“My parents lost their jobs, and they didn’t have any savings prepared for the war,” says Kateryna Rudenko. “I have to financially support my whole family at this point, simultaneously trying to build my network here, people I know, and trying to establish myself here in Canada, somehow, to be able to help them further and to think about the future.”
In Ukraine, Kateryna was an activist for inclusive higher education and studied international relations at one of the oldest and highest academic post-secondary institutions; National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Today, she is contributing to impactful environmental research in Nova Scotia, while planning to help restore her country.
In September 2021, Kateryna learned of an opportunity through the Mitacs Globalink Internship Program that would allow her to explore her passion for research through a position with Dr. Melanie Zurba, Associate Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University. Under the supervision of Dr. Zurba, Kateryna would work on a project in support of diverse actors working globally on environmental governance.
While completing her application, Russia invaded Ukraine. Despite the news, Kateryna felt the best thing she could do was come to Nova Scotia to work on the project. To extend her stay, Kateryna applied for the Mitacs Globalink Award which required match funding. Kateryna and Dr. Zurba reached out to Research Nova Scotia regarding the Ukrainian Emergency Research Support Fund and were able to secure match funding, allowing Kateryna to continue her research in Nova Scotia.
“The purpose of the fund is to offer immediate and flexible research support funding for Ukrainian students and researchers who are relocating to Canada during the Russian invasion,” says Stefan Leslie, CEO of Research Nova Scotia. “We are happy to be able to support Kateryna’s stay here and were thrilled to hear about the value of her research experience here in Nova Scotia.”
Research Nova Scotia supports Ukrainian students and researchers relocating to Nova Scotia as part of its commitment to equitable, safe, and inclusive research in the province.
“I can’t even describe how valuable it was,” says Kateryna. “First and foremost, I’m interested in what I’m doing right now in research. I want to become a researcher.”
“During the war, being able to support your family and being able to do what you love, for these two aspects, Research Nova Scotia’s help was obviously vital in a lot of ways.”
Dr. Zurba leads the Community Engaged CoLab where the team’s research is focused on connecting with equity-deserving communities, decision-makers, and organizational partners on topics such as environmental governance.
With the additional funding, Kateryna continues to work on Dr. Zurba’s projects and more recently is engaged in another project in the lab that focuses on climate grief. Climate grief relates to peoples’ emotional responses to climate change. It is connected to environmental governance; how people experience and feel about the environment influences the way they act and make decisions.
“Kateryna brings very unique experiences from her context which I really appreciate,” says Dr. Zurba. “Not only a cultural context or where she grew up, but her educational context too.”
“I’m a Ukrainian-Canadian who doesn’t know a lot about her own story,” Dr. Zurba explains. “Kateryna educated me on the meaning of my last name, for example. That was huge. So, there’s the research aspects, but then there’s the human aspects of this.”
In the future, Kateryna plans to complete a master’s program. She is interested in studying trauma in Ukrainian society, especially coping with trauma of genocide. She is specifically interested in the lines between humanity, nature, and environment, and the topic of ecocide which relates the destruction of nature to the destruction of nation.
The Ukrainian Emergency Research Support Fund enabled Kateryna to stay in Nova Scotia, create connections, grow her eagerness to become a researcher, and prepare for her future.
“Projects like these, they are not only about short-term thinking, helping people to survive basically, it’s also about thinking long-term; rebuilding Ukraine,” explains Kateryna. “The majority of those people will use the experience they get here in Canada; they will use it in Ukraine.”