The Invisible University for Ukraine (Part 1) : historical background

The Central European University (CEU), based in Vienna and Budapest, launched on 20 April 2022 its certificate programme for Ukrainian undergraduate (BA) and graduate (MA and doctoral) students, whose studies were affected by the war, whether still residing in Ukraine or in refuge. The program called Invisible University for Ukraine (IUFU) offers an intensive learning experience ‒ including lectures and mentoring ‒, placing questions relevant for Ukrainian students into a transnational comparative perspective in the field of humanities and social sciences.

The program does not replace or duplicate the existing online education in Ukrainian universities. According to its statement, IUFU prepares students “for deeper integration into the international academia and broad ongoing discussion on the role of Ukraine in changing European and global contexts”. For this purpose, a hybrid program – including online classes and a summer university, held for the first time in Budapest and Lviv between 10 and 19 July 2022 – is provided by CEU faculty members, Ukrainian and Polish partner institutions, as well as international partners (excluding Russian state institutions or anyone supportive of Russian aggression).

The IUFU defines itself as “transnational solidarity program”, built upon the legacy of underground and exile educational initiatives in Eastern Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries and the tradition of Invisible Colleges formed after 1989 in the region.

Among Eastern European countries, Poland was particularly affected by the devastating efforts of foreign occupiers during the 19th century. The Polish intelligentsia fought to resist Russification and Germanification under foreign occupation and to keep Poland alive as a nation. To save the Polish culture from destruction, intellectuals have created informal education systems with secret libraries and underground classes. Among these initiatives the most famous was the Flying University, founded in Warsaw in 1882-1883 by the educator and women rights activist Jadwiga Szczawińska. Meeting weekly at different locations to avoid detection, four separate faculties were organized where courses were taught by radical professors. The Flying University awarded diplomas to its graduates among them the most famous was Marie Sklodowska-Curie. After 1906, the university was finally legalized. In 1918, it took the name of Free Polish University until it was disbanded in 1952.

After underground education during the resistance against Nazi Germans and Soviet occupants, flying universities had a renewal in Poland in the second half of the 1970s. Clandestine lectures were held in private apartments as well as in clerical centers and other community social centers, held by eminent Polish intellectuals to hundreds of students. While flying universities under the communist regime were supposed to be “unique in Eastern Europe”, members of the Hungarian opposition soon made contact with Polish underground education networks. Thus, the “Monday Free University” was organized in Hungary from 1978 on following the Polish model.

Following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Invisible Colleges were established throughout the region, beginning in Hungary in 1992. Without having any facilities, they offered scholarships as well as mentoring and academic support for the most promising students at national institutions. In 1997, the Invisible College of Budapest won the Hannah Arendt Prize ‒ awarded since 1995 by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna ‒ in recognition of “outstanding, self-initiated reform efforts in higher education and research” in the formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Interviewed again for a French review

I would like to thank the French journalist Olivier Claudon for having interviewed me again about my research. His long report on the Collège de l’Europe libre (Free Europe College) appeared today in the special issue on the Cold War in Alsace of the French magazine Les Saisons d’Alsace.

Invisible University for Ukraine (IUFU)

My next blog post will deal with the Central European University’s new educational initiative, set up for Ukranian refugee students or still residing in Ukraine and built on the legacy of Polish “Flying Universities”.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Accepted proposal for the Conference “Dissidents and Exiles from Socialist Eastern Europe and the USSR: History, Archives and Memories (1945-1991)”

I am delighted to announce that my proposal for the International Conference “Dissidents and Exiles from Socialist Eastern Europe and the USSR: History, Archives and Memories (1945-1991)” has been accepted. The conference will be held on 2 – 3 June 2022 on the campus of Université Paris Nanterre at “La contemporaine“, a library, archive center and museum renowned for its collections covering the history of the 20th and 21st centuries.

This will be the final session of the project DISSINVENT, recipient of a grant from the CollEx-Persée in 2020, which aims to identify and increase the national and international visibility of the collections produced by Eastern European dissidents exiled in France between 1945 and 1991. A similar research project called COURAGE (“Cultural Opposition – Understanding the CultuRal HeritAGE of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries”) was funded by the EU between 2016 and 2019 with the objective of creating a digital database of online and offline private and public collections in Europe.

