Balliol welcomes two Ukrainian scholars

Thursday 15 December 2022

It has been a great pleasure to welcome to Balliol this term two Ukrainian scholars. Viktor Savchenko comes to Oxford under the British Academy’s Researchers at Risk Fellowship scheme, in association with Cara (the Council for At-Risk Academics) and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. Postgraduate student Maryna Oproshchenko has a fully funded place as part of Oxford’s Graduate Scholarship Scheme for Ukraine Refugees 2022/23. Both were displaced by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022.

Viktor Savchenko (left) and Maryna Oproshchenko
Viktor Savchenko and Maryna Oproshchenko (photo by Stuart Bebb)

That Viktor and Maryna have been able to come to Balliol is thanks to the support of those in the Balliol community – Old Members, Fellows, students and friends – who generously contributed to the Balliol Ukraine Crisis Appeal: thank you.

Viktor Savchenko

Viktor Savchenko (photo: Stuart Bebb)

Viktor is an Associate Professor in Civil Law at Kharkiv National University. Having completed a PhD and a Masters in Law, he is now working to become a Doctor of Laws, for which he must complete a substantial piece of research.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, work at Kharkiv National University continued but life was dangerous, and with many buildings destroyed and bombs falling Viktor knew he must find somewhere to complete his research and a safe place for his wife and two young children. Connecting online with Professor Tom Douglas (Professor of Applied Philosophy based in the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics), he found that Professor Douglas’s research is close to his own. He applied to the Cara scheme and Professor Douglas is now Viktor’s supervisor.

My research is freedom of will in civil law, so I want to understand the autonomy of humans and freedom of will in the context of legislature. He does something like this in the context of philosophy,’ Viktor says. ‘We understand that law and philosophy are very close, and with my research it is important to understand the grounding it is based on – and that is always found in philosophy.’ There is more information about Viktor and his work here.

Despite the traumatic circumstances that brought him here, Viktor loves Oxford, describing it as ‘like a unicorn for scientists, like a fairy tale! You can’t believe that you can actually be here and be part of this place, it is like another world.’

We are so thankful to everyone who gave to this appeal – we are only here with your protection and support. Oxford is a very quiet place for rehabilitation after our situation. It is a very good place for my work; Oxford is the best place for researchers because you have everything that you need and you can cycle between places!

Maryna Oproshchenko

Maryna Oproshchenko (photo by Stuart Bebb)

Having completed her BA and Masters in International Economics at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Maryna worked as a corporate finance consultant at KPMG Ukraine and then at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Kyiv as a financial analyst for the Sustainable Infrastructure Group focusing on sustainable energy. After the invasion, she was able to relocate temporarily to Paris, where she continued working remotely, supporting emergency liquidity projects for Ukrainian clients.

The MSc in Financial Economics at Oxford is an opportunity for Maryna to learn new methods and tools of analysis. The course ‘truly lives up to all my expectations,’ she says. ‘It’s taught by the Said Business School, which provides practical and financial understanding, jointly with the economic department, so there is always this link sustained between how financial markets influence economic policy and the wider economic developmental framework, and how economic policy has an impact on financial markets.’ She feels she is gaining ‘a profound knowledge of how things really work and how they can be deployed to real-life analysis’.

Of all the colleges, she thinks ‘Balliol is the most active one, in terms of fun graduates have’ because of the Holywell community. ‘It’s very international – that is really nice’ and ‘people here are very much engaged, and passionate about what they’re doing; it’s always incredibly interesting to talk on subjects I know nothing about – medieval manuscripts, or genomical medicine, or astrophysics.’

Coming to Oxford has been ‘a bit overwhelming’, she says, but ‘at the same time, I feel supported, every step of the way. All the administrative things that I had to sort out coming here … I really feel this support very strongly and it’s incredibly appreciated. It comes from Balliol, from the whole world – from people’s hearts. It keeps me motivated. It really helps.’

My deepest gratitude goes to alumni and to anyone who made all this happen, because I really feel that it does launch me already. I hope I will translate my own transformation into fruitful results for the projects I want to embark on.’

Balliol Ukraine Crisis Appeal

Balliol and the other participating colleges and departments are in discussion about extending the scholarship scheme for 202324, and hope that the Balliol community may consider supporting the scheme or renewing their support for next year.