‘Kyiv Post’ on UCU’s Sheptytsky Center

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An article from the “Kyiv Post” on the new Sheptytsky Center of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) follows BELOW

“Sheptytsky Center in Lviv bringing light to education”

LVIV, Ukraine — The Sheptytsky Center stands out.

The ultra-modern, newly built building that houses the educational and cultural center, with its airy glass-walled first floor and blocky exterior with sloping wall panels, stands in stark contrast to the nearby State Fiscal Service office — a hulking Soviet concrete high-rise, and the abandoned theater hall next to it.

But the center stands out not just by its appearance, but by the very ethos behind it: It is breaking new ground in the educational sphere in Ukraine.

“We realized that we’re pioneers in building a place not for offices, business or trade, but for education, enlightenment, and cultural activities,” says Oleh Yaskiv, the head of the center, adding that this is the first building of its type to be constructed in Ukraine since independence.



The center is a part of the Ukrainian Catholic University campus in Lviv, the city of 723,000 people some 540 kilometers west of Kyiv. Opened in September, the five-story-plus-basement building, along with a dormitory building, auditoriums, and a church, is the latest addition to the private university’s campus.

From its second to fourth floor, the center houses the university library. The basement has tutorial rooms and open spaces for students, while the fifth floor has offices for university staff, including the rector’s office and offices for the heads of departments. The offices are glass-fronted, with glass doors, to reflect the university’s ethos of openness and transparency.

On the first floor, visitors can have a drink or snack in a cafe run by a local social enterprise called Walnut House. There is also an art exhibition, conference rooms where lectures are held, and a book store with university publications.



Who was Sheptytsky?

The center is named after Andrey Sheptytsky, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1901 to 1944, who, due to the shifts of borders and control in the region brought by war and revolution, lived under the governments of seven regimes during his tenure.

Walking from floor to floor, visitors see on the walls popular expressions of Archbishop Sheptytsky and one of his successors, Major Archbishop Lubomyr Husar and others.

Yaskiv says the center was named after Sheptytsky because he supported the development of art and science by Ukrainians when this part of Ukraine was under the control of Poland.

“To some extent, UCU is the continuation of Sheptytsky’s initiative,” he says, adding that the archbishop had wanted to found a Ukrainian university.



$6 million project

Financed by a philanthropist and university community, the center’s construction cost $6 million. Most of the funds came from James Temerty, a Canadian-Ukrainian businessman. It took two-and-a-half years to build the modern complex, designed by Lviv AVR Development architecture office and Germany’s Behnisch Architecten.

“It has been a sign to the Ukrainian community that it is possible to erect such buildings — in such a difficult time in Ukraine — for young people, primarily for students, and for people interested in culture,” Yaskiv says.

Since opening, the center has hosted exhibitions, lectures, and public events, including Lviv Fashion Week and the Lviv Security Forum. After it started counting visitors in January, the building’s administrators recorded 15,000 visitors to the complex over two weeks.


Modern library

The library and reading room is the only area that is not open to the general public — access is via a library card or a university student or staff ID. However, non-university visitors can buy a one-day pass for Hr 30.

“It’s the price of a coffee,” Chief Librarian Ihor Ohura says.

Once inside, visitors can search for a book in a digital catalog that lists some 160,000 publications. Using the open-source integrated library system, readers can leave comments on the books online. Library users can also order a book if it is not stocked by the library.

“If the library is able to purchase it, it will definitely buy it,” Ohura said.

Before working in the UCU library, Ohura modernized one of Ukraine’s oldest libraries — that of Lviv National University, which has around 3 million books.

But to introduce some innovations there, Ohura had to get approval from the university’s top management — and sometimes it could take months for a decision to be made.

At UCU it takes only a few weeks, he says.



“Here there is freedom of action, but people take responsibility for their actions,” Ohura said. “People just want to work differently here.” Because the university is a private one, there are fewer procedures that have to be followed, he says.

While built on innovation, one corner of the library still has to follow some traditions — the old books section. Oksana Paliy, the curator of the section, said it’s much smaller than that of large university libraries around the country, but it has a number of books that were banned in Soviet times but preserved by Ukrainians living abroad.

Some of the books were damaged as people hid them to protect them from destruction, she says. The books were donated by collectors and philanthropists who fled from the Soviet totalitarian regime when it took over Ukraine. The oldest book in the collection was written in the 16th century.

Yet even when lending out old and rare books, the university’s ethos of openness coupled with personal responsibility is applied.

“No special permission is needed, as it often is in the state libraries — just come with a library ID card,” Paliy says.




By Yuliana Romanyshyn.

Photos by Volodymyr Petrov

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