Students at the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv gather supplies for refugees Students at the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv gather supplies for refugees 

Ukraine: University students turn Catholic values into concrete solidarity

As Russia’s war in Ukraine leaves millions of people displaced, students at the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv are splitting their time between classes and humanitarian assistance for their countrymen, according to Professor Volodymyr Turchnynovskyy.

By Devin Watkins

With the Russian invasion disrupting life in Ukraine in unimaginable ways, some young people are finding ways to combine studies and concrete acts of solidarity toward their war-stricken brothers and sisters.

The western city of Lviv has so far escaped much of the Russian attack, through air raid sirens sound frequently forcing residents into hiding.

In the midst of this difficult situation, the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv has thrown out all the stops to help internally displaced Ukrainians, some 300,000 of whom have come to the city for temporary sanctuary.

Catholic values in action

Students are volunteering their time to help their countrymen, while still finding time to follow online classes, which resumed after a two-week hiatus.

Professor Volodymyr Turchnynovskyy, the Dean of the University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, spoke to Vatican News about how the University has put its Catholic values into practice in response to the Russian invasion.

“We have this unique opportunity to live up to the Catholic values which we were seeking to embed into our system of education and share with our students and community.”

Studies and solidarity
Studies and solidarity

Creative dedication to service

Prof. Turchnynovskyy said the Ukrainian Catholic University’s students and faculty are living up to that ideal in an excellent way, as they help each other and analyze the situation to find solutions.

“They spend long, long hours involved in humanitarian work,” he said. “They work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and sleep very few hours. And this is what they decided to do themselves.”

Students, he added, are “immensely creative” in setting up volunteer projects to provide assistance to internally-displaced people.

Listen to the full interview

Hub of international solidarity

The Ukrainian-born professor said the university’s Catholic values have been borne out in its students’ expression of solidarity.

Uncertainty and daily difficulties, he noted, have united the community in a special way. Faculty are in constant contact with their students, even outside the online classroom.

“The important things have become really important, and what is less important is pushed aside,” said Prof. Turchnynovskyy.

He added that other Catholic universities across the world have also banded together to show their solidarity, with colleagues holding near-daily Zoom conversations to discuss how they can help.

“Ukraine has turned into a hub of international solidarity.”

Students loading supplies into a van
Students loading supplies into a van

Monumental heroism and sacrifice

Prof. Turchnynovskyy pointed out that around 10 percent of the University’s students and faculty have fled Ukraine, and that of those who remain around 70 percent follow classes online.

Yet, when asked what his hopes are, the professor expressed his conviction that Ukraine will be victorious in the face of the Russian invasion.

“There is very strong international support and unification around Ukraine. And we witness monumental heroism and sacrifice for our country.”

He said Ukrainians increasingly believe that they are defending European values, adding that the fate of Ukraine is of “extreme and crucial importance for the future of Europe and the whole of Western civilization.”

Student organizers
Student organizers
20 March 2022, 11:35