Paraná is a southern Brazilian state, home to 80% of the Ukrainian immigrants living in Brazil. Thus, it was not surprising that the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022 touched deeply into the collective soul of the Paranaenses (the people of Paraná). Only three months later, the state’s government, through its funding agency for research and development, the Araucária Foundation, designed and launched a call entitled “Program for Welcoming Ukrainian Scientists,” aiming to fund initiatives to attract and welcome Ukrainian scholars to Paraná, Brazil.
The reaction of the academic community was also immediate, and all major universities of the state submitted multiple proposals. By July, our institution, the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), received the first Ukrainian researcher in Curitiba, the state’s capital. The arrival of Prof. Zhana Virna, originally from Volyn National University, Lutzk, resulted from an intense, collaborative initiative involving various academic and administrative departments to facilitate getting her and other scientists out of the conflict zone and into our safe space. Prof. Virna holds a Ph.D. in psychology, is an expert in school violence, and learned about the Araucária Foundation program through a publication on the Ukrainian Ministry of Education website. According to Prof. Virna, who left a son and a granddaughter in Ukraine, “Any change for a person is always a stressful situation — to cross the long distance to Curitiba, on another continent — but the adaptation was easy. And all thanks to the good people, friendships, and kindness I felt.” Listen to Prof Virna’s story on PodParaná [Portuguese].
In June 2023, PUCPR received the second Ukrainian researcher, Dr. Svitlana Lysenko, also in the School of Education and Humanities. Dr. Lysenko is a native of Kyiv and was a lead scientist in the research department of the Yevgeny Bereznyak Military-Diplomatic Academy. At PUCPR, Dr. Lysenko will work on the CONNECT Project, which applies an inclusive and sustainable model to allow more secondary schools to adopt open education, incorporating science action projects into the core curriculum and using participatory scientific approaches with universities and companies.
Although science is a global endeavor, the experience of welcoming colleagues from different cultures in such a short time highlighted the importance of a shared language for effective communication – often English, but not always – and being prepared to process all the legal and official documentation in a timely manner. It was also fascinating to realize that while Ukrainian researchers with greater global exposure had more options to pursue opportunities abroad, typically in countries in Europe and North America, those with limited proficiency in languages other than Ukrainian and Russian faced more significant challenges and fewer alternatives. Consequently, at PUCPR, the internal call for proposals aimed to engage and support researchers with varying degrees of global experience and language proficiency, widening the range of possibilities available to our Ukrainian colleagues. To deal with the language gap, two Ukrainian-speakers, one from the PUCPR academic community and another from the Ukrainian community in Curitiba, were selected to receive a scholarship to assist non-English-speaking Ukrainian scholars, including Dr. Virna and Dr. Svitlana, with funding from the Araucária Foundation.
Today, with two Ukrainian researchers already working at our university, we expect it to be easier to attract and support other scholars.A total budget of R$ 18,000,000.00 has been invested in the program (around US$ 3,500,000.00). By the end of February 2023 (one year after the start of the war), the Araucária Foundation program had already attracted 12 Ukrainian scholars to major universities of the state, and ten are due to arrive within the next months.
– Pr. Marcelo Távora Mira, Ph.D.; Director for Internationalization, PUCPR
– Pr. Vanessa Santos Sotomaior, Ph.D.; Director for Research, PUCPR
About the Program
The Government of Paraná promotes the Program for Welcoming Ukrainian Scientists through the Araucaria Foundation and the General Secretariat of Science, Technology and Higher Education (Seti) to provide financial support to higher education institutions in welcoming Ukrainian researchers to work in Research and Postgraduate Programs; to benefit the scientists’ inclusion in the community of Parana; promote future collaborations for the reconstruction and strengthening of Ukrainian economy through science and innovation, in partnership with the state of Parana.
The entire process of hosting and sheltering the Ukrainian families welcomed by the Program will be documented in text, photos, and video by a team of scholars. In conclusion, a documentary will be produced for the Government of Paraná, in addition to a photo gallery and journalistic reports.