Unissued Diplomas, an exhibition founded by Nazarii Nykolaichuk and co-ordinated by Anastasiia Dovbnia, was available to see in the expo hall at EAIE in Rotterdam.
The exhibition tells the stories of Ukrainian students who never got to finish their degrees because they were killed fighting in the war or during acts of Russian aggression.
“Our exhibition is trying to tell the story [of these people]”
The 36 lives of students are reflected upon in the exhibition, with each story having been told through interviews with parents and various documents compiled by Nykolaichuk and the rest of the team.
“We started the project when a friend was killed on the front line, who was 15 years old,” Nykolaichuk told The PIE News.
“Our exhibition is trying to tell the story [of these people]. When putting it together, we knew that some of the students had gone to the military, and they knew that going into the army, they could die.
“But with the civilians, it was even more difficult,” Nykolaichuk explained.
Each poster shows a pseudo “diploma”, with a seal and a mark of bravery underneath. One tells the story of Hlib Ivanov, 21, who was studying at the National University Kyiv-Molya Academy.
“Hlib chose political science as his major and dreamed of helping create [a] strong Ukraine,” the “diploma” read.
“Hlib confidently declared his desire to join the military. So, on the second day of the full-scale invasion, he officially joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine with his father.
“Hlib died during the hellish battles for Bakhmut,” it concludes.
The diplomas are finished with a sigil created specifically for the students, to signify their bravery.
The slogan for the exhibition was “when your classroom turns into a battlefield, your major becomes bravery”.
“We wanted to highlight all these students that we were supposed to study with, and to graduate with,” Dovbnia, the HR manager and a core member of the Unissued Diploma project said.
“We then translated it into English, and eventually it’s now available in Danish, Japanese, French, German, Finnish – and it has been exhibited in over 70 countries,” she continued.
When The PIE talked to Dovbnia and Nykolaichuk, a delegate looked pensive as she walked around the exhibit, reading the stories of those who will never graduate from university.
A 37th student was also to be included in the exhibition. Her name was Leah, Dovbnia said, but it was found that because her entire family was killed in the fighting as well as her, there are no records to accurately write out her diploma.
“That’s probably the most memorable thing for certain audiences,” Dovbnia noted.