Ukrainian Diploma Exhibition: Honoring students who have lost their lives in Ukraine

Several unissued diplomas hang next to the pictures of UM students who have died during the war in Ukraine. Photo credit: Anya Weller

With blue and yellow lights of the fountain shining behind them, the University of Miami Slavic Culture Club took a moment of silence to honor the students who have lost their lives during the ongoing Ukrainian war.

For ten impactful minutes, the club’s executive board read the names of 20 UM students who fell victim to the conflict in Ukraine since its beginning. The livelihoods of these students were honored, as their aspirations, interests and spirits were shared with the audience this past Wednesday. Their unissued diplomas surrounded the stage upon which the names were read.

The UM Slavic Culture Club found its beginning in a single class after five passionate students realized they all shared Slavic backgrounds. Those same students then created a club that would serve as a support system for over 100 other Slavic students at UM, all looking to find community as a home away from home.

This fall, the club was connected with a non-profit organization called “Unissued Diplomas.” Through this organization, the Slavic Culture Club was able to get the names and faces of UM students in Ukraine who tragically died as war casualties, stopping them from earning their diplomas.

“These are students just like us, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in college that were unable to complete their degrees because they lost their lives, whether it be to go fight in the war or whether it be as casualties,” said Nic Howell, the treasurer of the Slavic Culture Club.

With the newly emerged Israel-Hamas war, some speakers at the event discussed how the war in Ukraine has been overlooked despite the ongoing tragedies happening in the region.

“The battle is taking a backseat,” said Patricia Whitely, senior vice president of student affairs and alumni engagement. “But the war is still happening every day.”

With a significant Slavic population, UM’s student body has been tremendously affected by the war in Ukraine. Bella Raham, vice president of cultural affairs, feels she will never get to see where her parents grew up or learn more about her own cultural roots as a result of the war.

“I think at any point when you hear about war and how many people were killed, you sometimes need to gain a better perspective as to who these individuals are and be able to honor them specifically for what they did throughout their lives,” said Raham. “They’re not just another number.“

The event closed with a violin performance, delivered by Kostia Lukyniuk, a master’s student at the Frost School of Music. Lukyniuk was able to escape being drafted to Ukraine because of his letter of admission to UM.

In honoring the students who tragically lost their lives in Ukraine, the students of the UM Slavic Culture Club expressed their more urgent desire to bring back awareness to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine within the UM community. .

“We don’t hope to make this a sad vigil,” said Howell. “We hope to use this to spread awareness and to honor these students who never got the opportunity to be honored at their own graduations.”