I am Marta Barandiy and today we unlock Ukraine with Belgian member of the Parliament Georges Dallemagne. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and social media.
Welcome to Unlock Ukraine. Today’s episode will be with Georges Dallemagne. Georges is an MP, politician, Belgian politician, who dedicates his life to a cause that is bigger than himself. Actually, many causes. One of them is Ukraine. And we will be talking about it today.
Marta Barandiy: Georges, welcome to Unlock Ukraine.
Georges Dallemagne: Thank you.
Marta Barandiy: You are an MP, and last year we met around this time in this area in the office of Promote Ukraine where you came to offer your help to Ukraine and Ukrainians, and then you decided to go to Ukraine. What connects you to Ukraine? How did it all start?
Georges Dallemagne: You know, I was impressed by what happened in Ukraine, in Kiev, for at least 10 years. So with Euromaidan and with also already the invasion of Russia in Crimea, in the Donbas. So, I wanted to be involved, to support Ukraine. I want to be a friend of Ukraine, and I asked my Parliament to be the head of the friendship group between Verkhovna Rada and the Belgian party.
Marta Barandiy: The group that you are leading still?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, still leading now, and I went already to Donbas six years ago by train already, and I visited the frontline. I was also impressed by the attacks, by the cruelty of the Russian invasion there. But I was also very impressed by the people of Ukraine. I was impressed by the fact that they really were involved in trying to get the integrity of the territory, the democracy, the freedom, the human rights,. Especially I was impressed by young MPs who were really very much involved in that fight. So, I wanted to be part of that story because it was an important story for Ukraine but also for Europe, for Belgium, for me.
Marta Barandiy: Did you at that time already know that Russia might continue its invasion, or you maybe had other ideas, like that it would stop and Russia would give the Crimea back. At that time six years ago, what were your thoughts?
Georges Dallemagne: You know, I learned from my life before I was working with Doctors Without Borders – because I’m a doctor by profession and then into politics – that you have really to listen to authoritarian heads of states, that one day they will implement what they are saying. And so you have always to take them seriously. And so I was not that surprised. I remember December 2021, I was really concerned by what would happen to Ukraine. I wrote that on Facebook that I was concerned, and I was speaking with journalists, I was speaking with colleagues and most of them would say, “No, Georges, don’t take it too seriously,” I was really concerned because I know with my experience that you have to take very seriously the words of authoritarian people, authoritarian regime.
Marta Barandiy: Since the full-scale invasion how many times did you go to Ukraine?
Georges Dallemagne: Since the start of the invasion, we went together in March, really a few days after the start of this aggression. And then I went four times all together. So, that was important for me.
Marta Barandiy: So you saw the frontlines now, you saw the people, you saw the suffering?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, of course.
Marta Barandiy: How is this war different from what you have seen in the world? You said you were a doctor, but as a Doctor Without Borders, you probably traveled a lot and have seen a lot of wars. Is this war different?
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, of course. It’s very much a new kind of war in many aspects, but it is also a 19th century war in a way that there is a huge concentration of forces, battles on the ground. But it’s also a war with disinformation, fake news, war towards even our own country, the economic war. So, there are many new aspects in this war. The drones, of course, are a new part of the war, so, in many aspects, it’s also a very modern war, the kind of war we never expected before. So, it’s really something very new also for us.
Marta Barandiy: You say that it is war against your country. Does your country understand that? Does your country fight back as it would be really war against it?
Georges Dallemagne: You know that’s one of the key issues. I think Europe was not prepared for this war. They didn’t expect that they should encounter such a war; they didn’t. In the software of many Europeans, it was not imaginable that we had this kind of war. So, part of my work at the Parliament was really to explain why this is also our war, that it’s a war of force against rights, It’s a war of tyrants, heads of states like Putin, who really want to impose by force their own law against international law, against international rights. So, of course it’s something we have to take very seriously because it will affect the entire security of the world. That’s something people did not understand at the very beginning.
Marta Barandiy: Did you manage to convince your Government?
