Principal’s statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine - The Open College of the Arts
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Principal’s statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Many, if not all, staff and students have been watching the unfolding Russian invasion of Ukraine with horror. We have one student currently studying in Ukraine, and we have tutors working for OCA who have been making work in Ukraine for many decades and have loved ones and colleagues, artists and curators, based there. 

We firmly condemn the unprovoked besiege of a sovereign and independent nation and stand in hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We oppose the occupation of a democratically free territory and we stand united with the people of Ukraine. We are also in solidarity with the Russian people who are trying to protest against this invasion and to stop it.

We are deeply concerned for those dealing with the conflict, trying to flee, or attempting to study during a period of turmoil. For any students whose studies have been disrupted at Ukrainian institutions, or Ukrainians who need to adjust how they study, OCA would like to help. We are offering the opportunity to transfer to OCA courses. This allows students to continue studying creative subjects part-time at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, if they wish to do so. We will waive the fee associated with transfer (APL) for Ukrainian students. 

Openness is at the heart of everything OCA stands for however the geopolitical instability in the region, the financial devaluation of Russian currency, and the blacklisting of services into and out of Russia make it impossible to continue to operate in that territory. We have taken the difficult decision to suspend enrolments from Russia for the meantime until the situation improves.

Finally OCA tutor and artist Ruth Maclennan would like to draw your attention to the Artists Appeal for Peace in Ukraine that she launched just after Russia’s invasion. It has more than 700 signatures and counting from artists, musicians, actors, directors, curators and all kinds of cultural workers, worldwide, including Brian Eno, Jem Finer, Phyllida Barlow, Cornelia Parker, Richard Wentworth, Joshua Oppenheimer, Chris Weitz (film director), and so on. The Google form to sign is below. If you click on it, it will take you to the form and you can see who has signed. 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdXGihlRik44m6qNr6tMhssHzzi3JvzzU2w9ooeUddDZWZCOQ/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1&flr=0

The whole world is watching the assault on Ukraine, the fighting on the streets and bombardment of cities. OCA believes in peace. Education is about measure, knowledge, an understanding of the world and connections between people and things. Art education is many things but at its core is openness, care, thinking, reflection, creation and life. Education is a sign of human life and it connects us all. 

Our thoughts are with all those affected by the current situation.


Image: Emma Durrant

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Posted by author: Will Woods
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5 thoughts on “Principal’s statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

  • Thank you for communicating the steps that OCA has taken in response to the invasion of Ukraine. I’m sure we all wish peace and justice for the Ukrainian people as quickly as possible.

  • These are terrible times and I would second the statement above, particularly in reference to the dreadful circumstances arts students in Ukraine will be experiencing, and the support we would all feel for those Russians trying to stop the war by their own overt resistance. I would add that, like a pebble dropped in a pond, stress and anxiety ripples outwards to affect all of us who see what is happening through TV and social media, and then feel guilty for being both impotent and safe. In my past profession as a clinical psychologist I would be saying to people that it’s important to recognise what it is you can do and to do it, then to preserve your own health by allowing yourself a break from the news. Doom scrolling causes breath-holding which contributes to feelings of anxiety and tension so try not to do that. The current advice about effective breathing for anxiety is a simple practice of making a longer exhale than inhale; a count of 4 in and a count of 6 out. The numbers aren’t seconds, do what feels comfortable, and extend the exhale as you get better at controlling that. Breathing should be light and soft; it isn’t athletic and it isn’t a competition. It’s also free and there are no side effects. I would also advise anyone with extreme anxiety such as panic attacks, to talk to their GP or someone professional who can help. You are not wasting anyone’s time, this is what health professionals are there for. I am doing these things myself because it’s important to look after my own health. This means I can keep working, still laugh with friends, and still keep my eye on the news where maybe I’ll find another thing that I can do for Ukraine.

    • Thank you for sharing this – I concur that deep breathing exercises are definitely helpful in regards to reducing anxiety – it is indeed a turbulent time for all at present. I find it most helpful to breathe out as though I’m blowing air through a straw. The more practice – the easier it becomes to remember, switch it on and self soothe.

      I also second that switching off from the news/social media is sometimes a necessity and not a selfish action – a message that I hope enables many to give themselves grace at this time.

      My thoughts (and I’m sure everyone’s) and hopeful wishes of peace, safety and security are with those enduring this horrific time of turmoil.

      Best wishes to everyone within the OCA community too and thank you to the OCA principal for sharing your original statement.

  • I can see no prospect of peace while violence underpins the fabric of every society, and we ignore wars or violence that does not directly threaten or impact us.
    I find the current focus on the war in the Ukraine, while other violence in non-European countries is ignored, and violence in our own homes and land not even recognised, extremely hard to comes to terms with.
    I am of course opposed to the war in Ukraine, (just as I was opposed to Ukraine itself breaking the Minsk agreement on several occasions and the harassment/reported murder of ethnic Russian people in the Donbas region by Ukrainian soldiers).
    I am also opposed to all the other wars raging across the world right now. For example, it is now looking like genocide against the Tigrayan people – 5,000,000 of whom face danger, and 2,000,000 of whom have reportedly crossed the border into the Sudan, seeking refuge, while thousands of women and girls have been raped. This outrage has been hardly mentioned or reported in the press.
    I also find the murder of other beings, 20,000,0000 of whom are murdered every day, cruel beyond belief or imagining.
    I would prefer to see a statement from the OCA supporting peace and non violence against ALL .
    I also strongly object to the fact that the OCA has taken the decision not to enrol Russian students – this seems like further punishment to people who are no doubt suffering and fearful of reprisals already – if we stand in solidarity with them, which I agree we should, then blocking them from studying counters this aim.

  • Thank you Principal for the support of Ukraine at OCA and the offer for Ukrainians students to transfer.
    I object to the reply posted above @10.11pm on 27th March as it is extreme and most of it factually incorrect.
    Reasons for the failure of the Minsk agreement are complex. The Third Reich used the same false pretext of protecting ethnic Germans to invade the Sudetenland as Putin re ethnic Russians in Donbas.
    Society is not based on violence it’s based on an evolved need to get on and genuine acts of altruism every single day. Acts of violence are rare that’s why they are reported. It’s the reports of crime that make us ‘feel’ it’s all around us.
    I suspect the reasons for not enrolling Russians are logistical, not against good hearted ordinary Russians.
    Finally a strong emotional, human response of abhorrence to a war on our doorstep is a valid one – so close in Europe where our own families may have fought in 2 x world wars for peace, where nuclear war is threatened. It does not preclude horror at other wars

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