Erasmus Mobility in Lviv

    Our colleagues in Lviv face a difficult situation but they already plan renovation and development.
    Erasmus Mobility in Lviv

    During the first week of our exam period, I taught at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv. On the one hand, I wanted to revive contacts with colleagues, on the other hand, I wanted to support the idea discussed during the Catholic Universities Partnership (CUP) online meetings. Colleagues from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the University of Notre Dame, who organize the CUP meetings, had repeatedly encouraged us to show solidarity with colleagues from Ukraine by visiting them. Although our vice-rector Martin Taraj recently visited the university in Lviv, nevertheless, when the director of the Nanovic Institute, Clemens Sedmak, started planning his trip, we coordinated our plans.

    My program consisted mainly of teaching philosophy of history for history students, but also of meetings with colleagues: with historian Volodymyr Sklokin and vice-rector Taras Dobko, whom I know from the CUP. In addition, I met the staff of the international relations office and the deans Andriy Yasinovskyy and Volodymyr Turchynovskyy.

    Of course, I was very interested in the overall situation, the functioning of their university in a state of war, but also the challenges they face. At first glance, Lviv is a very lively city during the day and in the evening, full of people in the parks, in the center, full of students in the UCU university town. However, traces of the war are visible everywhere: soldiers on the streets, ubiquitous Ukrainian flags, exhibitions (posters by graphic designers reacting to the war) or commemorations of war heroes. UCU alone has lost 19 students, graduates, people from their community in the war. Several of their students volunteered for the frontline. Lviv and the Lviv region have always been known for their national awareness, dominance of the Ukrainian language and support of the Ukrainian culture. It seems the war strengthened the Ukrainian identity and brought it to Eastern regions.

    Especially after midnight, however, the situation changed. During my second night in Lviv, I experienced air raid alarms after one o'clock in the morning. Important buildings, and basically all university buildings, have underground shelters where students and staff move when there is an alarm. Nothing pleasant, especially if it happens repeatedly and several days in a row. The first alarm lasted more than four hours (it ended sometime after five in the morning) and another one followed the second night, lasting about an hour and a half. It makes life certainly difficult if you have to spend the nights in shelters and study or work the next day. It is unbearable, therefore, as several people told me, if they do not have shelters near their apartments, they stay in their apartments, hide in rooms without windows, or simply ignore the sirens. They have learned to trust Ukrainian air defense, what else they can do.

    The situation is being followed closely by Ukrainians at home and abroad. The day after the first alarm, I called a friend, a Ukrainian who currently lives in Ireland, but he nevertheless knew exactly that that night the Ukrainian Air Force destroyed 36 Iranian Shahed drones, of which 10 were destroyed in the Lviv region.

    Despite the war, UCU already plans reconstruction and development. The university is preparing a new joint study program with a British university, it is redesigning courses, planning the construction of new buildings. The fact that UCU is a smaller university, which, it seems to me, is oriented towards good relations with students, makes it specific in the Ukrainian context. For example, even in this complicated situation, they try to have the entire teaching in an in-person or hybrid form.

    Colleagues from UCU greatly value support and solidarity. They hope that we will continue to cooperate and I very much hope it will be carried out very soon within peaceful situation.

    Eugen Zelenak