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“We must endeavor to mold our elite according to Ostroh patterns”

Ukraine’s oldest university celebrated its 440th anniversary in Kyiv
06 October, 12:12

On October 4, a church of the Kyivan Cave Monastery National Historical and Cultural Reserve hosted the Day of the Ostroh Academy. The nation’s oldest university, which turns 440 this year, invited to the solemn but cozy celebration of the anniversary its friends, including literature scholar Mykola Zhulynsky, writer Ivan Drach, partners and media. The venue was chosen totally on purpose, for the Far Caves of the monastery hold relics of Theodosius of the Caves, aka Fedir Ostrozky (that is, of Ostroh), while the Assumption Cathedral is the burial place of Kostiantyn Ostrozky (his gravestone, which was destroyed along with the cathedral during the Second World War, is being restored just now). Unfortunately, this fact is now little known in Kyiv, and even more so elsewhere in Ukraine, even though the Ostrozkys’ contribution to the development of Ukraine was extremely important. Halshka Ostrozka and Vasyl Kostiantyn Ostrozky were the founders of the first university in Ukraine, the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy of Ostroh.

The lack of appreciation for the Ostrozky princely house and the resulting absence of their legacy from the general history of Ukraine were stressed in the speech delivered by Rector of the National University of Ostroh Academy Ihor Pasichnyk: “On the one hand, I am proud that we are celebrating the 440th anniversary of our university in the capital city of Kyiv, that we can introduce the Academy’s legacy here. On the other hand, I am saddened by the fact that the 440-year-long glorious history of the Ostroh Academy has not been adequately appreciated so far. The Ostrozky princes and the grand history of Ostroh Principality have not taken their rightful place as well. I think that as long as the general history of Ukraine is lacking a glorious page telling about the Ostrozky princes and the Ostroh Academy, we will not have a complete history.” Pasichnyk was generously thanking all those people who have contributed to the revival of the academy and spread of its achievements. Among them, there are a lot of philanthropists from the Ukrainian diaspora, the couple of Olena and Vitalii Haiduk who, in addition to significant financial support, donated to the university a restored copy of the original Ostroh Bible of 1581, and Yevhen Marchuk as well, because while serving as defense minister, he transferred to the academy abandoned military barracks that have been turned into the school’s campus and military lyceum. By the way, Pasichnyk recalled how during one of his visits to the academy, Marchuk said that all presidential candidates had to take a public exam there, in front of students, in disciplines including history and language of the country as well as issues which are the responsibility of the head of state.

Another contributor has been Den and its editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna who has made the academy the talk of the country and helped it to find many of its patrons. Speaking about the role of women in the history of Ukraine, Ihor Pasichnyk named three natives of Volhynia: Halshka Ostrozka, Halshka Hulevychivna (the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy) and Larysa Ivshyna.

In congratulating Pasichnyk and the entire Ostroh team, Den’s editor-in-chief said: “The Ostroh Academy has turned 440, and Den has turned 20. I believe that we spent two-thirds of that time in the closest communion with the academy, its faculty members and students. This anniversary is an important and significant event. Unfortunately, most of the country still cannot accept the precious light emanating from Ostroh. The country is not ready for it, and we must endeavor further to mold our elite according to Ostroh patterns. Ostroh gives it a chance to emerge. But you know, I often say that Ukraine is the UK of the Slavic world. I can talk a lot about what it means, but let me identify just one feature: the UK has never had a written constitution, while we have had no functional state. The ability to create such communities in the hope that these islands will someday create a huge demand for a functional state – this ability reflects a great courage. It involves being able to concentrate on righteous purposes with the support of the huge cultural and intellectual environment provided by our great history.”

The celebration also involved several landmark art displays, including the historical-philosophical exhibition “Ostrohiana: Reflections of a Contemporary,” which featured paintings created by icon painter Yurii Nikitin, and the premiere of silver and amber chess set “Ostroh Princes and Turkish Sultans,” which was made by Ukrainian jeweler Avhust Volskyi and took seven years of work, four kilograms of silver and about a kilogram of amber.

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