“I never thought in my life that I live in a country at war. And this country is in the middle of Europe in the 21st century,” says Serhij Lukanjuk, (Yuriy Fedkovych University, Chernivtsi). The head of the International Office reports on the current events at the partner university of the TH Lübeck in the digital exchange meeting on the situation of Ukrainian displaced persons at the Schleswig-Holstein universities on November 29, 2022. Muriel Helbig, President of the TH Lübeck and Vice President of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), has invited various actors in cooperation with the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Education. The aim of the exchange is to coordinate the actors for effective help for people displaced by the Russian war of aggression.

    Unlike 2015

    Right at the beginning of the meeting, Helbig explained the differences between the refugee movement in 2015 and the current situation: While the DAAD had expected around 100,000 Ukrainian students and scientists in the spring, significantly fewer Ukrainians actually arrived at the universities in November 2022. “Ukrainians are much more connected to their home institutions through digital offers than Syrian refugees were in 2015,” says Helbig, explaining the reasons. In addition, the length of stay in Germany is significantly shorter because they travel back to the Ukraine more often.

    This is also confirmed by Dirk Gärtner, Director of the State Office for Immigration and Refugees in Schleswig-Holstein. Immigration is currently manageable. Only around 300 Ukrainian displaced persons are currently being accommodated in the state facilities. “In August there were significantly more Ukrainian displaced persons, but they didn’t stay long in our facilities,” explains Gärtner. However, there are very large regional differences in the reception situation.

    More displaced people in winter?

    However, this situation may change soon: Lukanjuk reports calls from the Ukrainian government for those who can set it up to leave the country for the winter. The background is the ongoing destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure by the Russian army. The digital teaching and learning infrastructure is also affected. “Without electricity, there is no digitalization,” Lukanjuk puts it in a nutshell. He would like German universities to accept Ukrainian students or scientists for two weeks to six months.

    Viviane Salzmann-El Bechri (DRK, Bad Segeberg) also reports on a change in recent weeks: “In the first few months, students often use the digital offers of their home university. In the last few weeks in particular, many Ukrainian students have lost contact with their home universities because nobody can be contacted on site or the infrastructure has been destroyed.”

    alleviate suffering

    “The universities are trying to alleviate the great suffering associated with the war,” says Karin Prien, Minister of Education in Schleswig-Holstein. The Ukrainian students Tetiana Halus, Gusev Oleksiy and Sofiia Samorodova from the Kiel University of Applied Sciences confirm this and report a good start in Germany. You found your way to Germany primarily through personal connections. One of the biggest sticking points is still the language barrier. Eliminating them is also a priority for the Ministry of Education: A gradual increase in budget funds is planned here.

    But the round of talks also shows starting points for further steps: housing shortages, childcare and internet access are also relevant topics for displaced people. In addition, the expellees need grants and advice in order to find their way in the German system.

    “The support is good and at the same time we need more help: In particular, we need diplomatic support and donations from Germany,” says student Gusev Oleksiy.

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