Georges Dallemagne: I think no. Yes, with the time. I think everybody agrees Everybody accepts some extreme left or sometimes extreme right, but I would say the majority of the MPs at least accept now this analysis. But it took time. It took too much time in fact because the political support was there, but the concrete support in terms of weapons, in terms of also economic sanctions, it took too much time.
Marta Barandiy: Did it change now?
Georges Dallemagne: It’s changing, but we are always a bit behind where we should be, always too far behind. That’s my feeling. I’m still fighting at the Parliament so that we deliver appropriate weapons, because I’m very concerned by the fact that Belgium at the heart of Europe, — which is the the headquarters of NATO, of the EU — is not at the level it should be in terms of supporting Ukraine. I don’t say that we don’t do anything, but I say that we should deliver better assistance to Ukraine. I think now we realise that this is a real war in a way, but it took so long for Belgium to realise that the victory is very necessary.
Marta Barandiy: And what is this victory? How do you consider victory?
Georges Dallemagne: Victory is the integrity of Ukraine, of course, and also justice for the victim. That’s the victory and also rebuilding Ukraine and also integrating Ukraine into the EU.
Marta Barandiy: But what should happen to Russia then? What is defeat of Russia in these terms?
Georges Dallemagne: I think we have to consider that situation, I would say, as a crime, and we have to prosecute those who are responsible for that. That’s for sure. And then, of course, we would like a peaceful Russia. We would like them to be responsible. But I think, which is really necessary for me, and what was really the big mistake in the past, is that this is a huge crime, and it should be considered as such. There should really be a prosecution of the criminals, and that’s something which did not happen in the past with Stalin, for example, with Holodomor. And that’s the reason why, in my opinion, Russia was considering that it could do whatever they wanted because in the past their big crimes were never prosecuted. Nobody had to come to a tribunal to pay for the crimes that have been done in Russia, in Ukraine, in other parts of the former Soviet Union. So, that’s a big mistake for the past, and we should not repeat this mistake in the future. That would be very important for me, for stability, for peace, for democracy.
Marta Barandiy: You mentioned that in October we went together to Ukraine. You came back and were criticising the government for not doing enough. I saw your post on Facebook that Belgium only gave 0.04% of its GDP to Ukraine. Has this changed since then ?
Georges Dallemagne: Not enough. There have been some additional deliveries, some trucks, some weapons have been delivered, but again it’s not enough for me. Again, we should really accelerate this support. I think now Belgium is considering accelerating that. There will be further discussion in the Parliament in the coming weeks.
Marta Barandiy: You were very critical about the fact that neither the Belgian Prime Minister nor Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Ukraine, and when you went to Ukraine in October, you talked about it also to the Belgian media. First of all, why did you think it was that important that the Belgian Prime Minister goes or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and what’s changed since then?
Georges Dallemagne: It was very important, first of all, because we were invited by the Prime Minister of Ukraine to go there. He was inviting Prime Minister De Croo already several times, and the last time in September, so we had to respond to this invitation. But even more important, all the Ukrainian people, I’ve seen that so many times, that they appreciate that we are going there, that we are being alongside them and that we, at least for a few days, we share what is happening there and we understand better what is happening there. I was really deeply disappointed by the fact that Belgium was one of the last to go there because there was no reason for that. There was really no reason.
Marta Barandiy: But what changed? How did this happen?
Georges Dallemagne: I think one of the reasons they didn’t go there, they overestimated the problem of their own security. That’s my opinion at least. And I met with the Prime Minister afterwards and he was surprised by the fact that he could go there, that he could have meetings there, that he could work there with President Zelensky. So, I think he didn’t realise very much what was war. Of course, there are cities which are bombed. There are huge problems of security, but there are also places where you can still live and work, and that was very important to be there, and politically, it was also a very important sign, of course.
Marta Barandiy: He was there on the day of the commemoration of Holodomor. Did it impact his opinion about Holodomor? Because you were the one who for years was pushing for the resolution of the Parliament to recognise Holodomore as crime against humanity and genocide, potentially look into genocide. And apparently the Belgian politicians, probably including the Prime Minister, were not so much into this question. But the fact that he was… Not now, last week or two weeks ago… When was it? It was last week or two weeks ago?
Georges Dallemagne: It was approved two weeks ago.
