Lund-Ukraine Alliance for Academic Support | LUA

Developing education and research – despite the war

Heiko Herwald: Interview with the founder of the LUA

Heiko Herwald is a professor, research group leader and former vice-dean (2018-2023) of the Faculty of Medicine, Lund University. Back in Spring 2022, after Russia had started the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he took the initiative and established a platform in Lund where possible support to those affected by the conflict could be discussed. Since then the initiative has grown extensively and has taken part in several projects, including the first in Sweden summer school for the Ukrainian medical students. Thanks to Heiko Herwald all this exciting work in LUA was able to be done and now, after almost 2 years have passed, we’d like to look behind, to talk with Mr. Heiko about how it all began, but also touch upon what awaits the initiative in the future.

What it was like for you when you discovered that the war had started?

  • I was not too surprised, as the movement of troops toward the borders indicated that it was only a matter of time before the first steps would be taken.

How the idea of creating the group was born?

  • The idea originated during a lunch with Morten Kjaerum, the Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, a few days after the invasion. We discussed the significance of democratic values at Lund University and saw an opportunity for the university to send a strong signal by providing a platform where researchers from all three conflict parties could peacefully discuss their fears and sorrows. It should be mentioned that the fundamental principles in natural sciences and medicine follow laws that obey the inherent order of the natural world and are not made by humans. Therefore they cannot be influenced by political, ethnic, cultural or religious currents. This is a great chance because natural sciences and medicine offer a potential to unite researchers from enemy countries. There are many positive examples in human history where collaborative scientific endeavors have transcended geopolitical conflicts, fostering cooperation and understanding. While Lund University cannot resolve the conflict, it can showcase constructive and respectful interaction between scientists from all over the world.

Where did you start from?

  • We start by asking our colleagues who have their origins from one of the three countries whether they would be interested to meet. Most people we contacted were positive.

Who were the people behind?

  • Before starting this platform I had a discussion with our dean and she thought that it would be a good gesture from our faculty. Morten and I then contacted colleagues from the three conflict parties who we know support the values of democracy and academic freedom. Over time, we also garnered support from colleagues working for instance at the departments of international relations and communication and collaboration, as well as at the developmental office and scholars at risk. Together, this formed a robust team with diverse competencies needed for upcoming projects.

Where do you see LUA in the future?

  • The original concept aimed to create a self-sustaining platform for individuals concerned about the situation in Ukraine to convene and organize support activities. This objective has now been successfully achieved. Under the guidance of Denys Kovalenko, LUA has undertaken commendable initiatives, such as organizing a summer school and delivering online lectures for Ukrainian students. Numerous additional projects are in the pipeline, and I am optimistic that this thriving initiative will attain numerous milestones in the times ahead.

Why is this important to support Ukrainian academia?

  • In times of war, it is crucial to plan for the future, and education is one of the most fundamental values that must be safeguarded. Without an education it is not possible to maintain ethical principles which are crucial to rebuild a destroyed society.

Anything else you’d like to mention to our readers?

  • It is essential to emphasize that LUA is a platform for everyone. The more people involved using their existing networks, the more successful it will be in aiding academic institutions in Ukraine. Anyone with an interest or ideas on how to contribute can contact LUA via Lund University’s homepage ( or by reaching out to Denys Kovalenko (

Prepared by Denys Kovalenko

1 February 2024

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