The conference will provide an excellent opportunity for me to discuss my doctoral research and the challenges of collecting private archives of exiles from Eastern Europe in France. The contributions will be published in French in a special issue of the magazine Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps in late 2022.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Madeleine K. Albright, 1937-2022: from Cold War refugee to “staunch advocate of democracy”

In her last book, Madeleine K. Albright recounted a story about distributing naturalization certificates at Monticello’s annual Independence Day Celebration. After the naturalization ceremony, a man exclaimed to his family, “Can you believe that I came to the United States as a refugee, and I’ve just received my citizenship papers from the secretary of state?”. Albright went to him and replied, “Can you believe a refugee is the secretary of state?”. 

This story dates back to 1998, the year Albright commemorated 50 years in the US. Born in Prague, she was forced to flee Czechoslovakia with her family in 1938 when the Nazis invaded. Ten years later, in 1948, they fled Europe when the communists seized power in Czechoslovakia. This was the last country in Central and Eastern Europe that fell under the yoke of the USSR, showing the world the most evident sign of Soviet expansion at the dawn of the Cold War. The Korbel family arrived in the US in November 1948. A few months earlier, President Harry S. Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act, which authorized the admission of 200,000 DPs from Europe as permanent residents. Albright’s father, the diplomat Josef Korbel, who joined the family a bit later because of a mission with the United Nations in South Asia, was granted a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to teach at the University of Denver. In 1964, he founded the Graduate School of International Studies and became its first Dean. 

While she always recognized her Czechoslovakian heritage, Albright was grateful to be naturalized in 1957. She felt that becoming a U.S. citizen was the most important thing to have happened to her. After more than two decades of her political and academic career, she served as US Ambassador to the United Nations (1993-1997) as well as Secretary of State (1997-2001) under Democrat Bill Clinton’s two-term presidency. She was not the first top US diplomat born abroad (the German-born Henry Kissinger served from 1973 to 1977), but the first woman to hold that position. Albright’s rise in the US establishment, alongside the Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor from 1971 to 1981, emblematized American geopolitical and strategic interests towards Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War era. Apropos, Brzezinski was Albright’s “tutor”.

Albright was in office from the end of the Cold War until the beginning of the war on terror. During this period, the US was a hyperpower, according to the former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, with no rival able to match its capabilities after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reflecting America’s status, Albright supported the expansion of NATO, promoted a more active US role in UN operations, and sought to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons. In doing so, she was recognized as the liberal hawk of the Clinton administration. Determined to put an end to the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo by Yugoslavian and Serbian forces, which forcibly displaced more than 800,000 Kosovar Albanians into neighboring Albania and Macedonia, she pushed for NATO bombings in Yugoslavia in 1999. The 78-day bombing campaign called Madeleine’s War was launched as a humanitarian intervention without the UN Security Council’s approval. The Kumanovo Agreement, signed on June 9, 1999, ended the Kosovo War, allowed peacekeepers to enter Kosovo, and withdrew all security forces so as to transfer governance to the UN. The Republic of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. 

Beyond her public service, Albright held chief positions in nonprofit organizations to strengthen democracy and human rights around the world. Because of her refugee background, she often noted that Americans take democracy for granted. Defining herself as a “worried optimist”, a “problem solver”, and a “grateful American”, she was a “staunch advocate of democracy” both domestically and abroad. She was committed to supporting freedom and sustaining democracy in the pursuit of US interests.

Albright helped foster democracy abroad as vice chairman of the influential National Democratic Institute (NDI) from its foundation in 1983. The NDI is one of the four organizations operating under the umbrella of the National Endowment for Democracy, the most influential American NGO dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world and funded mainly by the US Congress. During its first two decades, the NDI was working in the Philippines and Chile in the 1980s, in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and across Africa, Asia and Latin America after the end of the Cold War. Keeping a nonpartisan approach and working with a large spectrum of political parties, the NDI safeguards and monitors the electoral process through a series of election-related programs and develops democratic cultures and institutions while emphasizing the inclusion of women, minorities, and youth in all aspects of public life.

The promising political changes that occurred at the beginning of the 1990s in Eastern Europe, South Africa, and Latin America overwhelmed Albright: “Thus began democracy’s golden moment. […] Nearly everywhere, the language of freedom was being spoken or learned. With head-swiveling speed, requests for assistance poured in. Hundreds of million were exclaiming, “Hurrah, we have democracy! Now what do we do? NDI, a magnet for this type of inquiry, answered the call”. On behalf of the NDI, Albright was particularly involved in missions in her native homeland. One of her connections was Jiri Dienstbier, a Czech dissident and ex-journalist, whom she met in the US and who provided information for her PhD dissertation, completed in 1976, on the Czechoslovakian press during the Prague Spring in 1968. In January 1990, Albright went on a mission to Prague for the first time. Dienstbier was then the Foreign Minister of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic and arranged to introduce Albright to President Vaclav Havel. Thus began the lifelong friendship between Albright and President Havel. The NDI delegation helped establish the electoral law and staffing structure for the Czech presidential office. Years later, the Czech government awarded Albright for her efforts in helping them create their democracy and join the EU and NATO. Havel even suggested she succeed him as President of the Czech Republic in the early 2000s.

