Kutya, carols, prayer: Students from Ukraine celebrated Christmas at the uni

Photos: Vojtěch Duda, Martin Višňa
Saturday 7 January 2023, 9:00 – Text: Ivana Pustějovská, Martin Višňa

In these days, Ukraine is celebrating the Christmas holidays and the arrival of the New Year. It is a time of coming together, so Palacký University Olomouc made it possible for those Ukrainian students and staff who did not get home to visit their loved ones to meet each other and stay together on the university campus.

In his opening speech, UP Rector Martin Procházka welcomed all the Ukrainian students. “I wish you a Happy New Year, may you prosper in your lives and may the year 2023 bring peace to your country,” said the rector. He has been meeting regularly with Ukrainian students since the war started and is interested in how university management can make their stay in Olomouc easier. “If you need anything, we are here and ready to help you,” emphasised Procházka.

That is why Alena Vyskočilová, the head of the UP Welcome Office, also attended the meeting and presented the work of the centre to the students, informing them about the services it provides, from basic information about the university and the city to administrative assistance when dealing with visas. The students thanked the university for the opportunity to study in Olomouc and for all the support the school provides them.

A festive atmosphere was present in the Rector’s Canteen during the afternoon, where the university representatives prepared a small Christmas party for the Ukrainian students and staff. Fifty students gladly accepted the invitation.

“Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the UP Volunteering Centre has focused their efforts to help Ukrainian students and academics, and as our Christmas approached, we thought about how to allow those who are staying in Olomouc over the holidays to celebrate their Ukrainian Christmas as well. Eventually, we came up with this event, so we’re very happy that they really came together and celebrated their holidays in a joyful atmosphere as a community,” said Vladimíra Sedláčková, a coordinator at the UP Volunteering Centre, which organised the gathering together with the Ukrainian Studies section of the Department of Slavonic Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts and the UP Communications Office, and thanks to the support of university management.

“According to the tradition in Ukraine, there should be twelve dishes on the Christmas Eve table, but this was not feasible for us. However, we tried to combine Czech and Ukrainian cuisine, and in addition to borscht, our guests could enjoy sweet pancakes and potato pancakes, which our cuisines have in common. One student also brought kutya, a traditional Ukrainian sweet porridge made of boiled groats mixed with ground poppy seeds, raisins, honey, and walnuts. This dish is not to be missed on the Ukrainian Christmas Eve table, so we were very happy to be able to serve it,” said Radana Merzová from Ukrainian Studies section. She added that she was surprised by the number of students who came to the canteen for the gathering.

The festive meeting, however, was not only about food and conversation. The guests prayed for peace in their homeland and for its defenders, and also sang Ukrainian carols under the baton of Olena Salnikova, an art school director who fled the war to Olomouc with her son and began studying art studies at the UP Faculty of Arts.

Once again, the students thanked Rector Procházka for all the help and support they receive from the university. “It is a natural thing to do, we have to help each other in times of need. We want you to feel as good as possible here and to have the best memories from your stay at Palacký University Olomouc,” replied the rector to the words of thanks. Jiří Stavovčík, Vice-Rector for Internationalisation, also came to greet the students and wish them a Merry Christmas.


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