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Lessons of war

Mar 8, 2023 | News, Life, Community, Canada, Featured, Arts & Culture

Daryna Zavhorodnia speaks during the Unissued Diplomas Project’s panel discussion

Mykola Swarnyk

War brings destruction and horror. But can war also teach you something or bring about some useful experience? What about Ukrainian students – whose time of learning is coincidentally happening during a cruel and dangerous war of Russian aggression?

They have to continue with their usual studies but also learn some life lessons. Many of them have managed to cope with the circumstances, with dignity and resilience.

The Unissued Diplomas Project was unveiled on Monday, February 27 at St Volodymyr’s Institute, It was created by the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy exchange students who are currently studying at the University of Toronto. The Unissued Diplomas exhibition was accompanied by a panel discussion along with another exhibition, the “Traces of War” art exhibit: an encounter that looks at the war through the lens of Ukrainian youth. There was also a screening of the documentary “War Note” at Innis Town Hall the previous day.

All these activities were planned and conducted to honour those students who lost the opportunity to complete their education and who lost their young lives in this war – both as civilians under Russian shellings and as soldiers in the ranks of Ukrainian Army and Territorial Defense.

The Unissued Diplomas contains stories of 36 students, who were killed in the war. These 36 stories along with photographs of the lost young people, were collected by their friends, combined and displayed around the world including in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, and the USA. In Canada, the exhibition is taking place from February 24th to March 11th at the following locations:
● University of Toronto (St.George Campus)
● Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation
● University of Toronto (Missisauga campus)
● University of Toronto (Scarborough campus)
● Halifax Central Public Library

In addition to the exhibition, a panel discussion was held in St Volodymyr Institute. Four professors participated in this panel: Frank Sysyn from CIUS from the University of Alberta, Marta Dyczok from Western University, Matthew Light and Andres Kasekamp from the University of Toronto, who shared their thoughts about Ukrainian identity and its changes in history and in contemporary society. This topic is important as there is a notion that this current war is fought for the very existence of the Ukrainian nation and its independence. It is in this way that the fates of individual Ukrainians are integrated with the fate of the Ukrainian nation as a whole.

Prof. Matthew Light talks at the Panel Discussion

When asked why this project began, Dayna Zavhorodnia, the project manager of Unissued Diplomas explained: “We are implementing this project to commemorate our peer students, who could have sat next to us in the classroom, but one day their lives were irrevocably changed and taken by Russia. The only and the most important thing we can do for them now is to keep their memory alive. Their lost dreams, education, and lives are the highest price we are paying in this fight for freedom.”
The exhibition is accompanied by the fundraising initiative “Students for Student-Defenders”. The goal is to raise USD $10,000 for a student charity organization, “KMA Help”, that supports students in war zones and their families.

War Note Movie Screening

The documentary “War Notebook” by Ukrainian director Roman Lubiy was also screened as a part of this project. It is based on personal videos from the phones and cameras of Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers. It shows a world where their recordings could be interrupted any second by Russia’s bombs and guns. Visitors were invited to the movie screening on February 26 at 6:30 pm at the Innis Town Hall Theater to get a glimpse of the life on the frontlines.

The project is implemented by a team of over 50 young Ukrainian people, based across the globe in cooperation with the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union and thanks to the support of the embassies of Ukraine in Poland, Australia, and Japan. They united in the goal of commemorating the lost lives of Ukrainian students and reminding the world that the full-scale war is still raging.

This article is written under the Local Journalism Initiative agreement

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