Dr.iur, CIM Returning Expert to Ukraine Alexander Marusiak: “The stay in Germany helped me get out of the box and capture multitude of things”

A multimedia story by: Alexander Marusiak, Maryna Rabinovych and Yuriy Didevych

Unfortunately, in Ukraine obtaining foreign education is often considered as the ‘first step’ to emigration. When I was on my way back to Ukraine with my German LL.M degree in my travel bag, my friends and relatives asked me “Why do you go back? You speak German, it will be better for you to stay in Hamburg”. Both for my colleague and today’s interlocutor Alexander Marusiak, who obtained his PhD in Law from the University of Munich and me returning to Ukraine and bringing home knowledge and skills we received in Germany was a single option. Nowadays all the members to our “Hands On” team work in Ukraine in terms of the Program “Migration for Development”, provided by the Centrum for International Migration and Development (Germany). The key task of 13 Returning Experts, who currently work in Ukraine, is to transfer knowledge and “best practices” to Ukrainian NGOs and even state agencies.

As Alex Marusiak joined our team quite recently (as a project manager for the Lviv-based NGO “Business community club”, local coordinator of the “Migration for Development” program Yuriy Didevych and me used the ‘Hands On” project as a chance to get to know our colleague better and wish ‘viel Erfolg’ with his new job.

Maryna Rabinovych, LL.M (Hamburg)
Manager for Regional Development
NGO “Association of Journalists. European Alternative” (Odesa)

  • Alexander Marusiak and Yuriy Didevych, local coordinator of the program “Migration for Development”. Alexander Marusiak joined the team as a project manager at the Lviv-based NGO “Business Community Club” in November 2016. 

  • Alexander Marusiak gives a talk about the legal aspects of the annexation of Crimea that was committed by the Russian Federation in 2014. Having always been interested in the status of Crimea, Alexander dedicated his doctoral thesis to the issue of its annexation and its legal qualification. 

  • Alexander enjoyed exploring Munich, and pictures from there still connect him to Germany. 

  • Since his studentship in Ukraine, Alexander Marusiak sought to work for Ukrainian authorities. The photo was taken during Alexander’s participation in the debates’ project in the parliament following his return. Alexander says he felt engaged and needed, when he came back home. 

  • When being in Germany, Alexander missed Western Ukraine, the places where he was born and lived all his life. Unfortunately, Alexander did not have any pictures of Lviv he made himself, but chose the one online.

Dear Alexander! Many thanks for joining us here today, and congratulations on the successful defense of your doctoral dissertation. To start our talk, I’d like to ask you what was the major reason for you to go to Germany.

Maryna, thank you for inviting me as a protagonist, it was a nice start of work for me. Actually, I had several reasons to go to Germany. To start with the positive one, I have always been interested in the work of federal systems and wrote my master thesis on this topic. So, when thinking about my PhD, I thought that Germany would be a perfect match to make an in-depth study of the federal system and find out whether some federal ‘best practices’ can be used in Ukraine. To go a bit ahead, I never continued working on federal structures, because got excited about another topic (will tell about it later). The so-called negative reason why I decided to go to Germany was bureaucracy and corruption at Ukrainian universities. Both tired of it and willing to explore a corruption-free educational system, I ended up at Ukrainian Free University in Bavaria.

Alexander, so it is time already to reveal a secret – what did you do in Germany and how did you benefit from your stay?

At the Ukrainian Free University I have been a participant of a structured PhD program, concentrating on public international law and politics. While I had a broad range of lectures and seminars, I dedicated the majority of my time to writing PhD thesis. Interesting enough, I would like to mention that I did not stay in Munich during the whole time of my PhD program. Instead, I came for the lectures’ and seminars’ sessions and was heading back home to concentrate on the thesis. The whole name of my thesis that I defended in 2016 was “The Aggression towards Crimea, its Occupation and Annexation by the Russian Federation — an Analysis from the Standpoint of International Law“.

During my work I revealed that Western scholars tend to consider Crimean case from the standpoint of the right to self-determination and the history of secession movements. To depart from this approach, I considered Russia’s annexation of Crimea as the crime of aggression of one state against another. After defending my thesis I also adopted it for a Ukrainian reader and published a monograph, dedicated to the legal aspects of the annexation of Crimea. Moreover, during my stays at home I had several short-term assignments, or instance, conducted trainings on criminal law and investigative procedures for the reformed policemen in Western Ukraine.

My stay in Germany helped me gather a lot of useful tips regarding the administration of legal science and higher education. I hope that in the future I will be able to use them in practice, while working on the reform of education.

Video statements from team members

Thank you for your answer, Alex. I think, it was very insightful. So, how did the stay in Germany (or in your case – a number of stays in Germany) influence your professional life? And what are your plans for the future?

First, I would like to say that I never considered an option to stay in Germany. So, when having defended the thesis, I was morally prepared to the challenging task of finding a job I would enjoy. However, in practice the task appeared not to be that challenging. In November I joined the team of Returning Experts as a project manager of the NGO “Business community club” in Lviv, Western Ukraine. The Business Community Club is the international union of business owners that is designed to promote cooperation, networking and the development of members’ business. Before, I used to think that I would only enjoy working in academia.

However, after joining the “Migration for Development” program I felt that now I would like to focus on practice. Ideally, I would like to represent the interests of Ukraine in international courts to return Crimea to Ukraine and to help the victims of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula and its violence in Eastern Ukraine. It could be also interesting to work in the sphere of higher legal education. So, the stay in Germany helped me get out of the box and capture multitude of things I can do in the future.

Alexander, and when coming home, did you feel some challenges? Was that hard for you to say ‘goodbye’ to a PhD student life?

No, I cannot say I faced any challenges. Before entering the PhD program at the Ukrainian Free University, I already used to work – taught philosophy of law at Bukovynskiy State Economics and Finance University. So, after almost five years I have spent in academia, I enjoy an opportunity to try myself in project management.

If you could plan your stay in Germany and come back home once again – what would you do differently? Any recommendations for those to follow your path?

Just several things could improve my experience. First, I would have started learning German long before entering my PhD program. That could allow me integrate into the German-speaking environment more effectively, as well as work during my stays in Germany. Second, I would prefer to be able to teach or do research during my PhD. So, if I had a chance to do everything once more from scratch, I would have applied for a position of a research assistant for some professor.

So, I would advise those, who wish to do their master or PhD in Germany to learn German in advance and dedicate more time to planning the stay.

Dear Alexander! Thank you for the interview! We wish you lots of luck in your work and reaching your goals! It was a pleasure to meet you.

Thank you, Maryna. And many thanks to Alumni Deutschland for the opportunity to get to know my new colleagues today!

Postcard to Germany