Marta Barandiy: Two weeks ago, the resolution was approved, and Holodomor is being recognized as a genocide here in Belgium, and you also impacted this raising awareness about it and this political decision, but did the visit of De Croo also play a role there?
Georges Dallemagne: I hope so. I guess so, even if it was not on purpose, but I guess it was a very good opportunity for my Government to realise how Holodomor is something so important to be recognised as a crime of genocide. It took so long, but that’s really something we still have to work on because although Belgium has recognsed Holodomor, I see so many people here in Belgium who do not know what Holodomor is. And I think it’s very important to have the memory of the big crimes in Europe. We all know what is the Shoah. We should all know what is Holodomor. And that’s something that in the schools, in the universities, in the parliaments, in the media should really be more explained, more described first for the victims of Holodomor. I think what is most important when you are a victim of a big crime is that the right words are put on this crime and that this is recognised really as a crime. We have now a trial of the terrorist attack in Belgium on 22 March 2016. For the victims of this terrorist attack, it’s very important that the right words are put on what happened to them. And it’s the same for Holodomor. So, for the victims, it’s very important. But also for all of us, if we don’t want these crimes to be repeated, we have to really consider them as they are.
Marta Barandiy: Is that what is happening in Ukraine, is it actually repeating the crime of genocide or the crime against humanity? Is it because it was not timely recognised?
Georges Dallemagne: I’m quite sure of that, and I’m not the only one who says that – the Institute Raphael Lemkin. Raphael Lemkin is this theorist who has for the first time used the word of “genocide,” and he applied that to Holodomor. He said that’s a real example of what is a genocide. It’s Rafael Lemkin who was the first to say that. He said, and this institute says the same, that yes, there is a link between the fact that Holodomor was not recognised as a genocide and the fact that now huge crimes are repeated again in Ukraine. In a way, there are signs that it’s again a genocide that is committed towards Ukraine today. We can imagine that if Holodomor would have recognised as a genocide before, if the criminals would have been sanctioned for that, maybe the story would have been different.
Marta Barandiy: Do you see the aspects of genocide in Ukraine today?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, of course.
Marta Barandiy: Have you seen genocide elsewhere?
Georges Dallemagne: I think there are signs of genocide. When Putin is saying that the Ukrainian nation should disappear, that the Ukrainian identity should disappear, these are really signs of genocide. Genocide is the intention of letting a people, a nation disappear and losing their identity. The deportation of children, of course, is also a very sad example of that. So, I think, yes. I raised this issue at the Chamber in the plenary a few months ago. I said we shouldn’t avoid talking about that. We should investigate this really very carefully because there are really very concerning signs of genocide.
Marta Barandiy: You were a director of Doctors Without Borders. You traveled all around the world. Did you see elsewhere signs of genocide or genocides, or maybe did they recognise genocide happening?
Georges Dallemagne: I was involved in many very big wars and crimes. I was there in Rwanda in 1994, so I was one of the first, maybe, who said after a few days, this is a genocide. It was in 1994, in April 1994, in Rwanda. I saw that because my teams were there. I was the director of operations, so they were sending me messages saying what was really happening in hospitals in the countryside, and I made a press conference on that and I said this is a genocide. But it took months for the international community to recognise that because when you say that it’s genocide, you have to intervene. You have to stop that; this is mandatory.
Marta Barandiy: Responsibility to protect.
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, it’s mandatory. It’s in the Charter of the UN. It’s chapter 7 of the Charter. If you recognise genocide, you have to stop that and, of course, nobody wanted to intervene because it was risky at that time. But it was really a genocide, and I was there also in Srebrenica in Bosnia, and I saw also what happened to the people there. I was with General Morillon, who was the head of the UN at that time, and I also saw that in Srebrenica. So, I was also in northern Iraq recently, and I saw what happened to the Yazidi people. They were all destroyed by Daesh. And so I also put that issue in the Parliament, in the Belgian parliament, and they recognise, we recognised the Yazidi crime as a genocide last year, thanks to the fact that I really pushed for that. So yes, that’s maybe all my life, to be concerned and to try to stop huge crimes — at least when they have been committed in the past — to really put the right words on what happened to try to avoid that for the future.
