Students from universities across the country watched the live video stream from their respective campuses, while Zelenskyy, who was introduced by Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, took questions that touched on a variety of topics. He spoke about life in Ukraine, how social media can bring people together, and issued a stark reminder that peace is fragile, and how in the contemporary world, “the war has no distance.”
Quinn Rozwadowski, a recent graduate from USask’s College of Arts and Science, was one of the handful students who was given the opportunity to ask Zelenskyy a question directly via video.
“As a young person here in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I am greatly concerned by the increasing self-centred nationalism and flagging commitment to promoting democracy around the world that I see here in North America,” asked Rozwadowski, as he stood in a classroom on campus filled with USask students and faculty.
“How do we fix this problem and convince our neighbours that the ideal of democracy is worth fighting and sacrificing for, even on the other side of the planet?”
In his answer, Zelenskyy discussed how the besieged nation of Ukraine was fighting for values that were in common with those other countries that valued their right to choose.
“This is what life is about,” he responded. “This is about the right of choice, the most precious of what we have and the deepest sense of democracy. Your own right to choose for your life, and we are protecting this.”
Zelenskyy also urged that the response to war, and the threat to global democracy, is something that Canadians and students around the world would do well to keep in mind so that people do not become weary of conflicts fought abroad.
“All of the world should respond to the aggressor in the same manner and in the same way as if the war was waged in your own country, then the result will come.”
This concern is something that Rozwadowski said has been top of mind, even as he crossed the stage at USask’s Merlis Belsher Place during Spring Convocation earlier in June.
“I feel like many people might be forgetting previous conflicts that have brought us where we are today, and that they are taken for granted,” he said.
While he said he valued his time in the department of political studies at USask, Rozwadowski plans to attend the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Law in August, with the intent of becoming a judge or a politician who can make a positive difference – “like Zelenskyy,” he added.
“I am blown away that I had the chance to meet President Zelenskyy today. I try my hardest every day to follow the conflict in Ukraine, and this has been a great opportunity.”
The event, hosted by the University of Toronto and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, took place on the morning of Wednesday, June 22, and is available to view online:
In the weeks immediately following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, USask has stated that it stands with the Ukrainian community and has established a number of supports for members of the campus community and beyond. Click here for more information.