Around 20 refugee chemistry students from Kyiv, Ukraine, were taken in by the University of Gießen, Germany, about a year ago. Since then, they have started research projects, completed their studies, begun a Ph.D., learned German, or left Germany again. In the spring of 2022, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) launched the “Ukraine digital” program, which allowed Ukrainian universities, along with partners in Germany, to continue teaching their students even if they were not present at the university. The demand was so high that the program entered a second funding round in early 2023, with 73 projects funded in the first round and 47 in the second.
Frauke Zbikowski, Nachrichten aus der Chemie, Germany, spoke with Olesia Vasylets, who continued her studies online and began research projects in the lab in Gießen, Nataliia Petlovana, who wants to do a Ph.D. in biochemistry, Viktoria Kuzminska, who came to Gießen with an almost completed bachelor’s degree, and Yuliia Kurtash, who was still in the middle of her bachelor’s studies when she fled the war. All studied at the National Technical University, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute Ihor Sikorskyj. In Gießen, they take online courses and exams, as well as do lab work and learn German. The University in Ukraine recognized their research projects in Germany, and so Nataliia Petlovana and Olesia Vasylets were able to complete their master’s degrees.
To defend their master’s theses and collect their diplomas in Kyiv, both traveled to Ukraine for about a month at the end of 2022. Due to the attacks, the power frequently went out, which meant no heating, no water, no internet, and no mobile phone. Nataliia Petlovana, who still had to complete a biochemistry course on-site, sometimes got up at two in the morning because only then was the network stable enough to watch the teaching videos without disruption and complete the tests. They said they admire the students who stayed in Kyiv.
The students follow what is happening in Ukraine from abroad through Telegram channels and social networks. They try to remain optimistic and focus on their academic work to protect their mental health. Some are unsure about returning to Ukraine and plan to go where they can find work.
Yuliia Kurtash returned to Kyiv in September 2022 and is trying to continue studying there. Initially, she was very happy to see her friends and family again. Over time, the joy faded as it is difficult to find work and make a living. Moreover, witnessing the war’s effects, such as missile strikes and injured soldiers—not much older than Kurtash herself—up close was very different from hearing about them through the news.
- Studentinnen aus der Ukraine: “Wir machen keine Pläne”,
Nachr. Chem. 2023.