Taras Dobko, Senior Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Doctor of Philosophy, talks about what he wanted to become as a child, how he started to work at UCU, and about leisure and his enthusiasm for philosophy.
Describe yourself with three adjectives.
Dependable, hard-working, happy.
In childhood what did you want to become?
In childhood, I didn’t think about what I would become. I loved to play soccer, like all boys. I don’t know if I thought of becoming a soccer player, but this charged me with energy.
How did you start to work at UCU?
I started working at UCU at the invitation of Archbishop Borys. I have known him already for 31 years, and this acquaintance was decisive for me. As a child, you never know what possibilities there are. These possibilities open up through those people whom you meet. They interest you in something. They show an unexpected direction of providence. Sometimes I joke with our students that they should be careful at university, because they might meet a person who will radically change the trajectory of their lives. But this is something positive. This is why there are universities.
Do you like what you do?
I combine two things, philosophy and administration (the latter is 99.9% of my time). I didn’t plan to be a manager. I didn’t know what management was and didn’t think about what it could mean. By education, I’m a mathematician. Then I studied at an academy of philosophy. I had one decisive meeting in my life with a philosopher, an American of Ukrainian descent, Damian Fedoryka. He got me interested in philosophy, and I experienced this enthusiasm deeply, though now I spend little time with it, because of a lack of time.
Management is what I know how to do, but philosophy is what I love to do. I continue to teach philosophy. This lets me be a little involved with my favorite subject and keep in contact with students. When you work in management and are among an organization’s leaders, there is a great risk that you can lose contact with those for whom you are working. The fate of leaders is such that again and again people come to you with problems. So I need to create opportunities to communicate not about problems but to go somewhere and initiate a dialogue. For me, it’s very important to have direct contact with students in the classroom. It’s then that I feel that my work is meaningful.
How do like to relax from work?
Philosophy is my outlet. The one way to keep myself in form is to read in the evening. My relaxation is the other side of my professional “coin.” Also soccer, walks, time with family every Sunday. It’s only then that I put everything aside, especially managerial matters. On Saturdays I have valuable time to sit and think over something, to respond in letters or to give myself some task. My colleagues smile that when Saturday comes, a lot of e-mails come from Dobko.
What is your advice for UCU students?
Learn to combine the uncombinable. We often emphasize and repeat Patriarch Josyf’s words: “Aspire to greatness!” But, along with that, it’s necessary to be able to take comfort in small things. Daily things also have their special place in the stories of our lives and can be a source of joy and gratitude. If we don’t notice and marvel at small things, it will be hard to lead a happy life. It’s not obligatory to look for something fascinating in the grandiose. Small things also can be marvels.
Photo and text: Oleksandra Petrivska, student of the UCU School of Journalism and Communications