After the end of her governmental service, Albright became the NDI’s chairwoman in 2001. Since then, the institute has been supporting activists who inspired the Arab Spring in 2011, overseeing further programs in the MENA region, and encouraging democratic changes in Ukraine. In 2005, the Madeleine K. Albright Grant was established to promote women’s roles in political and civic life worldwide.

Meanwhile, Albright remained dedicated to the fate of Kosovo, an issue that was “near to [her] heart”. The NDI was instrumental in the formation of a democratic opposition in Yugoslavia which brought down Milosevic. The NDI launched several programs to build a strong civic culture in Kosovo which proved to be “success stories”. Throughout the 1990s, the Kosovar diaspora around the world raised funds to support schools and other institutions in Kosovo, which resulted in the foundation of the American University of Kosovo in Pristina in 2002. The idea itself of setting up a private university based on the American model also came from the Kosovar and Albanian diaspora; they wanted to rebuild the country by training young Kosovars and honor the role the US played during the war. RIT Kosovo (A.U.K.) is a chartered non-profit higher education institution in Kosovo that offers degrees from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). To support Kosovars seeking to study in the US and to strengthen the emerging democracy in Kosovo, the Kosovo Ministry of Education, Science and Technology established the Madeleine Albright Scholarship Fund.

From 2001, Albright held key positions and was a board member of various organizations, including her own firms (Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management LLC).  She established, among other organizations, the Albright Institute for Global Affairs in 2010 at her alma mater, the Wellesley College (historically a women’s college) with the goal of educating and inspiring future global leaders. She was honorary co-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Institute, a think-thank based in Washington, DC with offices around the world, which organizes leadership development initiatives through educational and policy programs. She was the president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, which awards scholarships to US citizens with outstanding potential to pursue a career in public service. Albright always had a “warm spot” for Truman, who was the president when she arrived in the US, “because of his skill in handling multiple crises simultaneously” and in leading the country “while also sharing responsibility with others through alliances and global institutions”. Albright also occupied the honorary chair of the World Refugee & Migration Council, originally called World Refugee Council, which works to complement the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2016, she strongly supported the Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis, hosted by President Obama at the UN in New York City. The summit had three goals, one of which was to improve access to education for refugees.

Among several distinctions, Albright received the highest American civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Liberty, by President Barack Obama in 2012. Obama acknowledged her efforts to bring peace to the Balkans and how she paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world. In his speech, Obama highlighted Albright’s refugee past and referred to her story about the naturalization ceremony back in 1998. Upon being honored with the medal, Albright pointed out that youth participation is essential for a functioning democracy. Concerning her professional life, she noted that she was most proud of bringing peace and democracy to Kosovo.

At the end of her life, Albright was very much concerned about the future of democracy and the rise of authoritarian regimes and antidemocratic leaders around the world, including in the US. She was constantly repeating that “democracy everywhere is not an accomplishment but a pursuit”, and that in order to cultivate it, a democratic culture is indispensable: “If democracy were a flower, we couldn’t make it bloom just by tugging at it; that would tear it up by the roots. Instead, we needed a wide-ranging approach that would moisten the soil with fair elections, responsible political parties, competent police, unbiased courts, an independent press, and other attributes of a free society”.  For this reason, she co-chaired an initiative with the Atlantic Council to promote a new Atlantic Charter, referring to the convention signed by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in 1941. The Atlantic Charter was intended to persuade wobbling populations around the world to support the Allies in their struggle with Nazism. The Declaration of Principles of Freedom, Prosperity, and Peace, issued in 2018, lists public rights and responsibilities in order to emphasize the protection of those who build a democracy or seek to defend it.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

All quotations come from Madeleine K. Albright’s last book, Hell and other Destinations: A 21th Century Memoir, co-written by Bill Woodward, E-book ed., Harper, 2020.

An insight into fellowships for Ukrainian refugee scholars and students

As a result of Russia’s massive military offensive against Ukraine launched two weeks earlier, on Thursday February 24, over two million people have fled the country to neighboring countries and many have been internally displaced. Over half of Ukrainians are fleeing to Poland and many are seeking refuge in Hungary and Slovakia.

