Andriy Andrushkiv, the keynote speaker at UCU commencement ceremonies 2023, with a master’s in theology from UCU, acting director of the Centre for United Action, has since 1 March 2022 been a sergeant in Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

Andriy Andrushkiv, UCU graduate, acting director of the Centre for United Action, theologian, sergeant in Ukraine’s Armed Forces speaking at a podium.

Andriy Andrushkiv, UCU graduate, acting director of the Centre for United Action, theologian, sergeant in Ukraine’s Armed Forces

In 2014-2016, he headed the communications team of the coalition Reanimating Packet of Reforms. He took part in developing and implementing more than 40 campaigns in advocacy and lobbying for legislative changes.

Since 2016, Andrushkiv has been project director at the Centre for United Action. In 2017-2018, together with the team of the organization, he conducted more than 150 public consultations in all regions of Ukraine (all regional centers and two district centers in each region) regarding the reform of election legislation, medical reform, and changes in the system controlling the use of public finances. He worked as the assistant to the head of the communications department at the non-profit 100% ZHYTTYA [Life]. He was the host of programs he created on Civic TV (2014-2019) and UA Pershyi [First] (2017-2019).

Your Excellency Borys, Honored Fr. Rector Bohdan and Fr. Rector Ihor, Newly-elected Rector Taras, Honored members of the Senate and Rectorate, Dear professors, teachers, staff, parents, relatives, and you, dear graduates:

Glory to Jesus Christ!

16 years ago, I, as you now, was at the commencement exercises of Ukrainian Catholic University, having a few weeks before defended my diploma. Today I have the great pleasure, and even greater honor, to speak to you. I prepared four theses for your and one verse of a Ukrainian poet with whose works I began acquainted at the UCU Library. [poem omitted from English-language translation- ed.]

You studied and acquired your educational degree under the sounds of explosions of Russian rockets, in blackouts, switched between work and volunteering, calming your children in bomb shelters, awaiting news from family and friends who serve in the armed forces. I commend you.

Your diplomas make you desirable candidates in companies and organizations which are involved in your professional interests. The knowledge and skills you acquired at the university are a basis on which you will build your future successful careers. But there are things not recorded in the addenda of your diplomas which distinguish our university from others and which help you be better specialists, leaders, and citizens. The UCU motto “Witness, Serve, Communicate” very well emphasizes all this.

Andriy Andrushkiv and Fr. Bohdan Prach hugging.

Andriy Andrushkiv and Fr. Bohdan Prach

From the start, I want to caution you about the thought that an UCU diploma opens all doors. For example, on 28 February of last year they did not accept me into the 80th Brigade, because I had no previous experience of military service, though I tried to convince the enlistment office that, maybe, a theologian with diploma and director of an analytical center could be useful for them. But UCU taught me to be persistent, and in 24 hours I was part of another military formation with which, in six days, I was involved in the defense of Kyiv, and I had assignments in the capital and surrounding regions.

15 months ago, my brothers-in-arms and I had an assignment in the village of Novyi Bykiv, Chernihiv Region. This is a small village, of which Ukraine has thousands. The people who live there work their land and grow and sell vegetables. This village, as in Bucha and Borodyanka, known throughout the world, has suffered terrible destruction. The locals spent 35 days in basements. The Russians tortured and killed unarmed people and committed other war crimes. With terrible fighting, using tanks and artillery, the village was liberated. We arrived there the morning after liberation. Buildings were destroyed, and those which survived had been plundered and mined by Russian soldiers. In those days, like every year in spring, the storks returned to Ukraine. But the electric power lines on which the storks built their nests were ruined; the birds circled above the village. Exhausted people who had nowhere to go stood near their mined buildings. We went through the village slowly for a long time, through this terrible picture, when both birds and people were left alone with their despair.

Newly-elected UCU Rector Taras Dobko and Andriy Andrushkiv sitting next to each other and smiling.

Newly-elected UCU Rector Taras Dobko and Andriy Andrushkiv

My colleague, knowing that I’m a theologian by education, looked at it all and rhetorically asked: “Where is God?” I didn’t know how to answer him and sat silently, accepting the devaluation of my master’s degree. Then at the edge of the village we saw that local residents stood near an automobile. This was the auto of the first volunteers who reached the village. They were giving people bread, canned food, and medicine. And when our car drove past the car of the volunteers, whom local women were hugging, I silently said: “Here’s God!”

The motto of our university sums up this story in my memory, because it’s about witness, service, and communication.

So, witness! UCU graduates know well that in classical Greek the words for “witness” and “martyr” are one and the same. This university was built by those ready to witness, whether in the times of Russian-Soviet repressions or the times of Yanukovych-Tabachnyk.

