Hamburg’s ambassador in Ukraine

Choosing between a dissertation in literary studies and the Container Terminal Odessa was not easy for Svetlana Yarovaya. But her work on the terminal earned her a great honour: The First Mayor of Hamburg named her an honorary ambassador of the city.

And people still say that there are no intellectuals on the port. Svitlana Iarova is living proof of the opposite. The path she started at Odessa National University, where she studied at the Institute of German Philology, led her directly to HPC Ukraina. Well, not quite directly. In 1992, Svitlana Iarova studied in her eighth semester when she was offered a position on the EU project “Rehabilitation of the Port of Odessa”. This is how the first contact with the Container Terminal Odessa (CTO) came about. 1992 was the first year after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence. In Odessa, people needed to start again from scratch. Zero hour. There were no computers, equipment was obsolete, there was no money. Painstakingly, the port got back up on its feet – not without the support of the EU.

Later, Svitlana Iarova had to decide: Should she finish writing her dissertation in literary studies in which she dealt with the comparison of Ukrainian texts and their German translation? Or should she switch to HHLA’s subsidiary HPC, which operated the port back then? She chose a temporary contract with HPC. At that time, she was responsible for the international relations of the port authorities before permanently moving to HPC Ukraina in 2000. Since then, she has been in charge of external communication there – whether to the port administration, city and regional officials, authorities and ministries in Kyiv but also to the German Embassy and, together with her colleagues in sales, to customers.

As “Communications & PR Director”, she took care of public relations, organised events, conferences and exhibitions, and looked after groups of visitors. Today, as Vice Director of the CTO, she is responsible for public and political issues and is in charge of the social and cultural projects of the company. Her great commitment was rewarded by the First Mayor of Hamburg in October 2019: she received the special honour of being named an honorary ambassador to the city of Hamburg. The currently 38 ambassadors to the city from 26 countries hold an honorary office and are active as supporters and networkers in the areas of business, politics, research and culture.

As a specialist in German-Ukrainian relations, Svitlana Iarova makes interesting observations regarding the way people work in both countries. “I think that there are many similarities. Ukrainians and Germans are very efficient, intelligent and well educated. However, what makes working at the CTO so interesting and successful are the different backgrounds.” She also experiences them during her visits to Hamburg.

“I feel at home in Hamburg,” she says while also lamenting that only a handful of her colleagues based in Hamburg know the city on the Black Sea coast. “I am sure that my colleagues from Hamburg would be just as enthusiastic about Odessa as I am about Hamburg. We have a saying in Ukraine: It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” Doesn’t that sound poetic? By the way: Svitlana Iarova also holds a degree in Business Administration from Odessa Maritime Academy.