While European governments and institutions are imposing massive sanctions on the Russian economy and sending military aid to Ukraine, European citizens are mobilizing unanimous efforts to welcome Ukrainian refugees and send aid to Ukraine. Mass rallies are organized to protest the Russian invasion and attest solidarity with Ukraine.

On the first day of the Russian attack, Serhiy Kvit, head of the National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance of Ukraine and former minister of education, asked academics from around the world to speak out against the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. In response to his appeal, universities and scientific institutions around the world are issuing statements of solidarity on behalf of their faculty, staff, and students in condemning the Russian invasion. One need only look through the Internet, this solidarity movement has no hashtag.  

Sanctioning Russia by cutting off academic ties is not only a bold idea, but it also really happens. In the 48 hours following the invasion, the German Ministry of Research ordered the suspension of institutional collaboration on research with Russia. Other countries in Europe have followed this step. However, universities are divided to suspend collaboration with Russian institutions due to the complexity of this issue and its consequences in the short and long term.

Meanwhile, hundreds of teaching and research institutions are establishing their own relief programs for Ukrainian students and academics. To coordinate these efforts, a website and a Twitter account under the name of #ScienceForUkraine has been launched on 27 February to collect and disseminate information on university jobs and housing for Ukrainian students or researchers. National sciences academies across Europe are providing grants or fundraising to help their Ukrainian colleagues in need.

Beyond these ad hoc initiatives, it is important to mention the well-established institutions that support academics at risk for a long time. Founded in North America in reaction to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe during the interwar period in defense of academic freedom, they were building networks of academic institutions around the world willing to welcome and support endangered scholars and students.

Two prominent institutions are the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF), which has been continuously operating since 1920, and the Scholars-at-Risk Network, established in 2000. A recently launched initiative is The New University in Exile Consortium at The New School in New York City.  The latter builds on the legacy of the University in Exile, which was set up at The New School in 1933 to support academics fleeing the growing threat of Nazism in Europe. In 1934, the University in Exile became The New School’s Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. In 1951, his name inspired the Free Europe University in Exile, an American educational endeavor to help Eastern European refugees fleeing Communist regimes. In September 2018, the New University in Exile Consortium was set up to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

The UK counterpart to these American initiatives is the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA). Operating as a network to ensure cooperation and collaboration on both national and international level, it works with 126 universities in the UK as well as with national and foreign institutions, among others, the IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund and the Scholars-at-Risk Network. Founded by British academics and scientists in 1933 in response to the racial discrimination of scholars at the universities of Nazi Germany, CARA defines itself as a “unique charitable organization, with no counterpart in Europe”.

As regards other European countries, France and Germany have also set up special programs to help researchers at risk, referring to previous national initiatives during the interwar period. These programs came about after the refugee crises in 2015 and work in partnership with the US and UK networks. In France, the distinguished French higher education and research institution Collège de France runs the PAUSE Program. In Germany, the national foundation Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung helps researchers through its Philipp Schwarz Initiative. In 2017, German and Turkish scholars set up the Academy in Exile Consortium which enables threatened academics to continue their work in Germany. In September 2021, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) established the Hilde Domin Programme for university students and PhD candidates at risk.

In Norway, the Students at Risk provides financial aid to refugees from 2015, out of the prestigious Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, established in 1961. In the Netherlands, the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF) supports refugees and asylum seekers from 1948, providing financial, social, and academic support.

Austria has its own national agency which aids and supports both at-risk students and scholars. The Österreichischer Integrationsfonds (ÖIF) was created in response to the massive flow of refugees after the Hungarian revolution in 1956. In addition to ÖIF’s Liese Prokop Scholarship for recognized refugees, it is worth to mention other fellowship programs, namely the oead4refugees, launched by Austria’s Agency for Education and Internationalization (OeAD), as well as the MORE program, run by Universities Austria (Österreichische Universitätenkonferenz, uniko).

Philanthropic organizations are extremely active on the ground, and it is difficult to compile an exhaustive list of grant programs for refugee youth and academics. However, the Open Society Foundations grantmaking network is worthy of mention because of the breadth and variety of its actions. Founded by businessman and philanthropist George Soros and currently operating in Austria and Hungary, the Central Europe University (CEU) offers a range of help to Ukrainian refugee students and academics. In 2016, CEU has launched its Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) for asylum seekers and refugees, which is now open to people fleeing the Ukrainian war. In January 2020, the Open Society Foundations established the Open Society University Network (OSUN) to promote education and reach out to institutions in need of international partners and to neglected populations. The OSUN is home to the Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative (TSI), which is now expanding grants to Ukrainian researchers.

