On Saturday, March 24th, 2012 a silent auction was held at the historic Ukrainian Institute in New York City to benefit the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Headed by the Rt. Reverend Borys Gudziak, the Ukrainian Catholic University, or UCU, serves to encourage modern learning and intellectualism in Ukraine, a country that has struggled to free itself from its post-Soviet bonds for over two decades.

UCU is the first Catholic university to exist in Ukraine. Fittingly, its current headquarters is located on the site of a former Communist KGB headquarters in Lviv. The beautiful, architecturally modern building contains very few walls to symbolize togetherness and unity, and also to encourage intellectualism and education—they must not be separated from each other. UCU is currently one of the most important Catholic learning centers in the world, and it is pushing Western values into the East. The University recently ran a successful outreach program in which Fordham students visited UCU to encouraged open borders between the United States and Ukraine. The trip was so successful that Fordham’s Global Outreach program will continue to send students to Ukraine to visit UCU.

Olena Dzhedzhora, one of the speakers are the auction, is the International Academic Relations Director at the Ukrainian Catholic University. Ms. Dzhedzhora, who has been working at UCU for nearly 20 years, spoke about how the University is working to reverse the negative effects that Communism has had on Ukraine.  She explained that the University’s goal is to re-create Ukrainians who value intellectualism, openness, the Church, and art. Another speaker at the event was Alex Kuzma, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation. Mr. Kuzma emphasized that the University is instrumental in creating a democratic society, since change will not happen in a “top-down” fashion. “Real change must come from the ground up,” says Mr. Kuzma. If a nation wants to change its circumstances, then its people must work together to do so, he continued. The students of UCU are those kinds of people. One prime example is the fact that UCU students were among the front line during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004.

by Andrea Kebalo

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photos by Olena Sidlovych