Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion of their country is nearing its fourth month. University of Waterloo is unwavering in our solidarity with the innocent victims of this invasion, and we stand in support of those who are calling for its end.  

On June 22, Waterloo students had the privilege of participating in a live virtual address from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, organized the address. The live feed was shared across Canada to eight Universities including Waterloo where the feed was streamed to more than 200 students from Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Hagey Hall. Along with the in-person events across Canada, more than 6,800 people tuned into the live stream on YouTube. 

Freeland introduced President Zelenskyy and noted the important lesson Ukraine is giving the world saying that “Ukraine is our teacher, and the rest of the world’s democracies are its students … They are teaching us that democracy is worth fighting for.” 

President Zelenskyy joined the address via live stream from Ukraine and explained the impact the war is having on the everyday lives of Ukrainians. He stated that the goals and values he has for his country have not changed since he took office but says “the way we work and live is now different.” He reiterated that the war is about “fighting for our future and for our freedom.” 

Mark Andre, a fourth-year history and political science student at Waterloo, said the address was a “once and lifetime experience. Two years ago, you would not have thought you’d be in a zoom call with the President of Ukraine. It was very moving.” 

Another anonymous student added that “Zelensky is a source of strength and an example of what to do in a crisis. He is an inspirational person.” 

Students from the in-person audiences were given the opportunity to ask President Zelenskyy questions. One student from the University of Calgary asked the President how he believed the internet and social media has changed the way the rest of the world is experiencing the war. President Zelenskyy explained that the internet is a powerful instrument in sharing the causalities and realities of war.  

“I really liked that the questions came from across the country,” said Emilie Caron, a PhD student studying psychology at Waterloo. “The event really stood out because it was an interactive dialogue with the president — not just him talking. It makes him more personable, and it makes you feel more connected to the cause while trying to understand what they’re going through while you’re sitting here all safe in Canada.”   

“We are fighting for the same values of anyone living in the democratic world,” President Zelenskyy said. 

“We are grateful to President Zelenskyy for taking the time to address our students during what is an unthinkably challenging time for him and his embattled nation,” says Vivek Goel, President and Vice-chancellor of Waterloo. “In this historic moment we’re proud to show our support to President Zelenskyy, and the brave people of Ukraine, who serve as a powerful example to our community of the courage it takes to defend democracy.” 

Watch President Zelenskyy’s live stream 

Supporting students impacted by conflict 

Last month, Waterloo welcomed 34 Ukrainian students whose university studies have been disrupted by the ongoing war. These internships are free to the students with funding being provided by on-campus and corporate sponsors. 

Conflict happening in many regions around the world today. The University has launched a fund to support students whose education has been impacted by global war or conflict with the Ukrainian students as the immediate beneficiaries. Please consider donating to the  Students At-Risk Fund