Home again: Final report about Ukraine stay

Pictured is a first aid kit assembled and delivered to the front line by a non-profit organization run out of Ternopil State Medical University.
Photo: DL
Wednesday 19 June 2024, 15:00

Some of you might have already read my the previous article and interview concerning my three month stay teaching at Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk which was supported by the Faculty of Arts. This is intended as the final report on my time there. I have been experiencing a minor state of shell-shock since arriving back home in Olomouc. Many colleagues and friends have asked me something along the lines of “How was your time in Ukraine?” and I have usually been at a loss for words, responding with something like: “It was intense”. Those who asked were genuinely interested, but somehow I did not where to start. Here is finally my answer.

First of all, I was in very little danger. When Ukrainians would ask me if I had been afraid to come to their country, I usually joked that I was originally from Los Angeles, which is much more dangerous to live in. I would not of course have said something like this if I had been in Eastern Ukraine. The main ‘burden’ was the psychological one, having shared my life with colleagues who are mentally and physically exhausted due to the conditions they have been living under over the last two and a half years.

I found myself working harder than ever in Ukraine, perhaps infected by the ‘workaholism’ of the people around me. Most people I met had at least two jobs. I visited eight different universities in six different cities and also gave lectures online for five more who are currently unable to hold in-person classes due to the war (universities located in the East). I also gave talks at primary and secondary schools, language schools, libraries and cultural centres of various sorts. In general, people were very appreciative of my being there and sharing a bit of my expertise and life with them. I participated in several conferences both in-person and on-line and launched cooperation with several colleagues on joint academic articles.

I have already mentioned previously the frequent air raids which interrupted our teaching. Things have, unfortunately, gone from bad to worse. There are now regular blackouts (power failures), often eight hours per day. People are exhausted and hanging on for dear life. As my friend, the English department head Yakiv Bystrov, puts it: “We are living like wild animals. These are today’s realities.”  

Despite there being no end to the war in sight, I hope to return to Ukraine in the near future, but for now want to do as much as possible to develop cooperation between our university and our Ukrainian colleagues. As I have stated earlier, I believe we should do our utmost to not only support Ukrainian students and scholars here in Czech, but also help universities back in Ukraine who are experiencing serious brain-drain, amongst other things.

I would like to conclude my communication with some ideas for cooperation based not only on my own observations, but on suggestions given me by Ukrainian colleagues.

My own involvement with Precarpathian National University actually began due to an Erasmus+ exchange with our Ukrainian section at the Slavic languages department. I hope to expand this cooperation to not only my own department, the Department of English and American Studies, but also hopefully at other departments and faculties. Week-long stays by Ukrainian academics at our university not only provides them with an opportunity to share their research and expertise, make new contacts and friends, but also with a welcome rest and respite from the constant stress of daily life in Ukraine. Semester-long stays by Ukrainian students speaks for itself. I would also encourage Palacký colleagues to consider doing an exchange at a Ukrainian university despite the circumstances.

Ukrainian universities are also extremely open and appreciative of offers to give guest lectures or tutoring online, especially when many of them are permanently in this mode of operations anyway. 

A number of Ukrainian contacts have mentioned an interest in establishing joint Master’s degrees, which would be an ideal way to bolster the reputation and viability of the Ukrainian institution without losing students abroad permanently.

I mentioned already being involved in presenting papers and writing articles in cooperation with a Ukrainian colleague. This is something which could be expanded in all fields of academics and which would provide a much needed boost to academics struggling to “publish or perish”. Workshops and mentoring in academic writing is also something which is greatly needed. I am also exploring the idea of having a co-affliation when publishing articles, thereby providing added value for Ukrainian universities struggling to compete with wealthier and more stable western universities.

Apart from Erasmus+ agreements with Ukrainian universities, we also already have ongoing cooperation with Kharkiv Karazin University as part of the Aurora network. Unfortunately, Kharkiv is only an associate member, but I would strongly encourage developing research projects and summer schools which would support this prestigious university which has been bombed repeatedly during the war and which is persevering despite the grim circumstances. 

Finally, I will list some of the other suggestions I received from Ukrainian colleagues: developing COIL courses, organizing summer schools, joint projects and initiatives, visits by student trainees from our university, joint conferences, etc.

Docent Pavlína Flajšarová, Vice-Dean for International Affairs at my Faculty, is currently coming up with some ideas for cooperation and we hope to implement the first exchanges starting next semester. I would encourage you to look into your own possibilities.

Finally, some people have asked how they can help financially. I am providing information below about supporting a non-profit organization run out of the medical university in the city of Ternopil. I visited them in person and recommend them very highly. They supply medical supplies to Ukrainian soldiers. They are 110 percent reliable. The picture shows the first-aid kits they assemble to send to the front.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Headquarters Victory: “Allow us to introduce ourselves. Our charitable foundation is dedicated to providing medical support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and volunteer militias, as well as military and front-line hospitals through our volunteer efforts.”

Account Euro


IBAN: UA273052990000026005013304553






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