Centre of Ukraine Opened at VMU Education Academy

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On Saturday, 11 June, the unique Centre of Ukraine was opened at the premises of VMU Education Academy (T. Ševčenkos. 31, Vilnius). The centre will not only bring together the Ukrainian community based in Lithuania, but also take care of their needs by offering an open space for culture, education and community services.

“We are delighted to be able to contribute to yet another beautiful initiative supporting Ukraine at this difficult time. Vytautas Magnus University supports the initiative of the First Ladies of Lithuania and Ukraine to establish the Centre of Ukraine. It is symbolic that it opened its doors in the premises of VMU Education Academy, which is located on the street named after Taras Shevchenko. This centre will operate in a stable, consistent, and purposeful manner. Currently, it will address current issues regarding school learners, students, and war refugees. Later, it will play an important role in rebuilding the devastated Ukraine. Here, extensive and strong activities will take place, involving academic and political circles. We hope that this initiative will be very useful and meaningful”, said Prof. Juozas Augutis, the Rector of VMU.

“Together with our partners, we promised to actively cooperate and do everything possible to ensure that Ukrainians feel safe in Lithuania, receive medical and social assistance, educational services and, most importantly, cherish their culture and preserve the nation’s vitality,” said the First Lady of Lithuania at the opening ceremony.

According to D. Nausėdienė, we need to make sure that when the war is over, the children of Ukraine return home strong and educated, and ready to build their homeland they way they themselves want it to be.

The first such type of centre in the world

The centre, established by the joint efforts of the Presidency of the Republic of Lithuania, the Embassy of Ukraine in Lithuania and Vytautas Magnus University, will become a very important space for Ukrainians who have fled to Lithuania from their war-torn country. “I’m delighted that an idea has become a reality. It is the first such type of centre in the world that will not only bring the Ukrainian community together, but also take care of its needs. I believe that Ukrainian families and representatives of art and culture will find a place for themselves here, and that it will also mobilise volunteers who can provide various social services to Ukrainians,” said Diana Nausėdienė, one of the initiators of the centre and the First Lady of Lithuania.

According to D. Nausėdienė, the centre will contribute to active academic activities, mobilisation of intellectual potential, and cultural diplomacy, presenting Ukraine, its culture and uniqueness in Lithuania and internationally, and in the future it will help Ukraine prepare for membership in the European Union.

The first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska also took part in the festive event via a video call.

Ukraine’s First Lady O. Zelenska also greeted the Ukrainians gathered at the event and thanked the President of Lithuania, the First Lady, and the people of the country for making her compatriots feel safe in Lithuania. O. Zelenska was delighted that the first such Centre of Ukraine in Europe will also become a safe haven for Ukrainians, especially women and children. According to her, here, Ukrainians will be able to get all the help they need and they will have a space to gather and promote their culture.

Psychological, legal and pedagogical assistance will be provided

According to Algirdas Kumža, the Signatory of the Act of Independence and former Lithuanian Ambassador to Ukraine, who has become the head of the centre, Ukrainians will not only find the information they need, but they will also receive advice. “They will be consulted by psychologists, lawyers and educators; moreover, open conversations, discussions, and cultural events will take place here. All this will help the Ukrainian community in Lithuania to adapt and endure the hardships of life experienced as a result of the war in their home country,” said Kumža.

According to Prof. Lina Kaminskienė, the Chancellor of the VMU Education Academy, the opening of this centre is a continuation of the activities carried out by the university. “A few months ago, we opened a kindergarten group for Ukrainian children at the Education Academy. The bond created with their families and relatives inspires the involvement of all levels of education: we will organise camps, non-formal education, counselling for adults, trainings, and cultural activities. It is important to note that this centre operates at the university, so we hope that it will become an incentive to develop joint studies and research,” said Prof. Kaminskienė.

Offers a wide range of support and cooperation

Vytautas Magnus University actively cooperates with partner universities in Ukraine. Recently, at the initiative of VMU, Mariupol State University joined the Transform4Europe Alliance, which unites seven European universities. Last year, at the initiative of VMU, the Centre for Baltic Studies was opened at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Vytautas Magnus University supports the Ukrainian academic community in various ways: it provides accommodation, scholarships, organises free Lithuanian language courses, invites to visit the VMU Botanical Garden free of charge, and provides psychological assistance.

The symbolic ribbon was cut at the ceremony by the First Lady of Lithuania, Ambassador of Ukraine to Lithuania Petro Beshta and VMU Rector Prof. Juozas Augutis. The opening ceremony featured a concert that included Ukrainian music. Singers Olena Enko and Alina Orlova, Kyiv Actors’ Quartet, virtuoso pianist Evgeny Khmara, and accordionist Vytenis Danielius also performed on stage.

Photo by the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania / Robertas Dačkus.

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