In the month since the war in Ukraine began, a number of initiatives have been launched to help refugees who want to pursue their studies or research at UdeM.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops began more than a month ago. Millions of people have sought refuge in Poland and other Eastern European countries. They have abandoned their studies, jobs and homes, leaving friends and family behind. Many members of the University of Montreal community have been trying to help the refugees. Since the first days of the crisis, appeals of all kinds have been organized across the University: to house Ukrainian students, to host Ukrainian researchers, to raise donations.
As the Rector announced in his message to the community when the war broke out, the Office of the Vice-Rector of Community and International Partnerships is coordinating and supporting these initiatives on campus. Faculty members from various backgrounds have since contacted the Office of the Vice-Rector to help make arrangements for Ukrainian students. For example, Magdalena Dembinska, a professor in the Department of Political Science, has been working to bring six students to UdeM. They are currently in Europe waiting for official documents to travel to Canada. Once they arrive, they will be housed in the University dorms.
“They have been admitted into the undergraduate program in Communications and Politics as exchange students,” said Dembinska. “When we received the Rector’s announcement, my colleague Martin Carrier, lecturer and guidance counsellor in the Political Science department, and I immediately turned to our respective networks to identify students and bring them here. We didn’t realize how complicated it would be! But though there have been many logistical and administrative hurdles, the University has been very efficient in clearing all of them. In addition to our department, the International Affairs Office, the International Student Office, Student Services, the Office of the Vice-Rector, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and UdeM’s Europe Office all worked together to make this project possible, and we are now ready to welcome this first contingent of Ukrainian students.
“We’ve been in constant contact with them since the first days,” Dembinska went on. “After crossing a country at war, you can imagine what a challenge it is for them to make a transatlantic trip to an unknown land! But they seem happy to have a plan, a place where they will be able to continue their studies while deciding what to do next.”
There have been a number of similar efforts since the war began. “The Centre de recherches mathématiques is offering to host researchers in mathematics and statistics,” said Valérie Amiraux, Vice-Rector of Community and International Partnerships. “A professor in the Faculty of Medicine who was moved by the plight of the refugees was among the first to contact me about the possibility of having a Ukrainian post-doctoral intern fill a position on his team. My office is working hard to enable people like her to come and continue their work and studies in Montreal in the coming months. We also learned recently of the possibility of hosting Russian students.”
On the philanthropic front, the Office of the Vice-Rector of Alumni and Philanthropy, Michael Pecho, has been busy setting up a new emergency fund, the Fonds d’aide aux communautés universitaires en situation de crise humanitaire. “With the help of our generous donors, the University of Montreal is gearing up to support students and colleagues who have been directly affected by the war in Ukraine, and to open our doors to people who have been forced to flee their country because of a humanitarian crisis and want to continue their research, teaching or studies in Montreal, in our community,” said Pecho.