Among the international initiatives, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides grants to refugees from 1992 as part of its DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship program, which was originally funded by the German government. For the European Union, the European Commission launched InSPIREurope (Initiative to Support, Promote and Integrate Researchers at Risk in Europe) in 2019 for a period of 3 years. The program is based at Maynooth University in Ireland and coordinated by the European branch of the Scholars-at-Risk Network.

In November 2021, German, Norwegian and Polish national education institutions jointly called for the European Commission to establish a permanent scholarship program for students at risk to “demonstrate the Union’s for support academic freedom, fundamental values, civic and human rights”. The Russian invasion of Ukraine provides impetus for this project. Given that Europe is constantly confronted with humanitarian crises due to international conflicts (Syria, Afghanistan, Belarus, Ukraine), decisive action will sooner or later be taken at European level to defend academic freedom as a fundamental European value.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Universities in the Ukrainian Conflict

“These are among the darkest hours for Europe since World War II”, told Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine this morning in his Press Statement, “A major nuclear power has attacked a neighboring country and is threatening reprisals on any other state that may come to its rescue”.

In the early hours of Thursday February 24th, 2022, Russian forces entered Ukraine from the north, south and east and there are reports of deaths at military bases and explosions near major cities. According to the official Russian statement, “Today Russia has begun a special military operation aimed at protecting the people who for the last eight years have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the regime in Kyiv”. Poutine says that the Russia’s aim is the demilitarization of Ukraine.

Consequently, people are trying to flee the capital Kyiv and other regions. Ukraine’s western neighboring countries and other European countries, such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldavia as well as Finland and Germany, were among the first to prepare for the flux of refugees from Ukraine. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi also made a statement earlier in the day that UN and partner organizations would provide humanitarian assistance in case of emergencies.

Since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in February and March 2014 and backed armed separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, civil society and public institutions were harmed. Many universities in the separatist-backed regions had to relocate themselves, at the initiative of faculty staffs and students. A Council of Rectors of Displaced Universities was set up in January 2016 to coordinate activities. Meanwhile, in the areas controlled by separatist forces, two self-styled republics ‒ the so-called Donbas People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) ‒ were created in 2014, with their own governments and Ministries of Education. These republics run so-called “shadow universities” which use same names and claim similar legacies as the relocated Ukrainian universities, even as they are not recognized by the Ukrainian government. This creates an extremely complicated and precarious situation in the higher education in Ukraine.

In the 20th century in Europe, the first and the most famous university in exile was the Ukrainian Free University (Ukrainische Freie Universität, Український вільний університет). It was founded in Vienna in 1921, then relocated to Prague, at the initiative of exiled Ukrainian professors, writers, journalists and students who fled the country following the failed Ukrainian liberation efforts after the First World War and the Russian Civil War. The aim was to establish a private university outside the borders of Ukraine. In 1945, the university moved to Munich where it still runs as a higher education institution recognized by the Bavarian state government.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Refugee Fellow tells about her experience as a scholarship holder

While searching for data on fellowship programs for exiled youth, I found a recent interview with a Palestinian refugee. She is currently working in Lebanon as a gender and gender-based-violence (GBV) coordinator at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Although recognized as a human rights issue by the United Nations for a long time, legal and structural efforts to fight GBV gained traction from the late 1990s throughout the 2000s.

This Palestinian refugee was awarded in 2019 from the Chevening Scholarship to study in the UK in the field of Development and Emergency Practice. The Chevening Scholarship program was founded in 1983 by the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and runs with the purpose of “creating lasting positive relationships with future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers, which become valuable soft power networks”.

The refugee fellow tells in the interview on one hand how this unique experience broadened her views and improved her skills and on the other hand how she tried to shift other people’s perspectives about migrant communities through her work and personal story. Reading her personal account, the idea of “return to homeland” (in her case, to the host country in Lebanon) and education are playing the key role to help those in needs in her host country thanks to the acquired skills and experiences made during the fellowship time. As she says, “I want to be a role model for women in refugee communities. I believe in the power of education; I believe that education can change lives (…)”.

University in Exile Research Project

The purpose of this blog is to present my PhD research in cultural Cold War studies and my postdoctoral plans to investigate fellowship programs for students and scholars in exile during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Any comments or suggestions will be appreciated!

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

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