While news outlets provide extensive coverage of global events, it’s always best to go to the source. Lehigh’s undergraduate and graduate students were treated to a rare opportunity recently as they sat across the virtual table from Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia, who was ready to answer a multitude of questions from nearly 80 student attendees.


Vice president and Vice Provost for international affairs, Cheryl Matherly, began the event with an introduction of Myroshnychenko to the audience.


Myroshnychenko then energetically began by reflecting on the year 2002, the year he participated in the Global Village for Future Leaders for Business and Industry, one of the Iacocca Institute’s signature programs.


Myroshnychenko praised the program saying, “It’s kind of like having the UN on campus.” After his graduation from the program, Myroshnychenko returned to Lehigh in 2007 and delivered a lecture on nation branding.


The ambassador then dove quickly into the Russian invasion of Ukraine and offered critical historical context, “This war did not come to us all of the sudden,” said Myroshnychenko. “What emboldened Putin to invade in 2022 was the weak reaction of the International community to [The Annexation of Crimea in] 2014.”


He then praised Ukraine’s strength in the face of the atrocious Russian invasion and its crimes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the help of the international community. “[Zelenskyy’s] ability to communicate to the Ukrainian people kept us all united. I think we have to give him credit,” Myroshnychenko said. “He was offered the right to be evacuated from Ukraine at times when Russians were really close to the to the capital of Ukraine, but he said ‘I'm staying with the people.’”


The ambassador then opened the floor to questions from both from the classroom and from those interacting through Zoom.


The questioners represented a wide range of majors and interests. For instance, a community health major asked about Ukrainian society’s capacity to resist invasion, a finance major wanted his thoughts on President Zelenskyy’s background, and an International Relations major asked about energy solutions. 


Myroshnychenko met each question with enthusiasm and honesty, providing as much insight as he could. Once the informative meeting concluded, Vitalii Martyniak, a second year student from Ukraine said, “We stand by Ukraine in this fight for democracy, international law, justice, and peace,” in his vote of thanks for Myroshnychenko. Then, in Myroshnychenko’s final words to the audience, the Ambassador said, “I hope that soon this war is over and I will be able to travel more, so that I can come back to campus and be in-person with you.”


At the end of the meeting, Dr. Bill Hunter, the Director of the Lehigh University/United Nations Partnership and UN Programs offered Ukrainian students the last 10 minutes of the session to speak with Myroshnychenko privately. 


In these moments, Ukrainian students were met with the opportunity to resonate with a man that was once in their shoes–more than a decade ago. A moment these students will cherish and remember for years to come..