A year ago, on 24 February, war broke out in Ukraine. The worst-case scenario has come true. We could not remain indifferent to what happened in Ukraine, especially realizing how many members of our academic community are citizens of this country. From the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, the authorities of the University and the entire academic community actively joined in helping refugees. Every day we supported the defenders of Ukraine, who showed extraordinary resistance and will to defend their homeland. Back then, in the early days of the Russian invasion, we believed that the war would last a while, that Russia would come to its senses. Unfortunately, it turned out differently. This is a sad anniversary and it is our responsibility as a community to continue helping, not to slow down. Our help is still very much needed. We’ve done a lot, we can do more.
On 28 February 2022 prof. Waldemar Tarczyński, the Rector of the University of Szczecin, appointed Dr Dorota Kowalewska as the Plenipotentiary for Assistance to Ukraine. Dr Dorota Kowalewska coordinated and supported our year-round activities, which mainly included:
- Financial aid and charity actions: on the initiative of the University authorities and the Faculty of Law and Administration a fundraiser was organized already on 24 February 2022. The campaign raised over 17 000 PLN. The money was donated to the Szczecin branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Poland.
- Student support: the University offered psychological support for students from Ukraine. The employees of the Psychological Help Point were on duty and provided assistance. The university immediately introduced a number of solutions enabling students to continue their studies (special leave), exemption from fees for living in the Student Dormitories of the University of Szczecin and financial aid. Prof. Katarzyna Kotarska, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs, provided support and considered students’ requests for help every day.
- Access to infrastructure: The Rectors College together with the Chancellor provided rooms located at 40A, Piastów Ave to organize a reception point for refugees as well a sports hall at 7, Sowińskiego St. for a a temporary residence hall. It was available to people arriving from Ukraine from March to the end of August 2022. Thanks to the efforts of the University authorities and the help of many volunteers, as many as 180 places for those in need have been prepared in the hall.
- Legal assistance and career advice: the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Szczecin, the District Bar Council in Szczecin, the District Chamber of Legal Advisers in Szczecin, the Chamber of Bailiffs in Szczecin, and the Chamber of Notaries in Szczecin provided free legal advice, which was used by several dozen people. As part of the Law Clinic, free lectures were also held in a hybrid form and on-line for Ukrainian citizens, entrepreneurs and institutions dealing with ongoing support for Ukrainians. The University of Szczecin, through its Academic Career Office, also offered help in finding a job for students, US graduates and their families who are citizens of Ukraine.
- Polish language courses and a phrasebook: Polish language courses for refugees started right after the outbreak of the war and continue to this day. The Faculty of Humanities became a pioneer in the organization of Polish language courses, providing the opportunity to learn our native language to 1,270 people – war refugees from Ukraine. “We quickly felt the need to support refugees with what we can do best – and we can teach languages – explained Assoc. Prof. Krzysztof Nerlicki, prof. of the University of Szczecin, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. The classes were conducted by a total of 21 teachers, Dr Agnieszka Szlachta was the coordinator of the courses. “Linguistic SOS. Phrasebook Ukrainian-Polish-English-German” – a much-needed publication by a team of authors under the substantive supervision of prof. Ewa Kołodziejek was prepared. It was meant to be a linguistic toolkit containing basic vocabulary needed in everyday life situations, e.g. at the doctor’s, in the pharmacy, in the shop, in the restaurant, at the post office, in the means of transport, in the city. The phrasebook, published in four languages, was an important support for people learning Polish. A very important scope of activity of the University of Szczecin were translations from Russian and Ukrainian provided by students and supervised by Dr Agnieszka Krzanowska from the Faculty of Humanities. Volunteers were involved in the reception points at the Main Railway Station in Szczecin, at the University of Szczecin and various public offices.
- Helping children: a point for children from Ukraine at the University of Szczecin started operating in June 2022 at Szwoleżerów St. This unit was established as a response to the educational needs of mothers of the youngest war refugees. A day care center for children was particularly important during the summer holidays and it served as a day room. The day care point became an education unit from September 2022 and two groups: pre-school and school were created. The younger children (4-6 years old) have been participating in varous classes such as logical thinking, art, music, speech therapy, Polish, English and rhythmics are conducted until now. In the school class (7-10 years old), students spend most of their time in a multimedia room specially prepared for remote learning. There are online classes conducted by schools operating in Ukraine. For this purpose, the University of Szczecin purchased the necessary equipment for distance learning.
Employees and students of the University of Szczecin organized many different types of aid campaigns as well as lectures and speeches devoted to the war in Ukraine, it is impossible to list them all here. Volunteers and students from the Institute of Pedagogy took care of the youngest refugees every day, introducing an element of warmth and fun into their lives. The “Academics for Ukraine” campaign was also carried out. Clothes, books, telephones and tablets, hygiene products, toys, school materials and food were collected. Meals and a joint Christmas Eve party were organised. Acknowledgments for your good heart, for the actions of our students, have repeatedly flowed into the hands of the Rector authorities. Our help and support is still very important and needed. Joe Biden, US President, during his last visit to Kiev, said “We will be with you as long as it is necessary”, and we as an academic community can say that we will help as long as this help is needed, and we will do it to the best of our ability we can.
We thank Dr Dorota Kowalewska and Dr Agnieszka Szlachta for their help in preparing this summary.
Communication Office of the University of Szczecin