On July 5, 2022, Avellum announced it was joining an international team of professionals from Allen & Overy, Morgan Lewis, and Norton Rose Fulbright to establish a legal education scholarship in the name of fallen Ukrainian hero, lawyer, and activist Roman Ratushnyi. CEE Legal Matters sat down with Avellum Partner Maksym Maksymenko to learn more about Roman and the team’s aims and hopes for the Roman Ratushnyi Scholarship.
CEELM: Tell us a bit about Roman Ratushnyi and his life before the war.
Maksymenko: Roman was born in 1997 to the family of Taras, an activist for the Save Old Kyiv initiative, and Svitlana, a writer. He studied Law at the College of Finance and Law. In 2013, he participated in the Maidan Revolution, being among students who suffered the Berkut attack for merely supporting the country’s pro-EU aspirations. After the revolution, he continued being a civil and environmental activist and became a leader of the initiative to preserve the green zone in the middle of Kyiv. Roman did not go into law to make money, but he rather used his law degree as an activist, creating positive social change and helping those who couldn’t afford such services.
Once the Russian invasion began this year, he voluntarily joined Ukraine’s armed forces to defend Kyiv, and later became a military intelligence officer with the 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanized Brigade. He took part in the liberation of Trostianets, in the north of Ukraine, and he fought in the Kharkiv region, where he was killed a month before his 25th birthday.
CEELM: How did the idea to establish a scholarship honoring Roman originate?
Maksymenko: The idea came from Thomasz Wozniak, a Partner with Morgan Lewis, and Anna Buyevska, a Global Business Development Manager with Norton Rose Fulbright. Together with their friends, they raised and spent over USD 1 million on purchasing and transferring aid to the Ukrainian army. The aid included pick-up trucks, which are highly sought-after on the frontlines. They worked closely with the 93rd brigade, where they met Roman.
When the news about his tragic death became public – and we were all shocked and heartbroken – Thomasz and Anna had the idea to establish the scholarship. The next day, Thomasz sent me a video of Roman, driving together with his comrades in the pick-up truck they had purchased for them, thanking them for the vehicle, and saying that we would definitely win the war. Soon after that, we started working on establishing the scholarship, with colleagues from Allen & Overy, Morgan Lewis, and Norton Rose Fulbright involved as well. Avellum provided pro-bono legal support on all Ukrainian jurisdiction matters, including creating the charitable fund and negotiating with the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. The idea was met with a warm welcome from students, faculty, and university officials alike.
CEELM: Who stands to receive the scholarship, and what will be the selection criteria?
Maksymenko: At the moment, we are preparing the procedure for awarding the scholarship and we are discussing specific details, including selection criteria and the schedule for awarding it. What we plan now, presumably for this year, is to grant scholarships to some graduates who were admitted for their master’s program in Law. The scholarship will cover tuition fees and other living expenses. We are still uncertain about the schedule, as many students are on the frontlines, passing exams online while at war. Because of martial law, we still don’t know when the master’s program admission results will be announced, and that makes the planning process a bit difficult.
As for the criteria, we want to target students who have a background in community service and who are passionate about creating positive social change, as Roman did. We want to give opportunities to students who, rather than choosing to practice law at some of the best law firms, looking to earn a lot of money, would choose the work that is not as highly paid in society but is crucial for the country’s development.
CEELM: What are your hopes and dreams for the Roman Ratushnyi Scholarship?
Maksymenko: Thomasz’ and Anna’s dream is for the scholarship to last for at least 10-20 years, being awarded to students on an ongoing basis. Given what is happening right now, we predict that the demand for justice will grow and reach the highest levels and that, someday, with the help of international friends and partners, we will build a socially and environmentally active community. We hope that our scholarship will encourage and support Law students to orient themselves toward that goal.