The Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, REEI, and numerous friends, colleagues, and former students mourn the loss of Galina McLaws, a treasured faculty member in the IU Slavic Department for more than thirty years, passed away at the age of 92 on March 28, 2021 at her residence in Bloomington’s Bell Trace Senior Living Community.
Galina Aleksandrovna Hazanoff McLaws was born in Harbin, Manchuria to parents Alexander and Nina Hazanoff, who had immigrated to China after the Russian Revolution, first to Shanghai and later to Tianjin. Galina remembered when the Japanese marched into Tianjin in 1937. In 1947, she married John “Jack” McLaws, a corporal in the U.S. Army who died in Korea in 1953.
Galina became a U.S. citizen in 1950 while residing in Rochester, Minnesota. She later moved to Minneapolis and took up studies at the University of Minnesota. In 1959, she was hired to teach at Indiana University’s Slavic Summer Workshop (subsequently titled the Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European, and Central Asian Languages or SWSEEL, for short; now functioning as the Language Workshop) and subsequently joined the faculty of the IU Slavic Department. She earned a bachelor’s degree from IU in 1961 and a master’s degree in 1963. Galina took pride in her 38 years of service on the IU faculty. She led several student groups to the former USSR, and visited Russia again in 2014, rejoicing in the improved standard of living she observed for the Russian people. Galina also made a trip to Shanghai in 2011, where she had the opportunity to recall many of her childhood memories. Galina was a member of the Psi Iota Xi philanthropic sorority, a founding member of All Saints Orthodox Church and, as an ardent gardener, an active member of the Green Thumb Club. In retirement she resumed painting watercolors and exhibited her works at the Bell Trace gallery in 2017. A true Renaissance woman, Galina was also an avid reader, a mah jongg master, a lover of theater and ballet, and a caring friend.
A teacher beloved by her students, Galina was the heart and soul of the Slavic Department and the university’s Summer Workshop for Slavic and East European Languages for nearly four decades. Her Russian Handbooks provided an invaluable resource to instructors and students alike. Equally popular was Galina’s series of innovative Learning Modules, which included literary texts that illustrated the grammar and syntax presented in each. Both established themselves as standard instructional materials in upper-level courses offered by the Department and were made readily available to other instructors with no interference from the author regarding the manner in which they were to be used. Apart from forming the backbone of the Slavic Department’s offerings in Russian at Indiana University, they were also used extensively in a number of other universities around the country.
It is difficult to estimate the number of students whose lives Galina touched for the better over the many years. They found in her a demanding, knowledgeable, and inspiring pedagogue and spoke fondly of her infectious enthusiasm, energy, and love of the Russian language and culture that she shared with them. That kind of enthusiasm—not only for teaching but for life in general—was evident to her colleagues as well. When Galina must have already been in her seventies, one of them spied her actually bunny-hopping down the hall on the way to her office one day. After her retirement, her favorite expression was “Life is g-o-o-o-o-d!” Her curiosity and enthusiasm stayed with Galina for years after. Another of her friends and colleagues reports that when they met for lunch once, Galina brought with her two copies of a Nikolai Gumilov poem that she wanted to discuss!
Facebook responses to the news of Galina’s passing came from all corners of the US and Russia. Veronika Trotter (MA, Slavic, 2011; MLS, 2018) remembered Galina as “[a]lways, elegant, always smiling, with her ‘Модули’ or another book in hand. We met in 2002, my first summer teaching in SWSEEL and one of her last ones. I remember her stories about childhood in Harbin and her impeccable, just a tiny bit old-fashioned Russian.” Lina Khawaldah (MA, Slavic, 2006), another SWSEEL teaching colleague, wrote that “[s]he walked with a slight hop and never lost the excitement with her surroundings that little kids have. I can hear her singing and see her smiling—I am lucky that I got to meet her.” For Brooke Swafford (MA, Anthropology, 2009), “Galina McLaws was such a dedicated and effective teacher. Her self-authored workbooks got me further along with Russian grammar than I ever dared hope. She brought such merriment and warmth to the classroom and cared deeply about her students - not simply their performance, but their motivations, interests, and aspirations. I feel honored to have known her. She may be gone, but she will not be forgotten.”
The REEI community echoes Emerita Professor Dodona Kiziria, Galina’s friend and colleague in the Slavic Department, in saying: «Вечная память замечательной, неповторимой Галине».
Contributors to this article included George Fowler, Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, and Jerzy Kolodziej, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures and longtime director of the Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European, and Central Asian Languages.