Marta Barandiy: Bring justice for the victims.
Georges Dallemagne: And justice for the victims, that’s very important as well.
Marta Barandiy: What do you remember, what impressed you the most, what changed. What was the turning point for you in your big mission of achieving justice for the victims? Is there something that you…
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, I think one of the most shocking missions I’ve made — I’ve made so many travels in war-torn areas — but one maybe of the most shocking was Srebrenica 30 years ago. Because Srebrenica was an enclave, a Muslim enclave in Bosnia, and we all knew what was happening there. We all had the images, the stories.
Marta Barandiy: I recently read on your Facebook page about your experience in Srebrenica You shared about two little girls who died before your eyes because there were no possibilities to help them and they just lost blood and they died. How did this experience change your perspective on things? Because what I feel from you, what I see is that you are trying to reach justice, to get justice and to make people feel what you feel. Your pain is that big because some people are able to feel it, but they don’t know where it is coming from. Is it one of the reasons that you are trying to push for people to be more human that you saw what happened in Srebrenica?
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, in Srebrenica that was really a nightmare That was an enclave in Bosnia and it was shelled by the Serbian army, by General Mladić. And all the world knew what was happening there, and it lasted with real mass killing. All the boys above 15 years old were killed systematically, 8,000 boys. And I was really shocked by the fact that we all knew what was happening and that nobody wanted to intervene really. There was a Dutch battalion there from the UN, but they really did nothing for this.
Marta Barandiy: What was the role of the Blue Helmets there?
Georges Dallemagne: They were supposed to protect the enclave. So, I was there in 1993, 30 years ago with General Morillon, and there was a declaration that this enclave will be under the protection of the international community, under the protection of the UN. And I was with Doctors Without Borders. We sent a surgical team there and we stayed there, but when this enclave was really destroyed and shelled by the Serbs at the end. They separated women and boys and all the boys were killed, and it was really happening under the eyes of the UN, under this Dutch battalion, but nobody did something for that.
Marta Barandiy: But did they realise what was happening?
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, they realised it. Everybody knew. At the Security Council in New York, Madeleine Albright was the State Secretary of the US. She shared the pictures with all the other members of the UN and nobody moved.
Marta Barandiy: Why? Was someone sabotaged?
Georges Dallemagne: Already at that time there was a veto from the Russians, already at that time, the Russians and the Chinese. So, nobody dared to intervene. And then a few weeks later NATO eventually intervened and stopped that war. But that war made 140;000 casualties; 140,000 people died from that war. And it took so long for Europe again and for the international system to really realise that they should really intervene. And I think it’s a bit the same story we see with Ukraine now. You know, it takes so long to realise that yes, we have to stop that massacre.
Marta Barandiy: You know, you remind me now, like last year in February-March, there was one guy from Bosnia who came to me and asked, “You know, what is happening?” Mariupol was occupied. There were no news from Irpin. We didn’t know. We thought that people are dying from hunger. And he came to me and said, “You know what, you will have the same story that we had. I am telling you, remember that it’s genocide in Ukraine. You will see that. And the international community will interfere. But after years and years, you’re going to see.” And the guy works in the European institutions. He told me that. And I’m now looking back and ask, “How did he make this conclusion?” He knew already in February-March last year that it’s a genocide of Ukraine.
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, I think it’s really the same story. Maybe this time, because the security of Europe is at stake, the reaction is a bit quicker, but it’s still very late. It’s still very much not enough. But at least there is the comprehension now that we are also at risk in this story. And that what is happening to Ukraine is because Ukraine shares our values, shares our wishes for democracy, for human rights and that’s why Ukraine was attacked and that’s something which took time to realise, because at first, we did not really realise it. Most people would not really realise what was happening there. They believed more or less the fake information of Putin saying that it’s because of NATO, it’s because of Nazis, it’s because of things like that. But now more and more people realise that no, really, it’s the international order that is at stake. It’s the democracy which is at stake. It’s what we’ve tried to build since World War II, which is at stake now.
Marta Barandiy: Georges, you take very heavy fights, and one of the fights is about radical Islam. Why is that?
