After weeks of uncertainty and international tension, Russian troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
The invasion was met with international backlash upon Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement and fighting has continued between Ukrainian and Russian troops since February.
The invasion has triggered a massive refugee crisis through Europe as Ukrainian citizens fled the fighting and bombings.
The University was quick to respond to the events in Ukraine, with Rector Dr. Leyla Hussein condemning the war as “baseless” in an email to students as well as affirming the University’s stance that it stands with Ukraine and is working to support those effected by the war.
The email also acknowledged the long history of conflict in the region and the precedent set during the 2014 Russian incursion.
In a later email, University Principal Sally Mapstone clarified the University’s response, highlighting its support of Ukrainian and Russian students and staff as well as emphasizing that the University has withdrawn from any programmes, collaborations, or activities in co- operation with the Russian state, including suspending the “historic” joint Masters programme with Moscow State University.
The Principal also underscored the University’s place as a University of sanctuary open to all, and affirmed its goal to find ways to aid academics and students affected by conflict in Ukraine.
Principal Mapstone also maintained that the University would not forget that the conflict in Ukraine is not the only conflict affecting international students and staff.
On 28 February, a vigil in support of Ukraine was held in St Salvator ’s Quad by Refugee Ac- tion St. Andrews along with the Chaplaincy and the other societies.
The quad was filled with over 600 staff and students carrying signs and candles in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. University Chaplain Revered Dr Donald MacEwan spoke at the event, reiterating that “we stand in unity against oppression and violence.”
Ukrainian students also spoke, and St Salvator ’s Choir performed music at the vigil. The University established a Hardship Appeal in order to support any students and staff who would be financially impacted by the invasion of Ukraine. Within hours, the Appeal reached £75,000 in donations and as of now, the appeal has gained support from over 400 people. The University has over 100 students and staff from the area affected by the invasion and the Appeal would go towards living expenses and aiding those cut off from family and finances, as well as going to aid students and staff who may not be able to return home should the conflict continue to escalate. Some of the Appeal would also go to the small number of students and staff who are still in the region.
Said the Director of Development Robert Fleming: “We’re watching these terrible events unfold on our TV screens and I imagine a lot of us have been feeling utterly powerless, as I have.
“I know that I and others have been following Professor Phillips and colleagues in the School of International Relations closely as they provide expert comment and analysis on the war, a reminder that the independent academic voice has never been more important.
“The other way that St Andrews is showing that it can make a difference is in the generosity of colleagues, the parents of our students, and our wider family of alumni.
“Many of my team gave to the appeal when it launched, but they’ve been particularly moved by the warmth and speed of response from parents. We’ve been inundated with messages of support and promises of further help.”
The University has continued to provide updates as the situation continues to change, with the Principal saying that “we should prepare for this to be a long rather than short crisis.”
Societies across the University have joined together to raise funds for Ukraine.
The charity group NADIYA organized an event at the Vic featuring DJs from Down to Funk, BPM, Szentek, Don’t Walk and Behave. The event was put on in association The Lumsden Club, Slavicsoc, The St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament, Refugee Action St Andrews, and the Welly Ball.
NADIYA, meaning hope in Ukrainian, was created by two St Andrews students and all profits made at the event went to medical supplies to civilians in Ukraine.
According to the group’s Instagram, they are partnered with German pharmaceutical companies to provide medical equipment to Ukraine via the Order of Malta, a group which provides medical, social, and humanitarian aid across 120 countries. NADIYA’s Instagram, @nadiyaforukraine, posted that the event at the Vic “raised enough money to send a substantial amount of amount of medical supplies to Ukraine.”
Refugee Action St Andrews, also called RASA, is another St Andrews group committed to aiding refugees and migrants displaced from their homes.
In addition to partnering with NADIYA, the group also organized an online discussion called Ukrainian Skies with three Ukrainians at the center of the Russian invasion in order to discuss the shelling of civilian homes and residences, as well as how ordinary people can contribute to the citizens’ defense of Ukraine.
The discussion centered around Tetyana Dolghier, who spoke from Dnipro city and is distributing aid to various surrounding cities, Artem Remizov, who spoke from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and Oleksii Rudenko from Poland, who is providing bulletproof vests and armor for Ukrainian soldiers.
Various other societies and students have also put in effort to aid Ukraine.
The Polish Society organized a bake sale for Ukraine selling cakes and cookies. The endeavor raised £881.25 for the organization United Help Ukraine, which provides medical and humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine as well as raising awareness for the conflict.
The St Andrews Netball Club and St Andrews Dog Walking Society organized a charity bake sale for an emergency animal shelter fund in Ukraine through IFAW, which works to help animals in zoos, shelters, and sanctuaries. St Andrews student Milly Henderson, founder of the sustainable clothing brand OMO, launched a new t-shirt design to donate the profits to Voices for Children in Ukraine.
The University’s Ukrainian Society has continued to provide support and education, organizing events and talks to support Ukraine. The society has organized talks, poetry readings, and other events to educate students on Ukrainian culture and support Ukrainian students as well.
The University, as well as the Union’s student societies, continue to raise funds and provide support to Ukraine and Ukrainian students and staff effected by the invasion. New events, fundraising opportunities, and educational talks are organized every day as the Ukraine situation continues to develop and remain uncertain.
Image: Ollie Grimes