Slava Iesusy Christy!
Pani ta panove!
Ya duzhe rady buty tut z Vamy na tsiy chudoviy podiyi v pidtrymku Ukrayinskoho Katolytskoho Universytetu.
Why am I, an Englishman, supporting the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU)? I will tell you the story; I will tell you how I have seen the University flourish and grow; and I will end by telling you about the Ukrainian Institute London, UCU’s affiliate in the United Kingdom.
First I want to thank you for being here and for all your support to the Ukrainian Catholic University. It is a simple fact that UCU would not exist nor survive without the support of its benefactors. All of us involved with UCU pray that God will bless you for your generosity.
How did I come to be involved with UCU? For eight years, from age ten to eighteen, I was a pupil at Stonyhurst, a Jesuit boarding school in Lancashire in the North of England. The school was founded 425 years ago at St Omer, now in northern France, as a school for the sons of English Catholic families. At that time the Catholic faith was prohibited in England and Catholic schools were banned. Some 200 years later the school moved to Stonyhurst, where it still preserves a unique collection of relics and artefacts witnessing to that difficult period of our Christian heritage in England.
Thirty years after leaving Stonyhurst, in 2002, I was a British diplomat, preparing to go as Ambassador to Ukraine. I was visiting Campion Hall, the Jesuit house in Oxford, where I met by chance Fr Brian Daley, an American Jesuit, whom I had got to know when I was a student at Oxford. When he heard that I was going to Ukraine, he said: “you must go to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, and see the amazing things which Fr Borys Gudziak and Jeffrey Wills are doing there.” That was the first time I had heard of UCU.
And so in September 2002, on our first visit outside Kyiv, my wife and I went to Lviv and visited UCU. Fr Borys showed us round: there was only one building in those days. He showed us the little museum with relics and artefacts witnessing to the underground life of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church under Soviet persecution. There were tiny pattens and chalices, for celebrating Mass in secret, and a suitcase with a false bottom in which a travelling priest could hide them. As we looked, I realised that I had seen things like these before, in the Stonyhurst museum, commemorating the persecution of the church in England four hundred years ago. Yet here in Lviv were relics of Ukrainian martyrs from only fifty years before, within living memory. Fr Borys, in fact, had begun his research work in Lviv by collecting oral histories from survivors of the underground church.
That was the first of many visits to UCU by Mary and me. When we left Kyiv in 2006, Fr Borys told us: “you will be back!” He meant it, and did not forget. After I left the Diplomatic Service I visited UCU to give some lectures. And in early 2013 Fr Borys telephoned me at home in London and invited me to join the Senate. I immediately accepted – rather to Mary’s surprise, as I rarely agree to anything without thinking about it first. In this case I had already done my thinking, and I had no hesitation about accepting. I have just completed my two three year terms as a Senator. I am very proud to be involved with UCU, which has become an important part of my life.
Let me tell you how I have witnessed the Ukrainian Catholic University flourish and grow. The story of UCU’s development over the last quarter century would be remarkable anywhere. In the context of Ukraine’s difficult emergence as a newly independent state, it is little short of miraculous. At its heart is God, and the faith that nothing is impossible for God. Fr Borys – now Archbishop Borys – and the team he gathered have worked very hard to build this “open academic community with a mission to form leaders to serve with professional excellence in Ukraine and internationally – for the glory of God, the common good and the dignity of the human person”. (I have quoted from UCU’s mission statement.)
Since I became a Senator in 2013 I have seen the number of students grow three times, to almost 1,800; the number of faculties grow from 2 to 5; bachelor programmes from 3 to 11; master’s programmes from 2 to 19. UCU now extends over three campuses in Lviv. At the striking new campus next to Striy Park I have watched the construction of the Collegium (residential building), the first academic building, the University Church and the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Centre (so much more than a library: in its first year it received over 365,000 visitors, and the local authorities show off the building in a film at Lviv airport as one of the architectural wonders of the city). And now the second Collegium is going up, which will provide more accommodation on campus and help to strengthen the sense of university community. But UCU’s development is about much more than numbers of students or new buildings. It is about reputation and quality. The students entering UCU now have the highest average school-leaving score of entrants to any university in Ukraine. In 2019 55% of first year students at UCU came from the top 5% of high school graduates. UCU’s Lviv Business School is one of the best in Ukraine. Its School of Journalism is simply the best in Ukraine. No fewer than six members of the newly elected parliament of Ukraine are UCU graduates. UCU is different. It is not only a private university, independent of the state, which aspires to be a beacon of high academic and ethical standards in a country where too many universities are failing and held back by corruption. UCU is a university which witnesses, which serves and which communicates. UCU was very visible on the Euromaidan in 2013-2014, when one of its lecturers was one of the “heavenly hundred” who lost their lives. UCU helped to christen that protest “the Revolution of Dignity”. UCU remembers the Ukrainian martyrs of the last century, and serves the marginalised, not least through the Emmaus Centre, where disabled people and their carers live in the University and serve, as Archbishop Borys likes to say, as “professors of human relations”.
To achieve all this, God has worked and is working through you and more than 20,000 benefactors around the world. The generosity of supporters in the USA and Canada has been crucial: 40% of them of Ukrainian descent, but 60% from other ethnic backgrounds. For the first fifteen years, the majority of UCU’s benefactors were in Canada and the USA. This example of support and sacrifice has come to be emulated in Ukraine: over the last ten years the portion of income from UCU’s benefactors in Ukraine has quadrupled. And year by year UCU is doing more to cover its own costs. The share of costs covered by educational programmes and services is now up to about 30%.
Let me conclude with a few words about the Ukrainian Institute London. Forty years ago Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, who founded the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome, also founded the Ukrainian Institute in London as its affiliate in the United Kingdom. In 2015, after the previous director of the Institute had left, the Rector of UCU asked me to establish a steering committee to chart a way forward for the Institute. We held a competition and recruited a new Director, Marina Pesenti. She worked without pay for two years. Three years ago the Institute was registered as a charity and relaunched. Since then it has gone from strength to strength in its efforts to inform the British public about Ukraine and Ukrainians. Our speakers have included Anne Applebaum, Serhiy Plokhiy, Philippe Sands, Peter Pomerantsev and Serhiy Zhadan, as well as Archbishop Borys, Professor Yaroslav Hrytsak and other speakers from UCU. Much of this has been done in partnership with leading British universities and cultural institutions, such as the London School of Economics, University College London, Cambridge University, the British Library and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The Institute now has over 7,000 Facebook followers. None of this would have been possible without the hard work of the Director, the trustees, staff and volunteers, and the generosity of a range of donors, led by UCU itself. Starting from nothing three years ago, the Institute has built up its income and financial reserves, so that we have already been able to reduce by half the grant received from UCU. The trustees have been keen to do this, because we know that the money will go much further in Lviv than in London.
Shchyro dyakuyu za uvagu i za Vashu pidtrymku Ukrayinskoho Katolytskoho Universytetu!