Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told university students across Canada Wednesday morning that his country is determined to surprise the world as Ukraine continues fighting for democracy and freedom nearly four months after being invaded by Russia.
“Our goals have not changed,” said Zelenskyy. “The only difference is in order to make it all happen now we are fighting against the second strongest army of the world. We are fighting for our future, for our freedom, for our lands; just like 80 years ago during the second World War.”
Speaking by video from Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, wearing army fatigues, addressed students across the country before taking questions from students from the University of Toronto, as well as those joining virtually from universities across Canada, including the University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan, Université de Montréal and more.
The event, organized by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, marked the second time it hosted President Zelenskyy, as he also visited the campus in 2019 for an international summit on the future of Ukraine.
University of Toronto President, Meric Gertler, who also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of Universities Canada, opened the event saying,
“President Zelenskyy, you and the people of Ukraine have earned the admiration of people across Canada and around the world for your leadership and your courage in this time of crisis.”
Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent, introduced President Zelenskyy and reinforced Canada’s support.
“For as long as it takes Canada will be there for Ukraine,” said Freeland. “Ukraine of course is fighting for its own democracy, its own freedom, but we recognize that Ukraine is fighting for us too. Ukraine is fighting for all of the world’s democracies and that is why we will persist, we will not tire, we will be there.”
President Zelenskyy answered a number of questions ranging from how international communities could support Ukraine, the role models he looks up to and how social media has shaped the world’s perception of the war on Ukraine.
“Social media and the internet in general is a space and it means opportunities,” said Zelenskyy. “We can cut distances between our countries and other countries, between government and society. It gives us an opportunity, by using this instrument, to share the truth.”
“In our case (the internet) is kind of a weapon, showing the world what’s going on in Ukraine.”
President Zelenskyy encouraged students to share information and share what’s going on.
“Please don’t become tired because of the war and with the Ukrainian war, this is something we need the youth for.”
Students also tuned in from the University of Alberta, University of Prince Edward Island, University of Manitoba, Dalhousie University, as well as Western University, Queen’s University, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.
“I am honoured that President Zelenskyy chose to speak to Canada’s university community today,” said Universities Canada president, Paul Davidson. “President Zelenskyy’s courage, and the courage of the Ukrainian people, inspires all of us.”
Canada is home to 1.4 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, many of whom work or study at Canadian universities across the country.
Throughout the disturbing and ongoing events in Ukraine, Canadian universities have rallied to offer support to students and scholars affected by the crisis.
President Zelenskyy thanked the Canadian government and directors of universities for its exchange programs that has welcomed Ukrainian students.
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