Buildings Can Be Destroyed; Knowledge—and the Human Spirit—Cannot

IIE Continues to Support Ukrainian Students, Scholars, and Artists Two Years After Russia’s Invasion

Access to education enables all of us to build a life of our own choosing—a life aligned with our personal values that is safe and secure and empowers each of us to explore and live out our potential. Pursuing knowledge is a desire deeply embedded in the human spirit that transcends language and borders. Yet, more people worldwide are living under conditions that not only limit their liberties but also threaten their very lives.

As of February 24th, it will have been two years of this reality for the people of Ukraine. Nearly 3.7 million Ukrainians have been driven from their homes in search of safety, while an additional 6.3 million Ukrainian people have fled the country, according to UNHCR data. The agency also estimates that 14.6 million Ukrainian people will need humanitarian assistance this year. From the very start, IIE has stepped in on an often overlooked, but critical need: higher education. We have supported more than 600 scholars, students, and artists since Russia’s invasion through IIE initiatives such as the Scholar Rescue Fund, Emergency Student Fund, and Artist Protection Fund. We continue to offer critical assistance, ranging from relocation, tuition, lodging, and additional funding. IIE is a critical resource when students, scholars, and artists have no other safety net. But as the war rages on, we must do more to provide for the holistic, enduring needs of the Ukrainian people.  

At IIE, we believe that access to education is a human right that empowers individuals and reverberates through communities and nations. Further, access to higher education is a long-term investment in a nation’s human capital, democracy, economic competitiveness, and overall stability. It’s a right that is especially important among displaced people who have the potential to rebuild their home countries post-war. Without education, refugees and displaced people all over the world are at risk of becoming a lost generation.

Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed in many conflicts, university buildings, professors, college and graduate students, and other civilians attached to education are targeted as authoritarian policies seek to undermine access to knowledge.

While military assaults may damage or even destroy buildings, we know that they cannot erase knowledge, scholarship, and the invaluable people-to-people connections that we are facilitating and supporting through our Ukraine Crisis Response programs and services.

Through our extensive global network, IIE facilitates seamless collaboration with educational and cultural institutions worldwide. IIE opened an office in Kyiv shortly after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. For the past 30 years and every day throughout the current war, our dedicated team in Ukraine has continued to provide unwavering support to scholars, students, and artists in the country.

We continue to mobilize resources in support of individuals in crisis. You, too, can join us in this ongoing effort to ensure access to educational opportunities and preserve the invaluable knowledge and ideas that these students, scholars, and artists bring to communities.

Consider making a gift to IIE’s  Ukraine Crisis Response. We also invite you to join our IIE-SRF and IIE-APF networks to host a scholar or artist at your institution. Below is a two-year update on IIE’s Ukraine Crisis Response.

Protecting Ukrainian and Russian Scholars and Scholarship

I view myself as an active participant in Ukraine’s recovery process through my work with prospective teachers and public activities. IIE-SRF is contributing to the victory of Ukraine — the experience and knowledge I gained during my fellowship and the long-term ties I built with my foreign colleagues will improve Ukrainian education. This will play a focal role in educating Ukrainian youth to be citizens of a truly European country where democracy, freedom, and independence are not empty words.

IIE-SRF Fellow Olha Matviienko of Ukraine; Placement: Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

Since the war began, the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) has supported 23 Ukrainian scholars. Many of the fellows are women, and their academic fields range from children’s literature to medicine to computer science. Current fellows from Ukraine are carrying out their scholarship in safety in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. There, they are continuing their research and teaching while strengthening collaborations abroad and continuing to engage with students and colleagues at their home institutions, when possible, all with the hope of returning to Ukraine when conditions permit.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also laid bare the risks faced by Russian academics who defy their government’s line on the war. Russian scholars who oppose the war in Ukraine face arrest, dismissal, or forced military conscription. IIE-SRF is currently supporting 11 Russian scholars who can no longer safely continue their work in the country.

Supporting Access to Higher Education for Refugees and Displaced People Globally

Within a week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, IIE activated our Emergency Student Fund to provide immediate financial support for Ukrainian students who were already studying in the U.S. and faced grave challenges to their ability to continue their degree programs. We received student nominations for this critical grant funding from over 170 colleges and universities across the U.S.Thanks to the support of our friends and affiliates, IIE was able to rapidly provide more than 260 Ukrainian students with grants totaling $635,000 in 2022. These rapid grants helped students with basic living expenses so they could remain safely enrolled in their higher education institutions, including food, healthcare, books, and other costs.

I was constantly scared for my family, praying everybody made it out of Mariupol alive… This scholarship… allowed me to finish my degree without a worry [about] financial strains. …Receiving this scholarship meant absolutely everything to a Ukrainian student like me – I felt heard and understood within this program.”

Student Daryna Zaitseva of Ukraine; Capital University (Ohio), Dentistry

Also, in 2022, IIE was chosen to lead the scholarship administration of the Global Democracy Ambassador Scholarship (GDAS). Co-chaired by chef and humanitarian José Andrés; global human rights and pro-democracy activist Garry Kasparov; social entrepreneur and KIND Snacks Founder Daniel Lubetzky; and Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, GDAS was designed to help Ukrainian students continue their studies, educate global peers on the fragility and importance of democracy, and inspire the world to stay engaged. To date, 20 Ukrainian students have been awarded up to $25,000 each for educational and living expenses and are participating in educational programming led by the Renew Democracy Initiative.

We proudly work with the American University of Kyiv to administer the American University Kyiv Scholarship Fund, which provides a unique opportunity for Ukrainian students to earn an American degree while studying in Ukraine.

Ensuring the Voices of Ukrainian and Russian Artists are Heard

Often seen as a unifying force in political and social movements, artists in the region have been threatened, putting their lives and work in danger due to the protracted war. To date, the IIE Artist Protection Fund (IIE-APF) has received 59 applications from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. IIE-APF has awarded nine APF Fellowships to artists in need of emergency support, from fields including literary, performing, and visual art. The volume of applications has continued to increase as the crisis enters its third year.