On February 24, the world woke up to troubling news from Ukraine: neighboring Russia had launched a full-scale invasion of the country from which over 700 CEU alumni hail from. As Ukrainians and people of other nationalities living in Ukraine fled for their safety, hundreds crossed the border with Hungary in those first days. CEU was ready to help: we immediately offered vacant dorm rooms at the Kerepesi Residence Center (RC) in Budapest to our Ukrainian alumni and their families. Between March and June, 49 alumni and their family members were provided with free accommodation and meals at the RC.
As events unfolded, it became clear that our Ukrainian alumni would be needing all the support they could get in Budapest and elsewhere. It is for this very reason that the CEU Alumni Relations Office launched an emergency appeal to cover the immediate costs of accommodation and meals at the RC. Additionally, many alumni volunteered to support their fellow alumni in Ukraine. Similarly to every other crisis that CEU has weathered in its past, alumni did not hesitate to come together in solidarity, support, and good faith.
In the first weeks of the war, the Alumni Relations Office was overwhelmed with offers of support from alumni in the region and worldwide. In Budapest alumni were offering accommodation, transportation from the border, free legal advice, and employment. Gulnoza Khasanova (CHSP ’19) offered to cover the initial costs of housing for refugees in the RC. (Listen to a podcast featuring Gulnoza, produced by our Alumni Scholarship Recipients). Laura Jones (IRES ’06) put together a comprehensive webpage with useful resources, links, and relevant information for refugees fleeing to different countries. Anton Mudrak (HIME ’17) and his sister set up a Facebook group for volunteer translators. Several alumni provided professional psychological services, coordinated by CEU’s lead counselor, Laszlo Biro.
As alumni from Ukraine settled in Budapest, local community members welcomed them at two events organized by the Alumni Relations Office in March and April. A playroom for children was set up at the RC by alumna Sara Vari (POLS ’08), while other alumni brought supplies and donations to the dorm. Activities such as yoga, language classes, and city tours were offered by alumni in Budapest.
As the initial shock wore off and refugees started considering options for their future, alumni offered administrative and legal support. Adrienn Kiss (LEGS ’09) drafted two documents in March, one of which focused on academic opportunities available for people fleeing Ukraine, while the other provided technical and legal information relevant for refugees and asylum seekers. (Listen to a podcast featuring Adrienn, produced by our Alumni Scholarship Recipients). Zsofia Olah (LEGS’ 07) and a team of lawyers from OPL Attorneys ran a pro-bono legal aid clinic at the Nador 11 building in Budapest.
CEU alumni contacted the Career Services Office directly or via social media to share information that would help displaced alumni find employment. Adrienn Kiss shared countless vacancies on multiple channels. Erlin Agich (NATI ’13, SPP ’20) connected CEU with the Women Mentorship Network, a North Macedonian women’s association, to offer mentorship opportunities to women impacted by the war. Ewa Cukrowska (ECON ’11 and ‘15), Dora Merai (MEDS ’07 and ’18), Leslie Ader (NATI ‘17), Valentina Dimulescu (POLS ’09), and Attila Molnar (POLS ’12) are a few others out of the 26 alumni and counting who contributed their support for their fellows in this manner, sharing more than 30 vacancies and databases with vital information or offering relevant mentorship and networking opportunities.
Alumni around the world also contributed. Plamen Peev (ENVS ’11) gathered fellow alumni in Bulgaria in support of a refugee integration initiative in his hometown of Dobrich. Aleksandra Cwik-Mohanty (CHSP ’19) and the alumni chapter in Poland devised ways to reach out to Ukrainian alumni in the country. Mariia Zivert (LEGS ’21) of the Dead Lawyers Society and Jaron Maylon (BUSI ’15) from Lifting Hands International collaborated on a project providing first aid kits to frontline lawyers and servicemen in Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine is far from over, and it continues to affect hundreds of our community members. The solidarity and support shown by our alumni volunteers serves as a beacon of hope and humanity. On behalf of everyone at CEU, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to these alumni!
During the academic year of 2021-22, 349 alumni volunteered for CEU in various roles, including Ukraine emergency, career services, recruitment, alumni chapters, Thesis Buddies and more. To see who these were specifically please refer to our volunteer Honor Roll.