28 May 2020
Category : Interview
José Manuel Colodrás, Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the FIIAPP-managed and European Union-financed EU-ACT project, tells us about his experiences and his day to day life working and living in Ukraine.Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the EU-ACT project, José Manuel Colodrás
How was your arrival in Ukraine? Do you have any anecdotes from that time?
My first contact with Ukraine was in March 2017, although my final deployment did not take place until May that same year. I was surprised by some Ukrainian customs, relationships and attitudes, among other things, the apparent coldness of the Slavs. It must be said that this was a first impression, since as soon as you earn their trust, you can find friends here who trust in you as much or more so than in Spain, even with the barrier that the language represents.
An anecdote that caught my attention is that the national dish in Ukraine is «сало» pronounced | salo | (bacon) sliced and accompanied by raw garlic and pickles (mainly pickled gherkins). It is usually had as an accompaniment to vodka or other similar drinks (whiskey is as popular here as gorilka, which is what Ukrainian vodka is called. I was surprised, as I did not think that culinary traditions that have totally vanished from many countries in Europe, like that of making salo and pickles at home, were maintained. Family relationships are also something that, while a little differently from how we do it in Spain, are cultivated in Ukraine with meals on Sundays or outdoor barbecues.
And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?
The adaptation period was fast. City life is relatively easy. The hardest thing for me (and I still find it difficult) is adapting to the bureaucratic mentality, inherited from the Soviet tradition that permeates not only the administration but even the work of private companies. Any management task is complicated and the procedures for hiring, for making a simple bank transfer, or requesting a certificate make it extremely difficult to implement our international cooperation projects and, sometimes, also daily life.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left?
I have had previous experiences, but only for a few months (in West Africa: Nigeria and Senegal). As I mentioned, I have been here for 3 years and I have, in principle, a few months still to go, until December 2020.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
Yes, it must be said that the routine is very different. In Spain as a Chief Inspector with the National Police Corps, personal relationships, both with subordinates and colleagues, and with other institutions and people, occupied most of the time.
In the EU-ACT project, on a day-to-day basis, even before this COVID-19 mandated quarantine, a very significant part of the work was carried out over the internet, especially interaction with other project members: calls, emails, messages and the use of our own project platform that allows us to share all the material in the cloud. In that sense, the work is very different and has made the transition to these times, when teleworking is mandatory, quick and relatively easy.
Personal relationships with beneficiaries (Ukrainians) and with other international partners also take a long time and, in this case, they are also very different. It is necessary to put yourself in the position of being a collaborator and facilitator, rather than trying to be a protagonist in the activities, this makes for a very interesting and enriching change of perspective.
From the point of view of institutional representation, I now represent not only Spain, but the entire European Union, and that, of course, also broadens the vision we have of our work. There is a clear awareness that the EU is a whole and that, from the outside, we are increasingly seen as “Europeans“.
What is the relationship with FIIAPP like?
My relationship with FIIAPP has always been very positive. I would simply say that most of my colleagues are also friends, especially the colleagues who provide support from Madrid, who have made my job much easier and from whom I have learned enormously. What I hope is that this relationship with FIIAPP, which started before this project, will continue when this project ends. Of course, I consider FIIAPP to be a key instrument for the international projection of the Spanish administration, something that historically we have lacked compared to other countries.
How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
As I have commented, it has allowed me to get to know a new work methodology, new areas of knowledge (socio-health issues, public policy development, the operation of international projects) and finally, it has given me a broader vision of my police work. From a personal and even family point of view, it is turning out to be a great experience that not only will I remember all my life, but it will certainly have a great impact on my personal and professional development. It is an opportunity for which I have to thank the Spanish administration and it motivates me to give the best of myself in every activity, event or meeting that I hold within the framework of the EU-ACT project.
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