Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, will address a student audience at the University of Toronto next week via a live video link.
At a June 22 event hosted by U of T President Meric Gertler and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, Zelenskyy is expected to discuss how Canada — and Canadian universities in particular — can support Ukraine’s fight for survival as Russia’s invasion of the eastern European country nears its fourth month.
Zelenskyy will take questions from students following his address before an in-person audience at U of T. Students will also be taking virtually part from universities across Canada, including the University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan, Université de Montréal and more.
President Gertler said it is a “great privilege” to host Zelenskyy once again after he visited campus in 2019 for an international summit on the future of Ukraine.
“Since President Zelenskyy’s last visit, he and his country have shown incredible bravery in the face of aggression that has caused unspeakable violence and tragedy,” President Gertler said.
“The University of Toronto has a special connection to Ukraine, and we strongly support all efforts to uphold peace, international security and democracy.”
President Gertler will be joined at the event by Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and University-Rosedale MP Chrystia Freeland and Munk School Director Peter Lowen.
The Munk School event is invitation-only, with a majority of the 250 seats reserved for students, with an overflow viewing space at the Munk School’s Campbell Conference Facility. Those wishing to tune in live can watch the event streamed from the Munk School’s YouTube channel.
In the weeks immediately following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, the U of T community acted swiftly to strengthen ties with Ukrainian universities and bring students and faculty to Toronto.
With the support of a $3.2 million donation from the Temerty Foundation, U of T is welcoming more than 200 students from Ukraine studies whose studies were disrupted by the war. The first group of 20 students from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (KMA) arrived last month through an exchange program with U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science. A second cohort of students is scheduled to arrive in September. Three KMA faculty are also at U of T as visiting professors.
Meanwhile, the department of computer science in the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence have created a summer research exchange program for 29 upper-year undergraduate and graduate students from Ukrainian universities. U of T Mississauga is also running a summer exchange program to bring 20 undergraduate students. Additional displaced students are being brought to U of T through the university’s Scholars and Students at Risk Program.
The Munk School, home to the Petro Jacyk Institute for the Study of Ukraine, has been hosting frequent public lectures, bringing Ukrainian and international experts’ perspectives on the war to a global audience.
Veteran Canadian journalist and Munk School Distinguished Fellow Peter Mansbridge moderated a talk in February that included Tymofiy Mylovanov, an economist who was once part of Zelenskyy’s cabinet, and later led another discussion, this time with former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, about China’s relationship with Russia in light of the war in Ukraine. Next, the Munk School will host a June 20 lecture titled “Ukrainian Cities Under Siege,” with experts from Kyiv, Mariupol, London, Graz and Toronto.
Zelenskyy, often wearing green fatigues, has addressed legislatures and international forums around the world in recent months to appeal for support.
“Imagine that Canadian facilities have been bombed similarly as our buildings and memorial places are being bombed,” he told lawmakers in Ottawa via video link in a March address to Parliament – the day before appearing before the US Congress.
When Zelenskyy last addressed an audience at U of T three years ago, he spoke to delegates from more than 30 countries about the future of Ukraine. At the time, he compared his country’s pursuit of security and prosperity to the Toronto Raptors’ against-all-odds path to the 2019 NBA championship.
“Basketball isn’t exactly my game,” Zelenskyy said before adding that the Raptors “reflect the task facing Ukraine – to win when you’re the underdog and achieve the impossible.”