An appeal has been launched by UHI Inverness to help staff and students at a Ukrainian university battling to continue classes in the war-torn country.
The Ukraine National Forestry University (UNFU) in Lviv trains people for the country’s vital forestry sector.
As the conflict rages on, learning is being disrupted by missile attacks, air raid alarms and power blackouts.
Students and university staff have also lost friends, family and colleagues in the war with Russia.
The ongoing disruption has put the country’s only forestry training institution, and the future of the wider sector, in a vulnerable position.
Appeal to help replace heating and replace shelters
It is against this background that the Scottish School of Forestry (SSF), part of UHI Inverness, has stepped in.
Its appeal hopes to raise €85,300 (£73,000) to replace heating systems and provide solar-powered mobile generators for classes, as well as repairing and renewing shelters.
UNFU has adapted its teaching to provide hybrid learning and allow its 4,500 students to attain valuable qualifications in difficult circumstances.
Many are taught online as there are not enough shelters for them all on campus.
Dr Euan Bowditch, a forestry and social ecology lecturer at SFF, has been instrumental in developing the relationship between the two institutions.
He said as well providing immediate support, it is hoped a new partnership between UNFU and SFF can arrange an online summer school this year and longer-term teaching and research collaboration,
He said the appeal figure is achievable, although it seems like a large sum.
“The staff and students live in a state of impending disruption whereby classes or meetings may suddenly stop abruptly and they have to make their way to shelters.”
He added: “There are threats of departments shutting down or shrinking depending on numbers of students and staff they have.
“Our partnership can help prevent them going under by providing support and accessing funds.
“So when they come out of this there are still jobs and institutions available.”
University has lost seven people in the war
Father-of two Yuriy Dadak, associate professor of UNFU’s the department of sawing technologies, carpentry and wooden construction products and a well-known poet, died in battle in April last year.
Another six people from the university have died in recent months.
Dr Bowditch said: “One of the staff who died was the same age as me, and has two girls the same age as mine.
“When it gets comparable to your own life it hurts more.”
Lviv has experienced a number of attacks by Russian missiles and drones.
The most recent was last month. A strike just over 1,000 yards from the university killed 10 city residents and injured 40.
More than 40 UNFU employees and students are currently serving with the Ukrainian armed forces to defend their country.
The university also supports the war effort in other ways, including transferring humanitarian aid to victims of hostilities.
Each member of staff also donates one day’s earnings to the military hospital every month.
Studies organised with ‘anxiety and fear’
Mykola Borys, vice rector for educational work and international relations at UNFU, said: “The educational process is regularly interrupted due to power outages and the massive destruction of Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
“The university organises on-campus studies with anxiety and fears due to security reasons.”
Professor Chris O’Neil is principal and chief executive of UHI Inverness. He said he has been moved by the difficulties faced by colleagues and students in Ukraine.
“They are striving to provide quality education in war, and in times of adversity we as educators should assist and encourage these efforts.
“I am proud that here at UHI Inverness we have launched an appeal to support the UNFU.
“We understand the power of knowledge to transform lives. By coming together we can make a meaningful impact on the education of their students.
“Every contribution, no matter how big or small will make a real difference.”
Details of the appeal are here – https://www.inverness.uhi.ac.uk/scottish-school-of-forestry/fundraising-appeal-for-ukrainian-national-forestry-university/