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Unissued Diplomas exhibition wraps up in Halifax

Ukrainian students who died in Russian invasion are memorialized at universities including SMU

3 min read
caption Mariia Lytvynchuk stands in front of Leah Krylova’s photo in the Unissued Diplomas exhibit at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax on March 19, 2023.
Maria Collins

Up a winding staircase and down a white hallway, 36 photos hang across the wall. 

Thirty-six photos. Thirty-six students. All Ukrainians who died in the war with Russia.

Unissued Diplomas tells the stories of would-be university graduates who were killed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They majored in bravery, the tagline reads. 

Danyyil Yevtushenko is one of the fallen. The 19-year-old died in battle under rocket fire in Kharkiv. He loved languages and was studying philosophy at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

The Unissued Diplomas exhibit that honours Yevtushenko and the others is touring more than 40 universities worldwide, including St. Mary’s University in Halifax. The display was co-organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union, known as SUSK.

caption Leah Krylova’s unissued diploma hung among 35 others. The 20-year-old was killed with her boyfriend and her entire family in Mariupol, Ukraine.
Maria Collins

The Canadian leg concluded in Halifax on March 22 on the second floor of the SMU Atrium. The memorial runs until April in Europe and Australia.

Mariia Lytvynchuk, a first-year Dalhousie University international student from Kyiv, said she was excited to hear the installation was in town. 

The exhibit made her reflect, she said, since she has the opportunity to study somewhere safe. She said she’s grateful and wants people to remember these students.

“[I’m] reading the names of the universities, but it’s just names of universities,” Lytvynchuk told The Signal in front of the exhibit, adding it’s “about their whole life.” 

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The conflict is ongoing

Yaryna Tylchak is one of the youth organizers responsible for bringing the Unissued Diplomas project to Halifax. She came from Ternopil, in western Ukraine, and is conducting a research project at the Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry.

Tylchak said she got involved in the exhibition because she felt it was her mission. 

caption “Innocent people die in Ukraine each day, so the world should not forget about it.” – Yaryna Tylchak, co-organizer of Unissued Diplomas in Halifax.
Maria Collins

“Even being abroad in a safe place I still feel a deep connection with my homeland,” Tylchak told The Signal in a phone interview.  

She said she hopes the photo display raises awareness about the war in Ukraine and ensures the world does not forget the horrors Ukrainian citizens are facing.

“Innocent people die in Ukraine each day,” said Tylchak. 

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon as Lytvynchuk reads all 36 stories. Her face is grim. She stops at one photo.  

Leah Krylova, 20, studied tourism at Mariupol State University. Krylova died with her parents, younger sister, boyfriend and friends when a Russian shell hit their house. 

“I don’t know her story. Maybe she has a really happy story,” Lytvynchuk said. “All of these people had their own stories, and I can at least relate, I can imagine how they lived, but [I] don’t know how she lived because everyone died with her. It just touched me.”

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