"Unissued Diplomas": the stories of Ukrainian students who will never graduate

Since February 24, 2022, the full-scale Russian invasion has resulted in the tragic loss of over 10,000 civilians and 30,000 soldiers, with these numbers steadily climbing. Part of those victims were students. 

"Unissued Diplomas" exhibition uncovers the stories of 40 Ukrainian students who will never graduate because their lives were taken by the russian aggression.

We decide to interview Mariia Fursina, who is part of the Academies4Ukraine project and one of the local organiser of the exibition in Finland. Ukrainian students, who are on study exchange in Helsinki, also helped in organizing the exhibition.

Mariia, would you please explain us what you want to convey with this exhibition?

On February 24th 2024, we reflected on the two-year anniversary of Ukraine's invasion, a day overshadowed by explosions and grief. To pay tribute to the Ukrainian students who perished in the conflict, we established the "Unissued Diplomas" exhibition. These students were denied graduation due to the violence and terror of Russia. The exhibition shares the stories of 40 young students. Each diploma showcases their interests, hobbies, and aspirations, along with details of their tragic demise. 

Where did you organize the exhibition in Finland? 

We organized the exhibition in the main building of the University of Helsinki so that students and researchers are able to see the exhibition when they are coming to class, to work, or to study. It is also open to everyone else in Helsinki. The exhibition was free. We have received warm feedback already in the first hours of the exhibition. It is wonderful to witness that the exhibition is making an impact on people here.

Where the exibition has been showncased till now?

The exhibition has been shown in many countries around the world, including Indonesia, Australia, France, Japan, and Canada. Let's remember and honor these students who lost their lives in the fight for freedom.

Could you tell us about one of the students featured in the exhibition?

One of the students in the exhibition is Danylo Bolshakov, 22, who studied economics at Mariupol University. He made pins for the future with his girlfriend, and they intended to live together. He was expected to be promoted at work. He died saving his father and grandmother. He ran into an apartment with a stuck door and tried to get in. A Russian missile hit the house and it collapsed. Danylo was not removed from the rubble for a month and a half.

What does this exhibition mean to you and the other organisers?

I am devastated seeing that these students are my age, and that they have barely reached adulthood when they were killed. I could have been in their place, just like any of the other Ukrainian people who moved away from the war. We got lucky.  

To conclude, what is the core message of the  exhibition?

The exhibition serves as a poignant reflection of the ongoing war in Ukraine, where lives are tragically lost each day and the hopes and aspirations of many young individuals are imperiled. As they confront the daily uncertainty surrounding their education, career paths, and personal development, they are burdened with a constant stream of stress and anxiety about what lies ahead.

More about the “Unissued Diplomas”: https://www.unissueddiplomas.org/