Amid the Russian invasion, Pitt professors and programs are aiding Ukraine and Ukrainians in their efforts to continue their academic scholarship, prepare to rebuild their country and treat victims — particularly of trauma and its effects.
The School of Law, pointing to the many ways Russia has tried to use the law to confront Ukraine before and during the war, has brought eight Ukrainian law students here to the Center for International Legal Education (CILE) with full scholarships to earn their LLM (master of laws) degree. It is part of the school’s broader Ukrainian Legal Assistance Project, which is helping prepare these students — many of them already accomplished Ukrainian lawyers — to rebuild their country after the war and to connect them now with law firms and companies here for pro bono work that can help Ukraine today.
CILE Executive Director Charles T. Kotuby Jr. points out that the program already has experience bringing students here from Afghanistan with similar goals for their homeland.
“What we’re really trying to do is create the next generation of leaders” in Ukraine, Kotuby said. “The Ukrainian students — you cannot keep them here … They want to go back and rebuild the country.”
CILE has asked the Pittsburgh legal community and international businesses for help in taking on these students part-time while they are here, involving them in legal work today. “We’ve had a wonderful response,” Kotuby said. “They are a remarkable bunch of students.
One of them is Olha V. Tsyliuryk, who already has 13 years’ experience in the law. When the war hit, she was legal adviser to the mayor of Enerhodar, 420 miles from Kyiv. She is also an elected member of her district council and a university lecturer with her own law practice. Enerhodar is the site of the nuclear power plant currently under siege by the Russians.
When the war started, she drove to Warsaw and flew to Washington, D.C., where she quickly became involved in a project to deliver food to several Ukrainian districts and raise money for relief.
By July, she felt she could do more and decided to expand her legal know-how for the eventual reconstruction of her country. “It’s very important for me to obtain new experience and new skills,” Tsyliuryk said.
Her family, whom she has not seen in half a year, is still in Ukraine. “It’s very difficult and fearful for me,” she said. “I hope everything is over soon.”
In the meantime she says that lawyers with international experience will be crucial for making Ukraine safe for the investment needed to rebuild it, she said.
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