids, support and develop them. Parents show children the world, introduce them to other people, explain how we can all be strong and weak at the same time, and make it clear that everything that happens around us is our lives and requires analysis and exploration. Doing things like this parents can raise someone to be free spirited.

To young people who are just getting ready to become parents I can say the following: be parents to your children from the very first day. Put your careers on hold and your hobbies on the back burner and enjoy this wonderful period of your life. Take every chance to help your child grow up to be a cool person.