Dear Friends of UCU,
Nine years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is again a global newsmaker.
The Ukrainian government led by President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov is facing a third week of mass nationwide protests and demonstrations, initially sparked by the president’s decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union, scheduled to take place 29 November. The rallies have rapidly grown in scope due to the brutality of the special police forces, who violently attacked peaceful protesters and journalists in Kyiv November 30 and again December 1 (read UCU Statement on Violent Suppression). The Special Forces’ attempted forceful closing of the Maidan Square over the night of December 10th has further galvanized the protest movement throughout the nation.
A new, younger generation of Ukrainians — beautifully, courageously, open-heartedly, and confidently — has appeared on the public arena. This is the generation of Ukrainians who were born and grew up in independent Ukraine, those uninfected by the virus of Soviet totalitarianism. Most of them were only about 10 years old at the time of the Orange Revolution and they are now leading their generation’s very own mega-scale “workshop” on human dignity and solidarity in Ukraine.
These young individuals are by far Ukraine’s greatest national resource, our veritable endowment for the future of the country. This is a treasure that we simply cannot allow to be lost or destroyed,, either by tragic circumstances or by devastating despair.
UCU has invested almost two decades in the formation and education of this new generation and we now bear witness to the outstanding results of those efforts, which are visible on both national and international levels. UCU students in Lviv were the first in the country to protest, ultimately triggering, inspiring, and leading the protest of millions in Ukraine.
The current situation in Ukraine remains serious, tense, dramatic, and unpredictable as to the immediate outcomes. And yet, there is a distinct understanding in the UCU community that this turning point in Ukrainian history is a special gift — a blessing for Ukraine and for millions of our citizens who are exercising their freedom and service to others so selflessly. Their lives will be changed forever by standing up in solidarity for their values, beliefs and their vision of Ukraine as a strong, prosperous, and moral nation.
Shocked by the solidarity, commitment, and courage of millions of its citizens, and daunted by the demonstration of support of the movement it has inspired worldwide, the Ukrainian government has declared its peaceful intentions and desire to hear the voice of the people and participate in a dialogue with them. Concurrently, however, the Ukrainian authorities have been taking active steps to intimidate and to persecute civil activists, journalists, members of the political opposition, and also students who initiated the first way of the protest and demonstrations.
UCU is clearly high on the list of institutions the police and other authorities are pressuring.
The police have opened criminal cases against UCU students and professors to intimidate the University community and to warn us that active, open, and peaceful manifestation against violations of human dignity and rights would not be tolerated. Our students are put under psychological pressure though phone calls in which they are threatened not to continue active involvement with the demonstrations. The machinery of intimidation and repression is in full gear.
Our experience at UCU convinces us that it is imperative to resolutely defend moral principles and live according to the social teachings of the Church, and teach others by our example and witness. By hiding, we would never reach our goals. If the authoritarian regime of Yanukovich becomes firmly established, UCU will no longer be able to fulfill its mission. Therefore, adherence to our principles and moving forward with faith and trust in God, is the most effective plan of action for today.
As our students have so eloquently written in the Student Appeal, ‘Now, more than ever, we need your solidarity and support. We appeal to you and ask that you disseminate information about the shameful state of affairs in Ukraine, the harassment of institutions of higher learning and their students, the violations of constitutional rights and democratic freedoms, the violent attacks against peaceful demonstrators and the mockery of the dignity of people who are only calling for the good and prosperity of their country’”.
The UCU leadership and our academic community remain fully confident that the magnitude of the protest, its peaceful and profoundly spiritual character, and the commitment of millions of Ukrainians to the values of a free and open, democratic society are irreversibly shaping the future of Ukraine right at this very moment.
We will be staying in touch with you throughout this turbulent time in Ukraine, sharing our views, thoughts, statements and inspirations. We would also like to share with you some articles written by leading experts on the Ukrainian situation and the prospects of our country.
To familiarize yourself more with the latest developments in Ukraine, please review the recent articles in the international press by George Weigel “The Stakes in Ukraine”, Edward Lucas “How the West Lost Ukraine to Putin”, and the most recent video address by Bishop Borys Gudziak. You can stay up to date by checking the UCU website on student protests for freedom.
Thank you very much for your continuous support and prayers!
+ Bishop Borys (Gudziak), UCU President
Father Bohdan Prach, UCU Rector