Ukraine 5 AM Coalition Accepts CEU Open Society Prize, Signals Time for Awakening

July 1, 2022

At CEU’s Graduation Ceremony on June 25, CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria announced the Ukraine 5 AM Coalition as the 2022 winner of CEU’s most prestigious award, the CEU Open Society Prize.  

The Coalition, which documents, investigates, and prosecutes perpetrators of mass atrocities, bears the name 5 AM as it was 5 o’clock in the morning when Ukrainians across the country awoke to the sound of explosions on February 24. The 2022 CEU Open Society Prize recognizes Coalition members’ immense courage in the face of unimaginable suffering and commends their peaceful pursuit of the fundamental open society values of universal justice and human rights.   

In her laudatio, Rector Randeria stressed the gravity of uncovering and documenting war crimes. “Access to information, verifiable knowledge, and legal recourse are just as essential as the basic means of physical survival, at least as long as Ukrainian society is still standing tall in the face of the brutal assault on its peaceful existence” she said. “[T]he fundamental institutions of the rule of law, of a liberal democratic order, and indeed, of open society can only thrive in an environment where post-truth, deep fake, and propaganda are systematically exposed and refuted,” she added.    

On the morning of Russia’s worst bombing in Ukraine to date, Tetiana Pechonchyk, Head of the Human Rights Center ZMINA, and Kateryna Rashevska, Lawyer for the Regional Center for Human Rights accepted the Prize on behalf of the Coalition. “5 AM is the time of awakening. We would like the world to wake up and understand: if Ukraine fails to stop Russian aggression, in the next round, the war will spread to the rest of Europe,” Pechonchyk warned. “5 AM is a signal, a warning that unpunished evil will come back,” she added, calling for all to unite for justice, and for perpetrators of war crimes to finally be held accountable.   

Kateryna Rashevska reflected on how Ukrainians tried to postpone the issue of occupied Crimea and Donbas until tomorrow – to a tomorrow that arrived on February 24. “[W]ith it, all those war crimes and crimes against humanity that have already become patterns of reality for some areas of Ukraine have reached the scale of atrocities and genocide against the Ukrainian nation” she highlighted and closed her speech passionately by saying: “We are ready to stand bravely to the end. Until the release of the last piece of our territory, until the return of the last defender from captivity, and the last deported Ukrainian children from Russian families.” 

A 5-minute video interview with the winners is available here. After the Graduation Ceremony, a photo exhibition entitled “Ukraine. After the Invasion” was also opened to mark the occasion of the Ukraine 5 AM Coalition winning the CEU Open Society Prize.  

In her speech President and Rector Randeria also highlighted the CEU community’s work to support those at CEU and in Ukraine, as well as temporarily displaced persons, affected by the ongoing military attack on Ukraine: Ukrainian students who took the lead in organizing the transportation of medicines, clothes, and food to families and communities within Ukraine in dire need; all faculty and students who initiated, taught and mentored more than a hundred Ukrainian students within CEU’s Invisible University for Ukraine program, an initiative that provided some sort of normality amidst students living under war circumstances; the global community of alumni and friends who have contributed 1 million dollars to the Ukraine Solidarity Fund as well as to other victims of war, providing access to CEU scholarships for over 30 Ukrainians in the coming academic year; and the Open Society University Network Threatened Scholars Initiative that secured fellowships for Ukrainian and Russian scholars, including to CEU’s Summer University in Budapest, for more than 100 Ukrainian students.