Ukraine – we stand united with you

Ukrainian flag and Swedish flag outside the University of Gothenburg. Photo: Johan Wingborg

It is utterly appalling to follow day-by-day Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and it is difficult to distance yourself from the news reporting. Governments and institutions around the world strongly condemn Russia’s actions and as a university, we agree and stand up to defend democracy, freedom of expression and human rights. What is happening now has not happened for a very long time and the reactions and sanctions of the outside world are powerful. Russia’s actions now – to invade a free state, with overwhelming violence and with great human suffering as a result – are a chilling and devastating attack on democratic values.

We now follow closely the initiatives taken in the Swedish university sector. While it is necessary to strongly distance ourselves and organize against the state of Russia, we must not forget that there is a large part of the population that does not support the war. Within the academy, we have a tradition of long-term collaborations, networks and personal relationships that can survive both war and this political madness. We also have the students, and the young people, who are an obvious force for a democratic society. Although we must now act responsibly and with careful consideration, it is important that the strong relations we have with colleagues and students in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are not damaged or terminated.

The willingness to help is great and so is also our intention to build solidarity in different ways. My rector colleagues within Eutopia, of which the University of Gothenburg is a part, condemned the invasion in a joint statement on Sunday. It also heartening to see the Ukrainian flag flying next to the Swedish one in the University Park. Also within Scholars at Risk (SAR), a special Ukraine initiative has been started to develop measures on how we within the member universities can contribute.

Much work will be required in the future and for a long time after to strengthen and improve the conditions for people affected by war, invasion and the totalitarian abuse of power, so that the freedom and democracy of societies is restored. Here, the academy has an important role to play.

Ukraine, in the name of democracy, we stand united with you. Our thoughts and hearts are with you also.

Eva Wiberg