LAWRENCE — Nearly a year since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, a new series will explore the war and its effects on Ukraine and its people as well as inform community members on Ukrainian culture and history. Perspectives on Ukraine, a partnership between the University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) and Lawrence Public Library, begins in February.
“The war has placed Ukraine at the center of the public’s attention like never before, and KU stands out nationally for its expertise on the country’s rich and diverse history, society and culture,” said Erik Scott, CREES director and associate professor of history.
Terese Winters, information services librarian at Lawrence Public Library, said that the library is honored to host this series in partnership with CREES.
“Ukraine serves as a global example of courage in defending democracy at great cost as the country heads into a second year of war,” Winters said. “We are fortunate for the opportunity to come together as a community and learn from our expert speakers.”
The first event in the series will take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Lawrence Public Library Auditorium. KU alumna Laura Dean, associate professor of political science and director of the Human Trafficking Research Lab at Millikin University, will give a talk titled “Human Trafficking Dynamics and the War in Ukraine.” The event will include an activity where attendees can send well wishes and cards to survivors of human trafficking and sexual violence in Ukraine.
Dean’s talk will address how Russia’s war has exacerbated human trafficking in Ukraine, including child begging, forced labor and sex trafficking. She will discuss how wartime conditions have created vulnerabilities for women and children using data from interviews with anti-trafficking advocates and participant observation at centers for displaced persons in Ukraine and refugee reception centers in Europe.
Dean is the author of “Diffusing Human Trafficking Policy in Eurasia,” published by Policy Press in 2020. She graduated from KU in 2014 with a doctorate in political science. She also earned a graduate certificate in women, gender & sexuality studies and a master’s degree in political science from KU.
The second series event will take place at 6 p.m. March 7 in the Lawrence Public Library Auditorium. Oleksandra Wallo, an associate professor in the Department of Slavic, German & Eurasian Studies who is from Lviv, Ukraine, will give a talk titled “How Russia’s War is Changing Ukraine.”
In a talk a few days following the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion, Wallo spoke of the incredible Ukrainian spirit. She said, “The factor that no one took into account, not Putin, not the West, not even some Ukrainians, is that it’s not only weapons and numbers that matter, it’s also the reasons why people are fighting.”
Wallo’s talk will address the ways in which Ukrainian society, culture and daily life have been transformed by the war. It will touch on demographic, economic and political changes and cover in greater depth the cultural response to the war.
Wallo’s research focuses both on teaching Ukrainian as a foreign language and on contemporary Ukrainian literature and culture. Her book “Women Writers and the National Imaginary: From the Collapse of the USSR to the Euromaidan,” was published in 2020 by the University of Toronto Press and received Honorable Mention for the 2021 Omeljan Pritsak Book Prize in Ukrainian Studies. Wallo is also the author of an open-education online resource on basic Ukrainian grammar, Dobra Forma published by the Open Language Resource Center at KU.
Related to the series, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (REES) Reframed Lecture Series will welcome Oksana Kis from the Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Kis will give a talk at 7 p.m. March 2 in Forum C of the Burge Union titled "Ukrainian Women at War: Historical Legacies and Present-Day Challenges."
Her talk will explore the phenomenon of women’s large-scale participation in the Ukrainian army during the current Russian war on Ukraine. It contextualizes Ukrainian women's military participation using the background of the historical legacy of Ukrainian women's military service during the two world wars as well as in the armed anti-Soviet nationalist resistance in 1940-50s. The events of the Euro-Maidan and subsequent Russia’s aggression on Donbas will be discussed as turning points in the changing public perception of women-soldiers toward further normalization of militant femininity in public discourse.
Kis is a feminist historian and anthropologist as well as head of the Department of Social Anthropology at the Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. She has served as a president of the Ukrainian Association for Research in Women’s History since 2010, and she is also a co-founder and a vice president of the Ukrainian Oral History Association.
The final event in the Perspectives on Ukraine Series will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 7 in the Lawrence Public Library Auditorium. Megan Luttrell, outreach coordinator for the KU CREES, will lead a workshop on Ukrainian pysanky (decorated eggs). She will teach participants to make their own pysanka as well as give them an introduction to the ancient art’s history and symbolism. The workshop is limited to 20 participants, and sign-up is available on the library’s website.
Luttrell received her doctorate from KU in the Slavic languages & literatures department in 2018. She has taught Russian language and literature at KU, Indiana University and Colby College. As the CREES outreach coordinator, Luttrell manages numerous outreach programs to the broader community. She organizes art and dance workshops and the CREES Spring Festival. She teaches Russian language to students at area middle schools, participates in multicultural story time at both the Lawrence and Baldwin libraries, and leads a foreign language program at the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center.
The pysanka is a symbol of life, spring and renewal. It has also been a part of Ukrainian culture since pre-Christian times. Closing the event series with a pysanky workshop is intended foster a sense of hope and inspire members of the community to appreciate and learn more about Ukraine and its culture.
KU CREES has been a national leader for the study of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since 1959 and is the only federally designated resource center on this crucial world area in the Great Plains. CREES, in collaboration with the Department of Slavic, German & Eurasian Studies, oversees undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The center is an interdisciplinary hub that helps train K-12 teachers and post-secondary educators and shares its expertise with partners in business, media, the military and government.