Solidarity event for Ukraine

Speech from Peter Frensch, acting President of the HU, at the solidarity event for Ukraine on 4 March.

Dear Humboldtians,

dear Ukrainian friends staying with our university as students, scientists, professors, or lecturers,

A week ago, a new era began for us. What was unimaginable became a terrible reality from one day to the next: there is war in Europe.

I thank you all for coming in such large numbers this afternoon here in the courtyard of our alma mater. This is a strong sign. Together we show here and now: Humboldt-Universität stands together!

I would especially like to welcome the Ukrainian fellow students and colleagues among you. Around 200 students of Ukrainian nationality are enrolled at our university in regular degree programmes or as Erasmus programme students. They are Humboldtians. And on behalf of the entire Humboldt community, I want you to know: You are not alone!

We are all at your side: students from all disciplines, professors from Mitte, Adlershof and the North Campus, service and administrative staff, lecturers, visiting academics and members of the academic staff - many of us have taken part in demonstrations for peace in recent days, signalled our support for refugees or offered our help to people in war zones in other ways.

Sometimes we may wonder what good it will do. But I assure you: Yes, it brings something. Every gesture, every word. I am also grateful to the many Humboldtians who have lent a hand at this time: Academics are contributing their expertise in interviews and media contributions to explain the current situation.

The Student Affairs Department has already launched a comprehensive counselling service for all Ukrainian students; the Service Centre for Research provides information to Ukrainian researchers and the International Department is taking care of individual case solutions, a university-wide emergency aid fund, our cooperations in Eastern Europe and the bundling of aid measures in the Berlin University Alliance.

Our measures also include the suspension of current cooperations with our Russian partner institutions. I assure you, this step was not taken lightly by the university management. We in particular, with our special history at this university in the centre of Berlin, know how important bridges between countries and cultures are. How easy it can be to destroy these bridges. And how difficult it is to rebuild new bridges.

We long for the day when we resume cooperation, when scientific exchange is possible again, travel can take place and joint degrees are offered. But scientific cooperation is based on academic freedom. And there is no such thing without freedom!

With our measures, we make a clear distinction between institutions and individuals. Students are sufferers, not warmongers.

We have also noted with great respect the appeal of hundreds of Russian scientists who have raised a strong, courageous voice against the war. We echo their closing words, "Let’s make science, not war!"

We are all stunned and horrified by the news reaching us from Ukraine. Our thoughts are with the people who are directly affected by the aggressions of the armed forces in the cities and in the countryside. With the people who seek shelter in their cellars, garages or metro stations during the nights. To the children who have been taken to safety at the borders and to the women and men who are resisting the conquest of their sovereign land.

Our thoughts are especially with our friends, fellow students and colleagues at our two partner universities, Taras Shevchenko University Kiev and Ivan Franko University Lviv.

Dear Humboldtians,

THIS is not how we imagined our coming together after two years of pandemic. We have said time and again in the past that the university is and remains a social space, that Humboldt stands together. This is especially evident in days like these. Let us make a silent statement together this afternoon - against violence and war, for peace, freedom and humanity.

Many thanks to Ms Landenberger and Ms Wurm from the Institute of Slavic and Hungarian Studies for their contribution by Yevgenia Belorusets, who was still a Siegfried Unseld Professor at our university last semester.

In a moment, we will continue with a performance of European folk and peace songs by the performance group "Dokumentartheater Berlin" around the Humboldtian Kristoffer Sturm. He has just written another exam. I would say that this is Humboldtian commitment in the best sense. Many thanks to you and all those involved!

To our Ukrainian students: I would like to invite you to take advantage of our numerous counselling services.

This afternoon you will find representatives from our international office here in the Humboldt Car. Please do not hesitate to contact them.

Before we continue with the programme, please let us all be silent together - for a moment - and send our thoughts to our friends and partners in Ukraine. We think of the families of our Ukrainian university members and of all the people who are suffering in this terrible war. [...]

Thank you very much!

Peter Frensch
Acting President of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

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