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Ukrainian university designed by University of Oregon professor now housing refugees

Ukrainian Catholic University, which was designed by a University of Oregon professor and several students, is now being used to house refugees because of the war.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A University of Oregon professor who is helping to build a new university in Ukraine is now watching as the school becomes a temporary home for refugees fleeing the war. 

Ukrainian Catholic University is in Lviv, near the Polish border in western Ukraine. Architecture professor Gerald Gast has been helping to build the new campus since 2008.  

"We are housing, I would say, about 300 families from other parts of Ukraine," Gast said. 

There have been five new buildings put on the campus since the project began 14 years ago. Two are residence halls, now housing refugees, and a distribution center is being run out of the new library. 

Gast had help with the designs from several students, including Paul Komarinets, who is Ukrainian-American. He still has family in Ukraine.

"Some sides of the family, such as my brother-in-law, they have more direct consequences because they have family in Mariupol," Komarinets said. Mariupol has been under siege by Russian forces and has suffered extreme destruction.

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Some classes at the Ukrainian Catholic University are continuing online. Many students and faculty have left campus, but some have stayed to help the refugees.

"Their commitment is 100%," Gast said. "I have never seen a more highly-motivated group of people."

The university was important for education before the war, and now it's become a lifeline for hundreds of people.

"Since Lviv is currently a hub for a lot of supplies that come to Ukraine, they as a university hold a lot of supplies, they ask for medical supplies, combat supplies. Their job is being a distribution center, they are always open to welcome more supplies and aid to the university," Komarinets said. 

The campus building project is on hold until at least this fall.

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