Georges Dallemagne: My experience, at least, my expertise is in security issues, and I’ve seen how radical Islam is really also a big danger for Muslim communities, for Muslim countries, but also for us in Europe because they try to divide us. They try to come with other values. They try to separate people. Also radical Islam is against democracy, against human rights, against the equality between women and men. So, I think it’s a very big danger still now, and we have seen the terrorist attacks but there are also terrorist attacks on a weekly basis almost in many Muslim countries. So, it’s really also a big issue. So, I’ve seen my own country changing. I’ve seen my city of Brussels changing because the influence of radical Islam is bigger and bigger towards some of the people in the Muslim community. So, we have to be vigilant, we have to talk to each other on what are our common values in this society.
Marta Barandiy: You wrote a book about it. You have the whole story about terrorist attacks or actually the fight against radical Islam.
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, I wrote a book, which is here. About Daesh. I wrote that book with a very well-known journalist here in Belgium: Christophe Lamfallussy because there is a hidden story. And this is hidden because it’s a bit of shame for Belgium. In fact, the coordinator of this terrorist attack, the brain of this terrorist attack is from Brussels. Few people know him. His name is Oussama Atar. He was probably killed in northern Syria in 2019, but there is no proof of that. He’s prosecuted because there is no proof he’s dead. He’s prosecuted in the trial that is going on now in Brussels, but it’s a very shocking story, because Belgium, some Belgian MPs, some Belgian NGOs helped this guy to be freed from a jail in Iraq. He was jailed by the Americans in Iraq, because he was already in 2004, 12 years before the terrorist attack, convicted to be a terrorist there. But few people in Belgium believed he was a terrorist. Most people say no, he is innocent. He did nothing very much wrong, and he should be freed. But there were signs, in fact, that he was dangerous. There were really reports coming even from our own intelligence services saying this guy is dangerous, he should not be freed, and if he is freed, he should be really controlled because he could do really bad things. But that was not considered seriously, and so there was a lot of pressure on the Americans and the Iraqis to let him come back to Belgium because the intelligence services was in the mind that this guy could be used to be like they call a honey pot, which could attract other jihadists around him and that there could be a kind of controlled surveillance by the intelligence service of all these people in Brussels. But everything went wrong, and this guy went back and he really started to organise the terrorist attack even since 2012. So, four years before the terrorist attack, he was already preparing them. And then he went back to Syria in 2013, and from there, from Raqqa, he really organised the terrorist attack here. It is really a shame because there were a lot of signals, there were a lot of alerts on the fact that this guy is really dangerous.
Marta Barandiy: But what impacted such attitude of Belgium towards him? Is it the liberalism? Is it the idea that people are good, human?
Georges Dallemagne: I think in a way, Belgium is a nice country, of course, in a way. People are quite generous. But the problem is that they are sometimes a bit naive about security issues. They don’t really think that people like Oussama Atar could really harm Belgium. They didn’t think that it could happen really. So, they underestimated the security issues. It’s like for Ukraine again. The software in the brain of many people or even politicians in Belgium, they really are not used to that violence because it happened in Belgium so long ago. They forgot that. The last real attack on Belgium was in 1940 with the Nazis. So, they really forgot that the security issues should be taken seriously into account. So, it’s good in a way that they are nice people. They welcome many people in Belgium. You see, Belgium is a very mixed population. But sometimes we have to really take care of our own security, and it did not happen enough with radical Islam and Brussels became one of the places where Islamists could really do whatever they wanted to do and nobody would really care about that.
Marta Barandiy: Coming back to the book, where exactly did you get the material for the book? How did you collect the information?
Georges Dallemagne: You know, one of the reasons I wrote that book is that after the Paris terrorist attack on 13 November 2015, I asked for a Commission of inquiry in Brussels because we knew that most of the people who attacked Paris were coming from Brussels. But it was refused. And then when it happened to Brussels, then, of course, the Parliament organised this Commission of Inquiry. But there was no single word about Oussama Atar at the Commission for weeks and weeks. We had lots of documents about other terrorists, but nothing about Oussama Atar. And then I got a phone call from a journalist who I knew, an American journalist. She got information from CIA. And she said, “George, you should ask questions about Oussama Atar.” And I asked, “Who is this guy?” And she said:, “It’s a key person.” And then I started to ask questions, and then we started to get information, but this information was never made public to the public opinion.