So, what to witness? Witness to the truth! This, of course, is a problem with an asterisk in today’s world, in which “everyone has his or her own truth,” “not everything is so unambiguous,” and “the truth is somewhere in the middle.” This is a cynical, hypocritical approach, propagated by those who love their own comfort and avoid responsibility; we’ve heard this for the last 10 years. But, as Adam Michnik said: “Truth isn’t found in the middle. It’s found where it is.” So your task will be daily to recognize the truth, the truth which sets us free and gives the strength to witness. In this way you will build teams, organizations, companies, communities, institutions, and this country on solid ground.

Serve! This can seem a very strange call, if you look at popular culture in its widest sense and turn attention to the first pages of glossies and the stages of great conferences of heroes and important people who love to convince you that they themselves have done everything, they don’t need anybody or owe anyone anything. But I invite you to open your eyes for a minute and recall the spaces of this university: campus, academic buildings, classrooms, and churches.

UCU is a monument of service carved in space-time. On each step here there’s a plaque for one or another benefactor. You, most likely, have never even seen these people or heard of these companies. But one day they decided to serve our university, to serve you, and so appeared a classroom, a library fund, chapel, and scholarships for students or professors. No one forced these people to do this. They themselves chose to serve UCU.

Now close your eyes again and walk through the university. You see memories of a different type of service, service with the greatest love. You see photos of deceased heroes, whom the Russians killed: master’s student Oleh Kurskyi, graduates Taras Hayduk, Artem Dymyd, families and close members of our community. Their service, their ranks is best described by words of Christ Himself: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

Text that reads "Heroes don't die" in Ukrainian with photos and names of fallen Ukrainian soldiers.

Your studies, your knowledge, your diplomas are the result of the service of many. The fact that you were able to acquire higher education in these terrible times witnesses that service in love creates possibilities where they should not have been, possibilities for those who never should have had them. So, carry with you this experience and practice service in love: with your teams, your clients, and those who live in your communities, and with your people – you will thus make them strong in the face of the future’s uncertainties and threats.

Communicate! It would seem that in the time of wideband Internet, messenger, videochats, social networks, and streams, this question is closed. But in the last 494 days, we have re-discovered for ourselves communication, re-discovered Shevchenko: “What would words do, words and voice, more than communication, but the heart beats, alive, as it hears them.” In times when the ruling narrative on the planet is “me, me, me,” you yourselves 100 times have said, heard, written, and received something entirely different: “How are YOU?” We know how much of all this is contained on a simple “++” on the screen of a Smartphone and the horizon of love in this: “Maybe you need something else?”

It was the skill of horizontal communication that was one of the cornerstones that allowed us to live through the first days and weeks of the great attack. It influences our persistence now and will help in the future. True communication allows us to agree to rules, to share responsibility, and to make everyone an involved participant in the future.

So you will take part in or moderate consultations about rebuilding communities and territories, the design of school and hospital networks, the practices of transitional justice, effective administration, and much else. And still, receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, communicating in various languages, you will discuss Ukraine’s immigration policy, post-war organization, the de-imperialization and de-militarization of Russia, trade-export relations of Ukrainian business with EU countries, and mutually beneficial cooperation with peoples of the Great South.

These words of yours, and more so, the ability to listen, will help make easier the pain of loss and design a future in which injustice will have no place.

Andriy Andrushkiv and Archbishop Borys shaking hands.

Andriy Andrushkiv and Archbishop Borys

I promised you four theses, but the UCU motto has only three words. So I’ll give you one of my own.

16 years ago, then-Father Borys said: “You have done some great work. Now get to work.” You, certainly, have heard ads like “Discover your superpowers” and “Wake up your god/goddess.” And you, most likely, then scrolled further because, as UCU graduates, you know that the most effective way to be “like God” is, of course, to work. On the first pages of the Bible we meet no one else than God, Who works, from morning to evening, constantly increasing the complexity of His tasks; He loves what He does and rejoices in the fruits of his work. “And God saw that it was good.”

This is the ideal, and more so totally legal, way to discover your superpowers – find your work and do it. May the joy of Monday morning be greater for you than that of Friday evening. Today you are receiving in your hands diplomas “and see that it is good,” for you worked well for them. And imagine how good it will be when you see the results of research which will show that in Ukraine the length of life and the mobility of citizens is increasing. See your companies and organizations in the top 100, top 30, top 10. You will present your community as an example of effective management and city-building policy. And you will be glad to realize that part of this is your work.

Thank you.

Glory to Ukraine!

2 July 2023