SOURCE: Kyiv Post
Position/activity: Education, Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv
Length of time in Ukraine: since 1992.
Tips for succeeding in Ukraine: “Be really patient; develop the ability to see things below the surface; one can be ‘successful’ in the short-term through less than moral means, however one cannot ultimately be fruitful; Ukraine needs leaders who are willing to sacrifice and even suffer to give birth and breathe life into a nation.”
While tending to his flock of 1,400 full- and part-time students at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, the Rev. Dr. Borys Gudziak has had his moral and spiritual resolve tested more than once over the past two years.
Like The Old Testament’s Abraham, Gudziak’s first test came in early 2010 when the Security Service of Ukraine, Ukraine’s KGB successor organization known as the SBU, allegedly tried recruiting him as a secret collaborator.
Not only did the priest refuse, he had a pastoral moment with his SBU visitor: “I said to the agent that, as the former KGB and with many employees remaining from the Soviet times, the SBU has a heavy legacy of breaking and crippling people physically and morally. I cautioned him that, as a young married person, he should be careful not to do anything that could cause lasting damage to himself and shame his children and grandchildren.”
Gudziak humbly said he hoped he acted as Metropolitan Sheptytsky would’ve acted during the ordeal, referring to the 20th century Ukrainian church leader who stood up to Tsarist, Polish, Nazi and Soviet regimes. A preacher of reconciliation between ethnic groups, thousands of Jews were saved during World War II at his command.
This year, Gudziak, in what could resemble the biblical story of David and Batsheba, accepted pledged money from billionaire Dmytro Firtash to build a new $25 million campus. It stirred controversy since Firtash is widely believed to have made his fortune in titanium, chemicals, banking and gas through not completely transparent means.
“Every significant donation to UCU is an unconditional gift that has no influence on faculty hiring, student admissions or curriculum decisions,” the U.S. fundraising arm of UCU said in a statement in May.
Yet Gudziak and the UCU have forged ahead with new programs and by creating a closer university community. This year the university launched programs in journalism, conflict studies and in bioethics. The institution offers one of the nation’s few programs on non-governmental organizational management.
UCU’s publications also won three awards at this year’s annual book forum in Lviv.
Gudziak offered this encounter as testament of the goodwill UCU fosters: “Two weeks ago a student came up to me in the hallway and asked, ‘father, what is the most important of these three: witness values, service, or community building, where should I start?’ When you have students stop you in the hallway with those kinds of questions with the intention to act and follow-up, you know that the Lord is bountiful.”
Kyiv Post staff writer Mark Rachkevych can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org