Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to Konstanz students

On the occasion of Europe Day, 9 May, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to students from across the European university network EUniWell. The University of Konstanz, too, took part in the live video call with Kyiv.

At the initiative of Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv, a member of the EUniWell alliance and long-time partner university of the University of Konstanz, an event involving all EUniWell partner universities took place on 9 May 2023 to commemorate Europe Day. A live video call linking all the universities was a key part of the event, where an unnamed high-ranking guest of honour was scheduled to attend.

The secret is revealed at last
As planned, exactly at 16:00 the well-kept secret was revealed as a new tile appeared next to the tiles for all eleven EUniWell universities and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, joined the video call. After a short greeting by Volodymyr A. Bugrov (rector of the Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv) and Beatrix Busse (EUniWell chief development officer), the Ukrainian president spoke to the participants. His main topic: The need for bravery and courage to preserve our freedom and the values that unite Europe.

"All of you can look at the path that your countries have taken in the struggle for freedom for people, in the struggle for our Europe, which we know and value, and see that it was the path of courage - of specific courageous people who built our community of free nations"

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

However, he also urged caution. Hard-won rights and freedoms should not be taken for granted. He warned that this is all too clear in the Russian war of aggression: "This brutal terrorist war waged by Russia against Ukraine is a reminder to each of our countries, to each and every one of you personally that you may need courage today just as courage was needed at any other time to protect freedom and our European values".

President Zelenskyy adressing EUniWell on Europe Day 2023


Students ask the president questions
After Zelenskyy's speech, students in the university auditorium had the chance to ask the Ukrainian president questions. In particular, they asked about current and future collaboration between Ukraine and member states of the European Union (EU) – at the political level and in the area of education – as well as options for the EU countries to support Ukraine in the current situation.

The event at the University of Konstanz
Just under an hour before the live video call with the Ukrainian president, the event began in Konstanz. About 200 university students and staff joined the programme titled "Celebrating Europe Day with our European Partners" in the university Library and were greeted by Dorothea Debus, Vice Rector for International Affairs, Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

"At the University of Konstanz, located at the heart of Europe, we are intimately connected with Europe and the world. We are firmly committed to being an international institution – with respect to our teaching, with respect to our research, and also with respect to our university administration."

Dorothea Debus

While speaking, Dorothea Debus referred to the key sentence in the famous speech by former French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann: The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. "This, I think, is what we should put at the centre of our attention today: The maintenance, and the urgent hope for re-establishment of peaceful relations across Europe", Debus added.

In his speech "Schumann 2023", Dirk Leuffen, professor of political science with a focus on international politics at the University of Konstanz, also referred to Schuman and his ideas. Afterwards, two Ukrainian scholars spoke, who are currently researching at the University of Konstanz: Yeliena Kovalska, a sociologist from Ukraine and a MSCA4Ukraine Fellow at the University of Konstanz, talked about "Ukrainian War Refugees in Konstanz: Main Problems and Plans for Future". Afterwards, Maryna Lytvyn, an economist at the Dnipro University of Technology and a Visiting Fellow at the Zukunftskolleg in Konstanz, spoke about the "Ukrainian European Studies Association".

About the EUniWell university alliance
EUniWell is one of 44 European university alliances that are funded by the European Commission for the purpose of establishing a European Education Area where it is easy to learn, study and research across borders. EUniWell was launched in 2020, in the second pilot phase of the European Universities Initiative. The alliance pursues a comprehensive, knowledge-based, action-oriented approach to the topic of well-being and thus answers the call of the European Council for member states to promote human well-being.

Follow-up report on the event on the EUniWell website
Official message of the Ukrainian Presidential Office on the EUniWell event and video

Daniel Schmidtke

By Daniel Schmidtke - 10.05.2023