A woman dressed in military fatigues gestures in front of seated audience.

The Stories of “Ukraine at War” in Pictures

Two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kenan Institute for Ethics hosted the three-day event “Ukraine at War: Life in a Time of Fear and Hope” on March 27–29, 2024. Traveling to Duke University from New York, California, the Hague, and even the frontlines of the war itself, “Ukraine at War” speakers shared their experiences with hundreds of students and community members through class visits, workshops, performances, and events.

Highlighting the war’s devastating impacts on the country’s infrastructure, military, civilians, and even ecological health, “Ukraine at War” and its associated events explored the ways in which people respond ethically to war — whether by witnessing, fighting, commemorating, or repairing. At the same time, it showcased the remarkable resilience of the Ukrainian people and the ways that they sustain themselves and their community through their national identity, language, and arts. “Including the arts and personal narratives in this program really brought together the local community and a real sense of hope — something as equally necessary as the historical facts and socio-political analysis of this war,” wrote one audience member.

Through their words and actions, the speakers of “Ukraine at War” emphasized that even when a society is confronted with an all-encompassing crisis, we are not powerless: everyone has agency, and everyone has something they can do. The photos below touch on some of the stories they shared.

Through Documentary Films, Portraits of Ukraine at War

On the evening of Wednesday, March 27, two events showcased the experiences of Ukrainians in the first months of the war. An interview with champion rock climber Jenya Kazbekova highlighted one athlete’s commitment to representing her nation, and a screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary “20 Days in Mariupol” showed audiences the devastating human costs of the city’s siege in the early days of the full-scale Russian invasion.


Lunch and Learning Across Duke’s Schools

Showcasing speakers’ remarkable breadth of expertise, midday events on Thursday, March 28 focused on issues such as mental health resources for Ukrainians impacted by the war, the ecological impacts of war on Ukraine’s soil, and the documentation of war crimes for international criminal court cases. Events took place at the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Nicholas School of the Environment, and Duke Law School.


Finding Respite in Traditional Ukrainian Arts

Pysanky, or Easter eggs, are a traditional Ukrainian folk art. Amid “Ukraine at War” events, which happened to be scheduled during Easter week, Duke Arts Create hosted a pysanky workshop for students, staff, and other community members in the Duke Arts Annex.


Showcasing the Power of the Arts Amid Conflict

The keynote event of “Ukraine at War” shared the struggles of Ukrainians, whether refugees, soldiers, or those with loved ones living or fighting in war zones. But it also showed the places where they find strength  — singing together, writing poetry, and in the belief and knowledge that they are not alone.


Offering Perspectives From Research and Lived Experience

On the final day of “Ukraine at War,” speakers shared diverse perspectives from across their areas of expertise in two midday panels: “Sites of Violence, Sites of Resistance: Bodies, Ecologies, Communities & Music” and “Witnessing and Responsibility: Allocating Care in an Age of Global Crisis.”



The Kenan Institute for Ethics is grateful for the Katz Family Fund for Women, Ethics, and Leadership for making these events possible. We also owe thanks to our partners in the Duke and Durham communities who hosted “Ukraine at War” speakers for class visits and other events, enabling them to connect with much wider audiences during their brief time in Durham.

Professor of Cultural Anthropology Orin Starn first proposed that the Kenan Institute for Ethics organize an event on Ukraine during the fall of 2022. We are grateful for this inspiration of his, as well as his persistence amid many delays and obstacles in bringing it to fruition.

Summer Steenberg, a Duke University Ph.D. Candidate in Cultural Anthropology, played an essential role in organizing “Ukraine at War” events — both in conceptualizing them and in making them happen. This event would not have been possible without her.

A group of people smile as they stand on the grass in front of a tree.
”Ukraine at War” speakers pose with Kenan Institute for Ethics staff and collaborators. From left to right, Kenan Institute for Ethics Program Director Hillary Train, Summer Steenberg, Yaryna Chornohuz, Hanna Dosenko, Ewa Hofmańska, Viktoriia Grivina, David Toole, Alla Prokhovnik-Raphique, Jenya Kazbekova, Nadia Tarnawsky, and Nina Fontana.