Putin’s war is also impacting students at Erasmus University. The Erasmus Trust Fund and Erasmus University have therefore set up a separate emergency fund to help these students. Most of this emergency fund comes from donations, with more and more donators contributing.

From one day to the next, the mother of Anna Zhminko (20, Communication and media) also needed to provide for her three cousins and her grandparents. Her family fled Kyiv for Austria as soon as they could.

For Zhminko, who depends on her mother’s income, the consequences are immediate. She can no longer pay the rent for her room in Rotterdam and might not be able to complete her studies. Moving in with her mother will then be the only option.


Fortunately, Zhminko can survive the first three months. She is one of the first thirty students who are receiving help from an emergency fund that was specially created after the war in Ukraine broke out. Over the coming three months, she will receive 1,000 euros a month to pay her rent and shopping. The fund focuses on helping students who are having direct financial problems due to the war. This might be because family members have suffered losses, lost their jobs or have fled, but also due to the economic sanctions and hyperinflation.

The fund started with a contribution from the university and the Erasmus Trust Fund. Both institutions donated 25,000 euros to the fund. They also launched a fundraising campaign which has so far raised 39,470 euros. In total, 89,470 euros were donated to the fund which is growing by the day.

It is not yet clear how many students will need support from the emergency fund. Renate Buijze, who is responsible for expenditure at the Erasmus Trust Fund, explains: “There are 88 Ukrainian, 177 Russian and 8 Belarussian students. That’s the target group we aim to support with the fund. We have already confirmed our support to thirty of those students. They will receive funds over the coming three months.”


Acute emergency

Incoming requests are handled by the student deans. Students must submit a request accompanied by a motivation letter and a budget. This forms the basis for an assessment of whether they are in acute need. Student dean Jennifer Doest explains: “We particularly check whether a student can cover their basic necessities. Can they still buy food and pay the rent?”

The money that students receive is a gift, although students are asked to repay (part of) the gift once they no longer need the financial help. This will enable the emergency fund to help more students.

Zhminko found it difficult to write that motivation letter. “Everyone has suffered because of the war. Now it almost feels as if suffering is being compared.” According to Doest, the stories make a deep impression on the student deans. “Sometimes they include photos, of parents fleeing and bombed houses.”


Worries about the future

Zhminko is worried about the future. Because Ukraine is not an EU country, she will need to pay 7,600 euros in tuition fees next year. “I have no idea how I’ll pay that,” she says.

Buijze does not expect the emergency fund to be able to cover the costs of all the students, “We hope that the government will come up with a structural solution for next academic year. We want to help students who are currently in acute need. To do that, we depend on the donations from students, employees and alumni.”