Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation.
The Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) held its first fundraising dinner in Parliament (London, UK) on Friday June 19, attended by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP, along with over 150 guests who together raised over £93,000 (approximately US$146,000) to support the work and students of UCU.
While far from being one of the biggest or oldest universities in Ukraine, UCU has been steadily building a name for itself both at home and, increasingly, abroad. It has a reputation not only as a leading academic institution, but also a champion of democracy and human rights. And its firm stance against all forms of corruption which, in a country where it is widespread and proving difficult to reform, sets it apart from the rest. Today it is one of the most talked-about Ukrainian universities in international educational circles.
On Friday June 19 it held its first fundraising dinner in the House of Commons under the theme “A New Generation for a New Ukraine,” where Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale MP, gave a speech, as did the President of UCU, Bishop Borys Gudziak. More than 150 guests were in attendance, having come from Ukraine, the USA, Canada, France, the UK and elsewhere. Much-loved Ukrainian singer Taras Chubay provided the music to round off a wonderful evening.
The newly-appointed Culture Secretary is known to Ukrainians in the UK as “the Maidan MP” due to his visible support in Parliament and the media for the Euromaidan revolution which began in Kyiv in November 2013. Whittingdale is a long-standing friend of Ukraine, having been Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine between 2010 and 2015, raising awareness of the country’s plight in House of Commons debates and in the media.
“I am delighted to be here to support the Ukrainian Catholic University, which already has an outstanding reputation in Ukraine, Britain and elsewhere. Now more than ever it is essential that students in Ukraine, the next generation of leaders, have the opportunity to study, to debate and to acquire knowledge and skills in a supportive environment free from corruption and ideology. I was very honored when Bishop Borys invited me to speak at UCU’s event in Parliament and I hope that it will raise the profile of the university still further and lead to increased support,” said the Culture Secretary.
So what has UCU’s success been based on over the past number of years? Well, for starters, it has kept truthful to its mission and vision, founded by Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, who himself was imprisoned for 18 harsh years in Soviet prisons and concentration camps persecuted for his beliefs and convictions.
Secondly, it has an inspirational leader, Harvard graduate Bishop Borys Gudziak, as its President. Over the past two decades he has assembled a brilliant team, largely based in Lviv in western Ukraine, and with a growing number of affiliate institutions in North America and Europe, including the Ukrainian Institute in London in Holland Park.
“The youth and students of Ukraine have accomplished incredible things in the last year and a half. The Ukrainian Catholic University was on the front lines of not only Revolution of Dignity, but also the whole movement to reform higher education for the last 10 and even 20 years. I’m delighted that the Culture Secretary was able to join us in London to celebrate our students’ achievements and is supporting us in our mission to educate and inspire a new generation of leaders for a new Ukraine” – said Bishop Borys.
The University inspires a contagious passion for making positive changes and is working to help Ukraine overcome the enormous challenges it currently faces. In a country that has had a reputation of endemic corruption, especially in education, UCU stands at the forefront in advocating transparency and honesty.
Its students were among the first to publicly protest against a corrupt President and crooked system, petitioning instead for values of human dignity and freedom of speech. One of UCU’s faculty members, 28-year-old Bohdan Solchanyk, was brutally shot and killed by government snipers in the central square of Ukraine’s capital during the protests in February 2014.
How do you finance a university with no government backing? UCU has embarked on a highly ambitious journey setting tough goals and growing a network of supporters to help achieve them. In Lviv, it has already built arguably the most modern university campus in Ukraine. Through a series of fundraising programs, over £35 million has been raised to date and the campaign continues – to reach a target of over £40 million. The university is dependent on donations from Ukrainian and international donors as it receives no government funding. It keeps tuition fees low to allow all talented students to enroll and study no matter what their background may be, however the fees cover only 20 per cent of the actual cost. The rest is subsidized by a global community of benefactors.
Fundraising events for UCU have been taking place across the globe, most recently in New York, Chicago, Toronto and Cleveland. The inaugural black-tie fundraising dinner in London on 19 June was a fantastic success and there are plans to make it an annual event.
Now more than ever, with Ukraine at war and its people under attack from Russian forces, the country needs investment in education, supporting a new generation for a new Ukraine. Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Investing in a good education today is key to building a new Ukraine, and UCU is helping to spread this message through its friends and supporters around the world.