Ukraine aid: "A project for the post-war future"

Frau auf einer Bühne spricht in ein Mikrofon

Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, during her keynote speech at the opening of the Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study

The Volkswagen Foundation is funding the virtual Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study with almost one million euros. The opening and the first conference have now taken place in Berlin.

The men had to stay in Ukraine and had to take part via video. The Ukrainian women, however, were able to be on site at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin: 22 researchers represented the first cohort  of Fellows at the Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study on November 8, 2023.  The next day, they met for the first time - hybrid by necessity: the war in their home country makes nothing else possible.

This is why sociologist Viktoriya Sereda will lead a "virtual" Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study (VUIAS) and coordinate its program until further notice. This is made possible by the engagement of several European partners; the Volkswagen Foundation is contributing a total of 960,000 euros for three years.

Another element in the Foundation's commitment to Ukraine

In addition to the presentation of the scholarship holders, the keynote speech by Oleksandra Matviichuk was an emotional highlight of the opening ceremony. In her speech, the human rights activist and head of the Center for Civil Liberties which was awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, called for a new appreciation of freedom in Western societies, that should not exclude the consequence and obligation of having to win wars. She called attention to 54,000 documented - and as yet unpunished - cases of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Her bitter conclusion: "Russia normalizes evil."

klatschendes Publikum bei einer Veranstaltung

Opening ceremony of the Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study on November 8, 2023

This is precisely why everyone at the opening evening was convinced that projects such as VUIAS are needed as "a bridge to the post-war future", as Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation, said in his speech. The Foundation's commitment to Ukraine began early on: Just one week after Russia's invasion, an emergency program was set up for researchers and their families who had fled Ukraine.

The fellows are already exchanging ideas in a hybrid manner 

At the beginning of 2023, the Wissenschaftskolleg had already joined forces with Ukrainian and international partners to initiate the establishment of the UIAS in Kiev. In the founding phase under wartime conditions, a virtual structure was initially set up. 

Mann an einem Rednerpult

Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation

The hope is, of course, to inaugurate a real institute in Kiev, an office in the city center has already been rented. But as long as the war lasts, Viktoriya Sereda will run the institute from the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

The project's goals are, on the one hand, to mobilize support for Ukrainian science in times of aggressive war and to lay the early foundations for rebuilding the scientific landscape destroyed by the war. On the other hand, VUIAS is intended to help Ukrainian researchers both inside and outside the country to network with each other and with the international scientific community. Finally, it is intended to counteract the brain drain expected as a result of the war.

Events are to take place in virtual and hybrid form for the duration of the attack on Ukraine. The call for applications for the first cohort of fellows took place in spring and summer 2023. The first 22 Ukrainian fellows were selected from 500 applications.