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Professor Karen O'Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, stood smiling with arms folded, in front of bookshelves

On Ukraine Independence Day, our Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O'Brien explores how we are standing with colleagues and friends in Ukraine.

Today (Thursday 24 August) marks Ukraine’s Independence Day – 32 years since Ukraine gained independence, and 18 months on from the Russian invasion.

The war in Ukraine remains of immense concern to us, as it does to many both locally and globally. We strongly condemn any acts of aggression and specifically the attack on Ukraine from the Russian government and armed forces. Our thoughts remain with all Ukrainian citizens and colleagues, especially those who have lost loved ones in this humanitarian disaster.

Supporting our friends at ZNU

As well as being part of the North East England community, we are a proudly international university, and we have sought to respond to the war in ways including fundraising and humanitarian support. Key to this is our twinning with Zaporizhzhia National University (ZNU) in Ukraine.

Supported by Universities UK and the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, this twinning allows us to provide support to ZNU so that, despite being in the southeast of Ukraine and close to the conflict zone, they can continue their teaching and research.

Recently, we welcomed over 40 researchers, students and professional services staff from ZNU to visit Durham. They joined workshops and summer schools, and we discovered common academic interests including environmental law, educational practice, psychology and post-conflict resolution.

It was very good to welcome these new friends, albeit it deeply moving to hear their stories of challenge, loss and sacrifice. It was a pleasure to meet Professor Sergiy Kushnir, Vice-Rector of ZNU, and to hear him say that the twinning with Durham made him and his colleagues feel the support of the whole British nation is with them, was very touching.

Twinning that goes beyond universities

We have sought to ensure the twinning is not only between the two universities, but also involves in the city, county and region. ZNU colleagues enjoyed visiting local landmarks, learned about local healthcare and concluded their visit with an audience with the Mayor of Durham.

This partnership will continue for the long-term, with further visits from researchers and staff, and research collaborations between Durham and ZNU. We have also promised to visit ZNU when possible. There will also be more in our successful Ukraine talks series. These events are open to all, and details will be shared via the press, social media and our website.

We stand with ZNU and the Ukrainian people in celebrating their Independence Day.

Find out more
- Read more about our response to the war in Ukraine
- Find out about the summer 2023 ZNU visit to Durham