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Ukrainian universities defiant on country’s Independence Day

Research and teaching continues, despite Russian invasion

Universities across Ukraine are marking Independence Day as Russia’s war on the country continues.

Over 500 days since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, universities up and down the country joined Ukrainians across the world in celebrating its 32nd Independence Day—which marks Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Sasha Ivashchenko from the Science for Ukraine group—which is working to support the country’s academic community in surviving the war—told Research Professional News that Independence Day has a “very symbolic meaning” to all Ukrainians.

“It is a symbol of independence, freedom of speech, national dignity and hope for the future. Irrespective of whether Ukrainian people leave and whether they can celebrate this day or not, on this day they feel just a little more proud for being Ukrainians.”

‘A part to play’

Universities in Ukraine have remained defiant, even as their buildings have been hit by shells and missiles and their students and staff have been injured or killed in the fighting.

“After 547 days of a full-scale war, it is obvious that only with a colossal effort from all of Ukraine will we be able to protect independence and the right to live freely on our Ukrainian land,” said Volodymyr Bugrov, rector of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Bugrov said that victory will only be achieved by combining defence, diplomatic and political efforts, adding that universities have a part to play through education, science and cultural diplomacy.

“The university, in spite of everything, continues to teach and learn. Our scientists are looking for and finding opportunities to conduct research projects in Ukraine and abroad.  Our students win prizes at prestigious international events. We believe that every victory is important for Ukraine today.”

He stressed that education will be important for the reconstruction of Ukraine when the war finishes, saying that science and cultural diplomacy “weakens the enemy”.

He also paid tribute to alumni, students and staff of the university who had lost their lives in the war, the most recent of whom is reported as Eleonora Maltseva, a graduate of the university’s military institute who died as a result of a Russian missile strike on 30 July.

Yurii Bobalo, rector of Lviv Polytechnic National University, noted that many planned Independence Day celebrations will be cut short by sirens and missile warnings.

“Let’s work for the quicker victory. Let your every action, every step, every attempt and effort be aimed at overcoming the enemy and the development of our Ukraine,” he told staff and students.

Global solidarity

Political leaders across the world sent messages of solidarity and support to Ukraine on its Independence Day, including European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

“You are an inspiration to all Europeans. And we will stand with you for as long as it takes Ukraine to be free,” she said.

Support for Ukraine’s institutions continues to be announced by overseas allies too.

On 23 August, the European Investment Bank, the EU’s bank, signed an agreement with Ukraine’s education and science ministry to support efforts to modernise the country’s vocational education and training system. This includes €8.5 million for technical assistance in managing the modernisation efforts, which completes an EIB loan of €58m signed in 2021.

In an address to the country to mark Independence Day, president Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Everyone is important in this fight, because this is a fight for something that is important to everyone. An independent Ukraine.”