HAW Hamburg and the war in Ukraine

'Now we're even more united.'

Additional funding for the Scholars at Risk project and a call for instructors in the Faculty of Life Sciences are providing support for Ukrainian scholars impacted by the war. As a result of these efforts, two women came to HAW Hamburg in March. Prof. Dr. Vira Liubchenko of Odesa Polytechnic National University has taken up a teaching position in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. We met her and spoke about her situation and how she is feeling.

Prof. Dr. Vira Liubchenko, professor in the Software Engineering Department at Odesa Polytechnic National University

Prof. Dr. Vira Liubchenko, professor in the Software Engineering Department at Odesa Polytechnic National University

Hello Professor Liubchenko. Where are you from?
I am from Odesa (Одеса, editor's note). In Ukrainian the city's name is written with only one 's'. It's important to me to say that, because the other form is the Russian spelling. Odesa is a city on the Black Sea and the administrative centre of the oblast of Odesa in the Ukraine. The city has just over a million residents. I've taught as a professor of software engineering at Odesa Polytechnic National University for over 20 years.

How are you doing at the moment?
I feel very strange right now. I'm happy to be in the peaceful and beautiful city of Hamburg. At the same time, I am continuing to teach my students at the university online. One day there was suddenly an air raid and my students fled to the shelter. I waited about 40 minutes for them to come back and was afraid the worst had happened. Thankfully, they all came back to the chat. Not all of my students are still in Odesa. Some have now fled to eastern Ukraine or Poland. All of this means that I feel a sense of incongruity and inner conflict. It seems unreal to me and I still can't believe what is happening there, even after six weeks.

How is your family doing?
My mother died long before the Russian war of aggression. I'm almost happy about this, because she lived through the Second World War and it means she doesn't have to experience this, thank God.

How did you come to HAW Hamburg?
Those of us who have fled are organised on Facebook. I found the HAW Hamburg page there and applied by email right away. I was already staying with an acquaintance in Hamburg, so it was convenient for me. Prof. Petra Margaritoff wrote me back right away and we met at the campus in Bergedorf. She offered me a position teaching software engineering in the Faculty of Life Sciences which started in the following week, on 31 March. I was a bit nervous before the course! I had prepared a presentation about the course content and about myself, but I thought the students would have a lot of questions.

It seems unreal to me and I still can't believe what is happening there, even after six weeks.

Prof. Dr. Vira Liubchenko, professor in the Software Engineering Department at Odesa Polytechnic National University, now a sessional instructor in the HAW Hamburg Faculty of Life Sciences

How have you been welcomed by your colleagues on campus?
So far I've only met a few HAW Hamburg instructors and that has definitely been positive for me to date. Petra Margaritoff called me back as soon as I had written my mail, and it has been a very warm reception overall.

Have you heard from colleagues from the university? Do you know where they are and how they're doing?
Many of them have found a safe place to stay, but not all of them. I heard from one colleague that he is hiding in Kakhovka and can see Russian soldiers outside his window. He has food and water, but he doesn't go out. My colleague from Kharkiv is responsible for the technical infrastructure at his university, which he has now uploaded to a Cloud because the university is also being attacked and he's worried that the server will be destroyed. I am very impressed by everyone. They continue to work for the university and teach their students. They are simply carrying on in the belief that the war will be over soon and they can go on living normally. That moves me and is also helping me make it through the crisis.

How are you looking at the future, and what are your thoughts and feelings about it?
I want to make a distinction between hope and belief. I believe that we will all be back at the university in Odesa in September and the war will be over. This is why I am continuing with the work I am currently focused on as a professor and as head of the Department for Software Engineering at Odesa Polytechnic National University – for example, the accreditation of our degree courses in the department.

I also think that after the war we will be able to unite even more as Ukrainians and to better appreciate what we have. Then there is the requirement to speak English as a result of fleeing: a goal we have had for a long time at our university. In this case the war is giving us a boost to finally be able to speak English. Right now, though, I am concentrating on my course at HAW Hamburg and I'm happy to be allowed to work. This helps me feel useful and also that I'm serving the Ukraine and a good cause.

Interview: Katharina Jeorgakopulos

Contact

Prof. Dr. Vira Liubchenko (sessional instructor)
Professor of Software Engineering
Department of Medical Engineering
Faculty of Life Sciences

vira.liubchenko (@) haw-hamburg.de

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