Marta Barandiy: Why?
Georges Dallemagne: Because it’s a kind of shame, a bad story.
Marta Barandiy: Is it admitted now?
Georges Dallemagne: And then I couldn’t get this information out, so I decided with a journalist to make my own inquiry. And then it took two years, and then I got information from the Iraqis because I had good contact with the ambassador. I was also the Chairman of the Friendship Group, because it was also a country at war. So, I wanted to get close information about what was it. So, I got information from them. I got information from the French. I got information from some Belgians sources also. And I made my own inquiry, because I lived in Lacken at that time, and this guy is from Lacken. So, I met many people there and they told me what was happening there since the very beginning, since the childhood of Oussama Atar. What was the influence on this guy from veterans coming back from Afghanistan, things like that. So, it took quite a long time, but then we wrote that book and when people from the intelligence service in Belgium read that book, they said yes the story is true; It’s entirely true and all the experts who know the story, they say yes, this is true, but still now the story is not well known in Belgium.
Marta Barandiy: Are you now writing a book on Ukraine?
Georges Dallemagne: I’m considering it. Yes, I would like to. I don’t know yet, but I want to tell human stories at least.
Marta Barandiy: You are recipient of the order of King Leopold, is it?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes.
Marta Barandiy: I have never known about that. How did that happen and what does that mean?
Georges Dallemagne: No, it’s just because I’m an MP since quite a few years and so it’s because of that that I received this order.
Marta Barandiy: But what does that mean?
Georges Dallemagne: For me, it’s just because I served my country for quite a few years, for more than 15 years. So that’s why I received that. Of course, I’m proud of it, but I’m proud of the fact that, I live in a very small country at the centre of Europe, and we have to take care of what’s happening far away from us and sometimes it’s not that far away and it’s important that we take care of these people as well.
Marta Barandiy: I see the shirt “One year stay in the fight, it’s Kyiv, Ukraine, 24th February 2023.” You were in Ukraine a few weeks ago.
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, I was there for the commemoration of the first year of invasion.
Marta Barandiy: Is it there where you got the shirt from?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, I got this as a present from the Verkhovna Rada.
Marta Barandiy: From the Verkhovna Rada?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, from my dear colleague Maria Mezenseva. She is a very impressive person, a very tough fighter for Ukraine.
Marta Barandiy: So many countries, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq. You were born though in Congo. How did that happen? I didn’t know that when we were preparing for this session. There are very many countries and it probably started with Congo because you’re Belgian born there.
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, as you know it’s a former colony, so my parents went there after World War II. In fact, my grandfather was a prisoner of war from the Nazis, so when he came back here in Belgium, he had nothing left in Belgium. So, they decided to go to Congo. My parents became farmers there with cows and horses. I left them for a while, eastern part of Congo, which is very much at war also now, so I’m very concerned by what is happening in Congo as well. I might be going there in the coming days to really try to see what we can do.
Marta Barandiy: So you’re Congolese or you’re Belgian?
Georges Dallemagne: I have still part of my heart in Congo, yes.
Marta Barandiy: How long did you live there?
Georges Dallemagne: I lived there nine years, but I came back several times, in fact as a doctor. First with Doctors Without Borders. I opened a mission there and then I also came back as an MP.
Marta Barandiy: You opened your mission there?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, I opened the first mission of Doctors Without Borders in Congo more than 30 years ago, and they are still there. MSF is still there. There is a huge crime also, so it’s really a very big concern in the east of Congo.
Marta Barandiy: Did Congo influence your decision to become a doctor or is it something else?
Georges Dallemagne: No, I think I wanted to be a doctor since I was four years old.
Marta Barandiy: But you were living in Congo.
Georges Dallemagne: I was living in Congo, and I was already a doctor.
Marta Barandiy: And why? You don’t remember what exactly happened?
Georges Dallemagne: I don’t really remember.
Marta Barandiy: Your parents had nothing to do with that?
