Notre Dame students participate in international dialogue with UCU students in Ukraine

Author: Colleen Wilcox

Peace For Ukraine

Ukrainian Catholic University’s (UCU) Institute of Ecumenical Studies (IES) has created a platform allowing its students to tell their stories to students and academic communities around the world. A two-hour virtual event titled “Online Solidarity Meeting with Ukrainian Students” was held on Friday, March 11, 2022 and included more than 400 students from Europe, North America, and Africa.

“In times of chaos, the voices of the powerful are often the ones that are heard by the masses, often drowning out the voices of the common person who are affected by the war,” says Matthew Heilman, Notre Dame junior.

Heilman, who is currently studying abroad in Norwich, U.K., is one of several Notre Dame students on campus and abroad who participated in the virtual discussion. Like many of his peers, Heilman has been following news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and was looking for a way to offer solidarity and support to his Ukrainian counterparts.

“I learned a great deal about how Ukrainian students are working to help support the defense effort in the country; I was awestruck by how diverse and multifaceted their efforts seem to have been. I also learned some new ways in which I myself can use what political power I have to keep this conflict in the spotlight, as well as how I can support institutions that are providing resources for Ukrainians in need.”

John Adkins, a Notre Dame junior studying abroad in Rome, added, “It’s very rare that we have the opportunity to witness and listen to the stories of those who are most directly affected by these traumatic events [of the war]. For me, I wanted to participate in this event because it gifted all of us with an opportunity to listen to and learn from the stories of Ukrainian students.”

The moderator of the event and the director of the IES, Pavlo Smytsnyuk, said that UCU students needed a platform to share their stories.

“UCU students are accustomed to contacting international partners in peacetime. And obviously, during the war, students in Ukraine needed the support of their friends abroad. At the same time, for foreign students, it was a chance to learn first-hand what is happening in Ukraine, how our students react and act in the current situation. “

Smytsnyuk also said that it was an opportunity for their friends and peers abroad to learn first-hand what is happening, how the students are reacting, and how they can provide support.

“Beyond my gratitude for these students, I have such hope for not only these students and Ukraine but for all young people around the world to make a concrete difference in their communities,” concludes Adkins.

Learn more about how Notre Dame is showing solidarity with colleagues and friends in Ukraine.

Originally published by Colleen Wilcox at on March 24, 2022.