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Reflections on the ‘Unissued Diplomas’ Exhibition  

Bush House by Megan Baker

Staff writer Kismet Reuss reflects on the ‘Unissued Diplomas’ exhibition, hosted at the Bush House Exchange, which commemorated the Ukrainian students who have lost their lives during Russia’s invasion.

A commemoration of Ukrainian students who lost their lives during Russia’s invasion took place at the Exchange building from 26 February to 6 March. This exhibition provided students with the opportunity to reflect on the parallels between their lives and those tragically lost during the ongoing conflict.  

The event, titled ‘Unissued Diplomas – Stories of Ukrainian Students who will never graduate’, was organised by Oleksandra Khovrak (Sasha), a first-year student at King’s College London (KCL). Taking place shortly after the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the exhibition featured the stories of 40 Ukrainian students ranging from the age of 17 to 25. Visitors who experienced the small exhibition peeked into these students’ lives, reading about their studies, hobbies, and dreams that were displayed next to each photograph. Each narrative concluded with the circumstances of the student’s passing, an evocative addition that kept the atmosphere sombre and reflective.  

As the end-of-term draws near with exams close on the horizon, both students and staff find themselves surrounded by arduous tasks and impending deadlines. In this frenzy, it is easy to forget the realities that exist beyond our little worlds. Amidst all the noise, this exhibition served as a powerful reminder of the fragility of life. ‘Unissued Diplomas’ urge visitors to see ourselves in the narratives on display. The organisation, by the same name, writes on their website:  

“They used to spend their days in study halls. They had favourite classes and those they dreaded weekly. And how scary it was for them to even think of failing a midterm”. 

Unissued Diplomas via their website

There is something distinctly impactful about seeing yourself in someone else’s story and experiences like these often act as catalysts for action. I encountered such a revelation when learning about Hlib Ivanov (21) who, like me, studied Politics. He was described as kind and honest, someone who joked a lot and played the saxophone – I quickly felt as though I knew him personally and mourned not just the loss of his life, but our connection.  

Through connecting deeply with these stories, students at KCL have an opportunity to reflect on how it would feel to have your world and sense of reality crumble. As Sasha put it: “Some of the [victims] are younger than me, which is a feeling of like, your life isn’t supposed to end here. Like imaging tomorrow *boom* gone. Nothing else is ever going to happen in your life”.  

The exhibition also honoured many young people who bravely volunteered to serve, like Dmytro Yevdokymov who was 23 years old. A student of American and European Studies, he enlisted during the first two weeks of Russia’s invasion, later dying on the battlefield.  

The organisation also seeks to remind visitors of the grave losses to education and other opportunities for young Ukrainians. Throughout this conflict, access to education has been severely disrupted. This exhibition is a reminder of a generation of Ukrainian thinkers, builders, and educators lost for us all.  

Scholarships have been available for displaced students from Ukraine for entry in September ‘22 and ‘23 at KCL. For this year, these have been continued under “Pathway 1” for undergraduates and “Pathway 2” for post-graduates – both include a “full tuition fee waiver” and a scholarship towards living costs.

In this effort, the foundation has dedicated all donations gathered from the ‘Unissued Diplomas’ exhibitions to establish an ongoing endowment fund. Their goal is to raise $75,000 USD worldwide to cover the tuition of one Ukrainian student abroad per year.

The link to donate is available at UnissuedDiplomas.org.  

Beyond supporting the organisation monetarily, Sasha calls on the importance of exhibits like these in keeping the student body engaged.  She stated, “I don’t want to be a part of the diaspora that has sort of forgotten about everything”.  

As the conflict persists, there are growing concerns regarding ‘Ukraine fatigue’ in the West – a sense of tiredness or desensitisation experienced by the public. This weariness is compounded by uncertainties regarding US financial support in the future.  

At the moment, the US is the primary provider of aid to Ukraine. Yet, deadlock within the US Congress drags on as House Republicans block a $60bn aid package for Ukraine. With domestic issues looming and the potential resurgence of Donald Trump as president, the extent to which the US will financially support Ukraine is uncertain. This has led to mounting pressure on the European powers to step up their support.  

These setbacks underscore the struggle in maintaining international engagement and commitment to supporting Ukraine. Nevertheless, unity will be necessary to bringing an end to the war.  

While exhibitions like these may be only a drop in the bucket, they play a profound role in keeping the student body engaged and motivated. These efforts are necessary in combating Ukraine fatigue and ensuring progress as we enter into the third year of this brutal conflict.  

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