Pandemic conditions have compelled the Ukrainian Studies Organization (UkrSO) to forego (temporarily!) such mainstays as the traditional pysanky workshop and popular varenyky-making jamboree. Nonetheless, the organization has continued to organize a broad array of engaging events and activities. Indeed, UkrSO president Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed points out that several recent initiatives have been directly inspired by the shift to virtual life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UkrSO launched the academic year on September 18 at a public meeting with Myroslav Marynovich, author of The Universe Behind Barbed Wire: Memoirs of a Soviet Ukrainian Dissident (University of Rochester Press, 2021), which vividly depicts his experiences with the repressive state apparatus and years in the Soviet Gulag after being arrested and tried for his human rights advocacy. Marynovich founded the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (1976) as well as the first Amnesty International group to exist inside the USSR (1991). Days later, on September 23, the organization held “Ukraine’s Independence: 30 Years,” a hybrid online/in-person conference that featured such distinguished speakers as Paul D’Anieri (Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of California, Riverside), Hanna Shelest (Director of Security Programs for the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”), and Yuriy Kostenko (leader of the Ukrainian People’s Party, former Minister of Environmental Protection, and author of Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament: A History). And, for the first time in two years, Ukrainian Independence Day Picnic took place on September 25 at Winslow Woods Park, providing attendees with a smorgasbord of Ukrainian and East European food, an opportunity to sing traditional Ukrainian songs, and the chance to rub shoulders after many months of COVID-imposed isolation.
On October 30, the newly established Ukrainian Book Club attracted participants from around the globe at its inaugural meeting, a spirited discussion of “I am (romance),” Mykola Khvylovy’s 1924 about the internal struggle of a “Ukrainian Bolshevik” in the 1920s. The club will meet again in January to share views of Serhiy Zhadan’s Orphanage (2017), a novel that addresses on-the-ground realities of the current warfare in Donbas. Shpylova-Saeed characterizes the decision to discuss a range of Ukrainian works (both fiction and non-fiction) in English as “strategic” since a primary goal of all UkrSO activity is to “put Ukraine on the global map” and to create a dual focus on Ukraine in local and international contexts.
A well-attended virtual undertaking in both 2020 and 2021 has been the UkrSO’s commemoration of the Holodomor manmade famine of 1932-1933. This year’s hybrid ceremony took place on November 12 in the President’s Room of the IMU University Club with a Zoom link for those that could not attend in person. In her keynote address, Myroslava Antonovych, Doctor of Law and Head of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy’s Center for International Human Rights, discussed the Holodomor as a crime of genocide. Her remarks were followed by a meditative piano performance on the part of Yevanhelina But (Carthage College), who contributed a program of Ukrainian folk songs and works by Ukrainian composers, and an in-person reception.
Throughout the fall, UkrSO organized and sponsored a number of engaging online talks (currently delivered via Zoom): “The Crimea Platform and Ukraine’s Independence in Russian Media” by Oleksandr Yaroshchuk (National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy) on October 8, “30 Years of Religious Pluralism in Ukraine” by Tymofii Brik (Kyiv School of Economics) on October 29, “Thirty Years of the Ukrainian Language Revival” by Natalia Kudriavtseva (Kherson University) on November 5, and “Ukraine’s Coal-Steel Nexus: Power, Politics and Global Markets” by Margarita Balmaceda (Seton Hall University) on December 3.
Shpylova-Saeed encourages those who would like to plug in to the diversity of topics covered, approaches adopted, and perspectives shared within Ukrainian Studies at IU to join the UkrSO’s listserv (email request to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org), visit its Facebook page, and access recorded lectures on its YouTube channel. She also invites anyone with an interest in Ukraine to attend the III Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Studies Conference, which will held in online and in-person formats IU on March 25-27, 2022.
Bethany Romashov (PhD, Slavics, 2015; MA, Slavics, 2008) is currently pursuing an MS Ed. in Counseling Education and Counselor Education.