A look at Ukrainian students in Kingston

'Be the best student you can be, that is your contribution to the fight'

The Journal spoke with Kingston advocates working to support Ukrainians in Canada.

The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia has sent a current of fear throughout the world. Combat has affected Ukranian students here in Kingston on many levels.

“This is not something that I saw coming,” Rebecca Manley, chair of the History department, said in an interview with The Journal. “This has been a very chilling series of events and frightening.”

According to Manley, something that sets the war in Ukraine apart from others is Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons.

“One of the things that has been very distinctive about Putin’s behavior in the last few weeks is his willingness to raise the specter of using nuclear weapons,” she said.

“It highlights the fact Russia is now an autocratic system, in which decisions are being taken by one individual who's very isolated, even from his own closest advisors.”

The potential for destruction in this war is a reality that could impact the whole world.

“We have a lot of people who are from Ukraine [at Queen’s],” she said. “This is a less direct but nonetheless real trauma in terms of what's happening to their homeland.”


Lubomyr Luciuk, professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), was born in Canada after his parents arrived as Ukrainian refugees in 1949.

READ MORE: Ukrainian students protest in front of City Hall

His parents arrived with a single brown leather suitcase Luciuk keeps in his office to this day—it’s a symbol that helps him remember how Canadians helped his family when they had nothing.

“They had that one piece of luggage, they didn't speak English,” he said in an interview with The Journal. “It reminds me of how good Canada was to my parents.”

When Luciuk heard about the invasion, he felt a responsibility to help Ukrainian Canadians in his community.

“I woke up on Feb. 24 learning of the war against Ukraine […] like everyone else, I was shocked,” he said.

“The instinct was, of course, ‘what can we do for Ukraine?’ But then it became very obvious within a few days that there was another problem that was falling through the cracks.”

Many Ukrainian students are anxious about their loved ones back home and will likely have to change their travel plans as the semester comes to a close.

As many of these students’ visas don’t allow them to work in Canada, the war also comes with potential financial difficulties.

Along with Sophie Kiwala from St. Lawrence College, Luciuk worked with Mayor Bryan Patterson to create The Mayor’s Fund to help Ukrainian students living in Canada. As of Mar. 17, The Mayor’s Fund has raised $45,000.

The money will help students cover daily expenses—including groceries, bus passes, accommodations, or even just a case of beer that helps students maintain a sense of normalcy.

To receive funding, students simply state how much they need and receive a cheque for that amount.

“I've told the students that whatever they ask for should be realistic,” Luciuk said. “If you ask for too much, and we give it to you, then some other student who may need it more might not get it.”

"The requests are pretty modest and they don't amount to more than about six or seven thousand dollars [in total].”

Although The Mayor’s Fund is an important support for Ukrainian students, Luciuk says universities should also support students with academic accommodations.

“Every university I've ever taught at, there’s always an accommodation made for students who suffer some kind of crisis in their lives,” he said. “Students are suffering a kind of trauma here and they need to be accommodated.”

“When I talk about accommodations, what I'm saying is Queen’s [needs to] help these students achieve what their parents wanted them to.”

Although it can feel difficult to make tangible contributions to Ukraine, Luciuk said one way to help is to provide Ukrainian students with quality education.

“I said to the students, ‘look, you probably can't do much for Ukraine. You can't get back there, you may end up being refugees, you may end up spending the rest of your life in exile, so be the best student you can be,’” Luciuk said.


Ivan Shapovalov, PhD ‘25, has a brother in Kyiv who’s serving in the Ukrainian military. Over the past few weeks, he’s spent hours on the phone keeping his family company in Ukraine.

“I was trying to call them […] and to be available for them whenever possible,” he said in an interview with The Journal.

“For my brother's wife, being that her husband is actively involved in combat, it seems sometimes that she would call just to have somebody to talk to.”

While in Kingston, Shapovalov has been helping the Ukrainian Students’ Association on campus raise money for Ukrainian students in Canada and towards humanitarian aid.

“The war and the atrocities happening back home are very close to my heart and it seemed awfully right to be with the humans in the Queen's community.”

When asked how the university can support him during this time, Shapovalov said he was just grateful to be safe in Canada.

“The war has been hard on me but in the sense that I would stay awake late listening to news from back home, talking to families who could be scared, frightened, worried about their life,” he said.

“But compared to that, just me listening to news at 4 a.m., that’s nothing in comparison.”

Although we don’t always see the impacts of war on the people in our community, this doesn’t make them any less real. It’s important to acknowledge that wars often hit closer than we realize and we must do what we can to help those struggling in our own communities.

“If people need [support], it’s available,” Shapovalov said. “You can find ways not to be alone.”

Students who need support during this time can reach out to Student Wellness Services, the Chaplain’s office, or the Ukrainian Students’ Association on campus.


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