Georges Dallemagne: No. Nobody was a doctor, nobody was a politician…
Marta Barandiy: But, you’re a surgeon.
Georges Dallemagne: No, I’m not a surgeon. I specialised in tropical disease, in public health care, in hospital management, and also in international politics.
Marta Barandiy: You worked as a doctor for several years?
Georges Dallemagne: I worked as a doctor in Africa and also in a refugee camp in Asia during several years. Then, I became one of the coordinators and director of MSF afterwards. I set up emergency teams, which would go wherever and whenever there was a huge disaster. It could be man-made disasters or natural disasters. It could be typhoons or epidemics or wars. I used to go there with the first team to check what were the security conditions first, because I didn’t want to send people where I couldn’t go myself. And also to organise the first emergency aid there.
Marta Barandiy: You were saving lives, your life-saviour from the small scale to the big scale.
Georges Dallemagne: I tried to do my best. When you save life, I think you behave as a human being.
Marta Barandiy: You mentioned that your father was the war-prisoner of Nazi regime.
Georges Dallemagne: My grandfather.
Marta Barandiy: And he was here in Europe. What was his story?
Georges Dallemagne: My grandfather from my father was in Europe. He was an officer, and he was taken prisoner at the very beginning of the war. He was sent to a camp in Germany. When he went back, he had nothing left here in Belgium, so he decided to take his three kids and go to Africa to build a new life there.
Marta Barandiy: How long did your parents live in Africa?
Georges Dallemagne: Oh, more than 25 years. And my other grandfather, he was an officer in Congo. He set up a force, an army that went from Congo to Egypt to fight against the Germans there.
Marta Barandiy: You have the whole dynasty of the fighters for justice.
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, but I’m a peaceful man myself and a doctor.
Marta Barandiy: You’re a doctor, you’re a politician. You are, we could say, a fighter for human rights, are you a spy?
Georges Dallemagne: I’m not a spy. I would love that in the next life.
Marta Barandiy: Yes, it is interesting. It would be an interesting life. George, it’s a question rather from my team: Is there a hope for humanity?
Georges Dallemagne: Yes, definitely. At the end of 2021, I was really concerned. I was really very much concerned about what was happening, because I knew the signs were there for the war in Ukraine. I knew there was Trump in the US, there was Bolsonaro, there was Xi Jinping, Erdogan, all those guys. I was really very much concerned about what I saw. 2022 was really a very important year to show that people fight for their freedom, they fight for their rights, and they are not alone. Most people in the world, they want this, and this is a very good sign. You see Russia has lost the war in a way already. Of course, it will still cost a lot of human lives, and that’s really shocking. But, in a way, he lost the war already. I think most authoritarian regimes, they are not so well today as they were one year ago. And that’s a very good sign. That’s a very good news for the entire humanity. I think all my life, I had the impression that this fight not only was the right fight, but it’s not hopeless. On the contrary, t’s very important and we are having victories.
Marta Barandiy: We’re getting united. I feel this unity.
Georges Dallemagne: Yeah, much more than expected. The EU is very united. Of course, we have Hungary, of course we have problems. But when you see the picture, the overall picture, and the links with Ukraine are very strong now. I think there is a lot of hope, yes.
Marta Barandiy: Is there anything you would like to say to our audience, to Ukrainians, to people from the European Parliament to everyone who may see this Unlock Ukraine series? Is there any message from your side?
Georges Dallemagne: I think that what I want to say is that this hope that I just mentioned, it stands thanks to the Ukrainian people. They show us that the future is not hopeless, they gave us a big lesson in terms of hope and in terms of how to build the future.
Marta Barandiy: Georges, I am very grateful to you for very insightful information and human story and for your fight, for your personal fight, for your political fight. I hope that you will win. I told you maybe several times I want you to be a minister or maybe a prime minister. I really wish you that. And thank you for everything you do.
Georges Dallemagne: Thank you, Marta, for what you’re doing. It’s exceptional. I know that.
Marta Barandiy: We have had Georges Dallemagne today at Unlock Ukraine. We invite you to listen carefully and watch it as many times as you need to make right decisions, to discern good from bad. This was Unlock Ukraine, Marta Barandiy. See you next time.