Ukrainian scholars have faced rocket fire and the threat of being kidnapped, arrested or killed since Russia started a war against Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. But a growing Indiana University program has provided valuable assistance that enables these scholars to continue their research, and aid in educating students and rebuilding their country.
IU announced on June 6 an agreement to support up to 20 humanities and social sciences scholars who are in or from Ukraine for one-year, nonresidential fellowships at IU Bloomington. The IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program now supports 33 scholars with stipends.
The Ukrainian scholars also have access to the electronic resources of IU’s libraries and are connected to IU Bloomington faculty members who can provide feedback and collaborate on their research.
The Ukrainian fellows and IU faculty have had fruitful discussions about common research interests, building common networks and connecting students to the networks, said Sarah Phillips, director of the IU Robert F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute, which is administering the program along with the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.
Fellows present their ongoing research for feedback at monthly virtual workshops. Some of them have been invited by IU departments to give virtual research lectures and meet with IU students virtually.
“We have received extremely positive feedback from the scholars in Ukraine and their IU faculty partners,” Phillips said.
‘The desire for dignity, freedom and democracy’
Olena Muradyan is a sociologist and social inequality and gender studies scholar who is the dean of the School of Sociology at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University. She has led efforts to save and revive the university after it suffered damage during Russia’s attacks.
“The events of February through April 2022 especially put certain parts of the Kharkiv region on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Muradyan said by email. Her research has focused on food security and social inequality in the city of Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine.
“I would like to show the war reality of an urban environment,” Muradyan said.
Hundreds of thousands of residents have been displaced, and living standards have dropped sharply. There’s the constant threat of shelling, an energy crisis, internet disruptions, blackouts and a lack of some food products, she said. Students and teachers also had to be evacuated from hot zones.
“I express my gratitude to the Indiana University for the steps they have taken to ensure support and solidarity with Ukraine,” she said. “We have led a successful admissions campaign to my school and to Karazin University in general, so we continue our academic mission.”
Ukrainians are determined to stand free and independent, Muradyan said.
“It is not so much about physical danger, but it is already about the desire to revive, rebuild and develop our country after the war,” she said. “It’s about the desire for dignity, freedom and democracy during the war, no matter what.”
‘The epicenter of history’
Mykola Homanyuk, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Ecology at Kherson State University, teaches human geography.
“I was in a region occupied by the Russians, and the non-resident format was a single opportunity for me to not be isolated from the rest of the academic world,” Homanyuk said by email. “Now non-resident scholars programs have become common. But IU was one of the first universities who proposed it for Ukrainians.”
Homanyuk was in the occupied city of Kherson for over seven months before he crossed the frontline and into Ukrainian-controlled territory. Despite the danger, Homanyuk said the time in occupied Kherson helped with his research on defining the evolution of Russia’s intentions related to Ukrainian regions.
“On one hand, it’s a permanent threat to be kidnapped, arrested or killed,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s a unique opportunity to be in the epicenter of history, to conduct field research, surveys, interviews, to gather many types of data.”
Now he stays in Kyiv, and friends from Kyiv National University have provided Homanyuk with a workspace. Some of his students, though, are still in occupied territories, and the Russians have imposed escalating travel bans that now forbid anyone from coming back to Ukraine.
Homanyuk’s IU faculty partner is critical human geographer Ishan Ashutosh. They are in contact regularly, usually by email, but subject to disruptions.
“It’s not easy to plan when electricity could be cut suddenly. Last time, we met while I was in a bomb shelter,” Homanyuk said.
Glad to help
Regina Smyth, a professor in IU’s Department of Political Science, is working with two Ukrainian scholars: Petro Kuzyk and Andriy Posunko.
Posunko, a historian, is working on a research project: “The Transformation of New Russia: From Frontier to Province to Myth.” He is also serving in the Ukrainian armed forces.
“I have been reading his dissertation on the management of the borderland regions on the Ukrainian steppe” Smyth said. “It is wonderful work, and I am learning a lot. He is a great writer.”
Smyth said the program recognizes the dedication of the Ukrainian scholars who are working through “the most difficult times imposed by a senseless war.”
“I also hope that our collaboration supports what I see as a critical goal of U.S. foreign policy and of our own work: to look ahead to preserve and support Ukraine’s scholarly resources for reconstruction and training the next generation of scholars and teachers.”
Owen Wu, associate professor and Grant Thornton Scholar in the Kelley School of Business, is working with Larysa Yakymova, a professor in the Department of Economic and Mathematical Modeling at Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University. Wu, Yakymova and Paola Martin, acting assistant professor in the Kelley School, have collaborated on a research paper, “Anti-Corruption and Humanitarian Aid Management in Ukraine.”
“The project exposed to us much of the reality of humanitarian goods distribution in Ukraine,” Wu said.
“Larysa is a very dedicated and knowledgeable collaborator and a good writer, too,” he added. “She is living with disruptions caused by the war, and her area has frequent power outages, but she still finds time to work with us whenever she can.”
Phillips said the IU-Ukraine Non-Resident Scholars Program has had great support from IU’s departments and faculty because they believe in its mission and have a strong desire to help Ukraine.
“I think the program, which involves so many IU departments, units, schools and faculty members, is keeping the war against Ukraine top of mind,” Phillips said. “It has also meant a lot to our IU colleagues — faculty, students and staff — who hail from Ukraine and have family and friends there who are suffering. The program is a strong sign that IU stands with them and with their country.”