Last Friday the CEU Residence Center in Budapest was busier than usual. Dozens of CEU alumni and friends gathered solemnly in a large conference room, brought together not for a reunion or meetup, but by the war in Ukraine.
Several had recently arrived in Budapest, families in tow, after fleeing their homes. Some were now living in the dorm.
“I never thought I would be coming back to Kerepesi like this,” one said.
They were among approximately 30 CEU alumni, faculty and staff who joined the March 4 CEU Alumni Welcome Event for Ukrainian alumni displaced by the war. In an emotional discussion, they told of the dangers faced at home, of narrow escapes and the long trek across the border with Hungary.
Many local alumni in attendance, including alumni from Russia, expressed their solidarity and offered to help, however they could. Alumni offered help with babysitting or playdates for the children, or to drive displaced alumni to appointments whenever needed. “I can be here in five minutes,” one alumnus said. (Those wishing to volunteer, please see here.)
CEU faculty and staff reiterated the university’s support. Moderating the discussion, alumnus and Vice President for Enrollment, Careers and Alumni Relations Serge Sych (IRES ’97, LEGS ’99, Ukraine) gave a heartfelt welcome and told attendees “It’s all about you.” Noting the university’s efforts, Professor Laszlo Kontler, Pro-Rector for CEU Budapest, assured those present that “We will be here for you.” In addition to the Alumni Relations Office, members of the CEU Career Services, Community Engagement and Student Recruitment teams were also present and offered help.
Since the war stared CEU and its alumni have taken action to support alumni and students from Ukraine. See details. The Residence Center has opened its doors to Ukrainian alumni and their families, with requisite legal fees paid by a CEU faculty member and an alumna. In less than a week, alumni donors from around the world, including Russia, have raised nearly $29,000, partly to help cover housing, meals, transportation, and other support for displaced alumni sheltering at the dorm.
So far 41 alumni and their family members, including 14 children, are staying at the Residence Center. More are expected. For those sheltering there, the dorm is a welcome if not surreal refuge. “I feel very supported staying here,” one alumna said. “Thank you.”
Sincere thanks to everyone who joined us and offered their help, and a warm welcome to our friends and classmates from Ukraine.