The bonds between Notre Dame and Ukraine

Author: Dennis Brown

Mc 6

Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on Feb. 24, the University of Notre Dame has demonstrated solidarity with Ukraine in numerous ways, including a forceful statement from University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., at the start of the war; a prayer service for peace in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Feb. 28; faculty panel presentations; Pray for Peace warm-up shirts for the Irish men’s and women’s basketball teams participating in the NCAA tournament; and lighting the “Word of Life” mosaic on the Hesburgh Library in Ukrainian blue and yellow.

Notre Dame’s relationship with Ukraine is in large measure related to its close ties with Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), established in Lviv in 2002 as the first Catholic university founded on territory of the former Soviet Union.

In June 2019, Father Jenkins presented the Notre Dame Award to UCU’s founder, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, for his work as leader of UCU as a center for cultural thought, for his Christian witness and for the formation of a Ukrainian society based on human dignity.

As a part of the award ceremony, Father Jenkins and Archbishop Gudziak signed a memorandum of understanding for the two institutions to “develop collaborations and exchanges in fields of shared interest and expertise.”

It is those many initiatives over the past three years in particular, but even before, that have created an especially strong bond between Notre Dame and the people of Ukraine, who are now suffering at the hands of a nation that has invaded their homeland without provocation.

These collaborative ventures include:

  • The Nanovic Institute for European Studies has hosted six visiting scholars from UCU to teach and conduct research at Notre Dame as part of its Patrick and Angela Adams Fellowship for Catholic Higher Education in Post-Communist Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Scholars include Taras Dobko, associate professor of philosophy and senior vice rector of UCU, who is currently in residence. In the 20-plus years of its visiting scholars program, the Nanovic Institute has hosted more than 20 scholars from UCU.
  • The Nanovic Institute’s weeklong Catholic Leadership Program, held in collaboration with the Mendoza College of Business, is an executive program held at Notre Dame for Catholic leadership focused on management skills, strategic planning and philanthropy development. Since the signing of the MOUs, 10 faculty/administrative leaders from UCU have participated in and graduated from the program; in total, 18 leaders from UCU have completed the program.
  • UCU, along with the other institutions of the Catholic Universities Partnership (CUP), formed under the leadership of the Nanovic Institute, is deeply engaged in two projects with Notre Dame:
    • The Faith and Freedom Project explores the role of faith-based actors, especially the Catholic Church, in creating and sustaining political and religious freedoms in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. This project began with a symposium to mark Archbishop Gudziak’s receipt of the Notre Dame Award.
    • A book titled “The Trauma of Communism,” emerging from a CUP conference scheduled prior to the war and to be published by Ukrainian Catholic University Press, includes contributions from both UCU and Notre Dame faculty.
  • In September, Myroslav Marynovich, a prominent Ukrainian human rights activist, Gulag survivor and the vice rector for university mission at UCU, delivered the 2021 Nanovic Forum lecture on “Faith in Communist and Post-Communist Europe.”
  • In January, the Notre Dame Law School committed to supporting a consortium of Catholic law faculties and scholars in Central and Eastern Europe. The consortium will meet annually for scholarly exchange and discussions about the promise, challenges and best practices for developing excellent and distinctively Catholic legal education in the region.

More information is available on the University’s “Solidarity with Ukraine” website.

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on March 22, 2022.