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Speech at concert in support of Ukraine

A university’s nature is to stand up for democratic values and human rights.

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Speech held by rector and professor Klaus Mohn at concert in support of Ukraine, 3 March 2022

Dear friends,

Thank you for this wonderful initiative, and for having me.

Imagine the contrasts of our world. Outside it’s winter holiday, fantastic weather and dreamlike skiing conditions. The more overwhelming it is to think that war is raging in Europe. Our values and democracy are under attack by what looks like an isolated bully. Images and reports of brutalities make a strong impression on us all, tearing our emotions – between heartfealt empathy, rumbling rage and deep despair.

First and foremost, our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, our Ukrainian students and our staff, as well as others who have family and friends in the war zones. Make no mistake: Freedom will be defended. Your shock, grief and anger is shared around the world, and we all stand ready to help.

Three million citizens of Kharkiv are currently under constant siege and repeated attacks. Can you imagine the horror? With more than 20 universities and a relatively young population, the opposition against Russia’s aggression is strong in Kharkiv, and morals are high. Kharkiv’s Freedom square, which is the largest city square in Europe, was hit by two Russian cruiser missiles last week. In memory of the attack, president Volodymyr Zelenskyj declared that from this day on, every square in every Ukraine city, will be named Freedom square.

A university’s nature is to stand up for democratic values and human rights. We will always stand ready to fight – for freedom of expression, respect, and collaboration. Our undivided support and solidarity therefore goes out to university students, university staff, and institutions in Ukraine. At the same time, we extend support for universities in Russia that promote peace, conflict resolution and cooperation, and who distance themselves from the acts of war in Ukraine.

Facing the unimaginable bravery of the Ukraine people and their political leaders, any effort from our side could easily seem unimportant. However, I know that all our supportive attempts are highly appreciated. Let this concert therefore remind you all of our wholehearted support for the condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Our condemnation is directed at Putin and his regime, not on our Russian employees, friends and students who are also deeply disturbed by this situation. Now is the time to look out for each other.

Again, let me thank our students at the Faculty of Performing Arts, who have impressed by the initiative, and not least by the swift curation, for this concert in support of Ukraine. In times of crisis, art and music play an important role in society, representing connection and hope, when our days seem dark and difficult. It also makes a profound impression that some of our Ukrainian students are participating in the concert.

Before we continue enjoying the concert, please join me in joining in applauding our Ukrainian students and all their countrymen, who so bravely stand up for themselves, their nation – and for us all.

Thank you!