Event Report: Days of Ukraine in North-Rhine Westphalia (Essen, 28-29 September 2023)

Days of Ukraine in North-Rhine Westphalia were organized alongside of the annual meeting of the German-Ukrainian Academic Society (DUAG) and took place in Essen on 28-29 September 2023. Over 130 researchers, students and higher education professionals interested in cooperation with Ukraine came together. Days of Ukraine are organized to facilitate academic exchange and further cooperation between the two countries and held annually since 2016 for that purpose.

Participants of the Days of Ukraine in NRW. Essen, 28.09.2023. Copyright: University of Duisburg-Essen/André Kraß

This year the conference was organized at the University of Duisburg-Essen with financial support from the DAAD Go East Program and chaired by the DUAG Vice-President Prof. Matthias Epple.


The welcoming remarks were delivered by:

  • Matthias Epple, the Vice President of the German-Ukrainian Academic Society
  • Olga Garaschuk, the President of the German-Ukrainian Academic Society
  • Gonca Türkeli-Dehnert, Secretary of State, Ministry of Science and Culture of the Federal State North-Rhine Westphalia

After the opening, the annual PhD Thesis Presentation Contest was held, supported by the Embassy of Ukraine in Germany. This contest aims to promote young researchers from Ukraine and increase the visibility of their work at the international level. Nomad Bioscience GmbH has been sponsoring the Contest almost yearly since 2016.

This year the winners from six finalists are:

  • Mariana Sliusarenko from the Hannover Medical School (MHH), Germany: “Dissecting the molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration Drosophila SWS/NTE neuropathy model” : 1st place
  • Yaryna Zhdanova from the BETA Tech Center (Technological center of the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia), Spain: “Vertical farms, sustainable architecture and environmental technologies”: 2nd place
  • Valeriia Lukashenko from the Nikhef, the Netherlands: “Precision measurements of standard model and search for beyond the standard model signals” : 3rd place

Later in the evening, Steffen Dobbert, a German journalist who has lived in Ukraine and has been covering the events in the country since 2014, gave a plenary talk “Historical guilt? Why there is a special German responsibility for Ukraine”. He also talked about his book Understand Ukraine: History, Politics and Fight for Freedom (German: “Ukraine verstehen: Geschichte, Politik und Freiheitskampf“, more), providing deep insights into the nuances of Ukrainian history and political landscape from first-hand experience to the Western audience.

On the 2nd day, the participants were addressed by:

Consul General of Ukraine in Düsseldorf Iryna Schum at the Days of Ukraine in NRW. Essen, 28.09.2023. Copyright: University of Duisburg-Essen/André Kraß
  • Maik Walpuski, the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Duisburg-Essen
  • Thomas Kufen, the Mayor of the City of Essen
  • Gisela Zimmermann, representative of the DAAD
  • Iryna Shum, the Consul General of Ukraine in Düsseldorf
  • Barbara Albert, the Rector of the University of Duisburg-Essen

Afterwards, Prof. Heike Roll and Julia Plainer from the University of Duisburg-Essen presented a talk “The DAAD-funded teaching project Ukraine digital at the University of Duisburg-Essen – supporting student success in times of war.” The presentation covered the challenges that Ukrainian refugee students and researchers face and the opportunities offered by the University of Duisburg-Essen for those displaced due to the war and willing to continue their studies and scientific work in Germany.

From the NGO Caritas Essen/Mülheim, Anja Mohr held a talk “Ukrainian Refugees in Germany”, focusing on the challenges the refugees face in a foreign country.

After the coffee break, Nataliya Butych, regional coordinator of cooperation with Eastern Europe at Leibniz University Hannover, presented the results of the project “Management of Internationalisation and German-Ukrainian Academic Cooperation“. Having started in 2019, the project has successfully trained science and education managers from Ukraine and the participants implemented internationalization projects at their home universities despite the outbreak of war. This presentation was followed by Dr. Petra Pistor from the University of Applied Sciences Münster, who presented a sister project “THEA Ukraine X: Network Expansion through Multiplication Trainings”.

Next, the annual Members Assembly of the German-Ukrainian Academic Society took place. Thereafter a short lecture “Ukraine: changes and challenges at the local level” was held by Anna Iemelianova who came to Essen from Kryvyi Rih.

Dr. Oksana Seumenicht from the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, Berlin presented the program MSCA4Ukraine, funded by the EU within the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) program initiative. The offered scholarship program allowed over 100 researchers from Ukraine to continue their work in 21 European countries. DUAG member Dr. Nataliya Yadzhak (Universität Bayreuth), who had received an MSCA4Ukraine scholarship, shared the results of her research on “Hydrogen Influence on Metallic Materials”. DUAG member and also an MSCA4Ukraine fellow Prof. Kateryna Karpenko (Padeborn University) gave a talk on “Voices from Ukraine: Women Philosophers and Scientists against Ecocide during the War and Post-war Years”. Another short lecture on scientific research results, was delivered by Philipp Schwartz Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Dr. Maria Nesterkina (Helmholtz Institute for Pharmacological Research) and focused on thermoresponsive liquid crystals as drug-delivery systems for skin applications.

The conference offered excellent networking opportunities, with many participants presenting their posters and communicating their research results.

The next meeting will take place in 2024 in Saarbrücken, Germany. More information on dates and registration detail will follow.