NOVEMBER 12, 1922 – APRIL 7, 2015
Long-time HURI associate, former research fellow and lecturer Paulina Lewin passed away on April 7, 2015.
She was a leading authority on East Slavic Literature and theater of the Baroque period. A former senior lecturer at Warsaw University, research associate at the Institute for Literary Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences, and associate professor at the Jagellonian University in Cracow, after coming to Harvard, Dr. Lewin became closely involved in the Harvard Project in Commemoration of the Millennium of Christianity in Rus-Ukraine, carried out by the Ukrainian Research Institute. Her expertise and contribution to the "Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature," a multi-volume series of Ukrainian literary works from the late medieval and early modern periods published by the Institute, proved invaluable.
Dr. Lewin was the first modern scholar to examine theater in pre-modern Ukraine, and the author of several important works on the theater of early modern Ukraine published over the last decade. Her monograph is the only one to appear in English.
Ever since a small group of specialists, working mainly in Germany, Russia, and Poland in the 1960s, began to focus on Ukrainian literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and its relationship to both Polish and Russian cultures, Paulina Lewin became the major specialist in the field. Her work demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of primary sources and a far-ranging approach to the investigation of rhetorical tradition, the literary Baroque, and the connections between East Slavic and Western cultures. The publication of her Ukrainian Drama and Theater in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, Edmonton, Toronto 2008) can be considered a summa of Paulina's own intellectual and scholarly itinerary. It also serves to acquaint the reader with an important part of the cultural heritage of Ukraine as a newly independent and "unexpected nation".
Paulina was born into a family of local intelligentsia in Suwałki, a region in northeastern Poland. After the German occupation of the region in 1939, she and her family, like tens of thousands of other Polish citizens of different nationalities, were forced to relocate to the USSR. Paulina lost almost all her family during the war. After a time in exile, she was admitted as a student at the University of Leningrad, which, during the German blockade of the city, had been evacuated to Saratov. She received her master's degree in philology in 1948, and in 1949 she was hired as a senior lecturer in Russian language and literature at a teaching institute in Bashkiria, Russia.
After Stalin's death in 1956, it finally became possible for Paulina to leave the Soviet Union and return to Poland. In 1958 she became senior assistant in the history and theory of East Slavic literature, dramaturgy, and theater at the Warsaw University. There she also became involved in the work of the Institute for Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. During the 1960s she continued investigating the Polish theatrical tradition and connections between Polish and East Slavic literatures, especially in the field of theater. During that time Paulina also contributed frequently to the journal Slavia Orientalis.
In 1973 Paulina earned a habilitation degree and after receiving a fellowship from the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies spent two years there (1976- 77). Subsequently she was appointed a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and later went to Harvard University as a lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures (July 1983 – December 1985). She also became a research associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute (November 1984 – June 1988) working on HURI's Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature.
After coming to the United States, Paulina continued to produce scholarship on Ukrainian theater, including several articles that appeared in the journal Harvard Ukrainian Studies. She followed the research of scholars who were devoting increasing attention to the Bible in the literature and culture of the Orthodox Slavic tradition. In papers presented at scholarly congresses and published articles, Paulina undertook systematic examination of quotations from the Old and New Testaments in the work of Sylvester Kosov and in Ukrainian theater, mainly in school drama.
Paulina also continued publishing articles in collections of essays and in major journals based in Warsaw, Cracow, Moscow, and Cambridge. Among her publications are several previously unknown Polish-Ukrainian texts from manuscripts found in Russian and Ukrainian libraries. She has also produced review articles, bibliographies, discussions on various debated issues (mainly concerning Ukrainian culture and history), encyclopedia entries, and bibliographies. She contributed to the translation and editing of important books from Russian and German into Polish and from German, Polish, and Middle Ukrainian into English and German, including Endre Angyal's Die slawische Barockwelt (Leipzig, 1961) and the anthology Seventeenth-Century Writings on the Kievan Caves Monastery.
In Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute she found an excellent center for elaborating her multicultural approach. She examined the issue of the existence of an autonomous system of Ukrainian literature and culture while taking into account the deep, continuous connections the Ukrainian lands had with other cultures. She considered seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theater in Ukraine one of the best elaborations and adaptations of the Polish (and Western) post-Renaissance heritage. In her view, this theatrical tradition, developed during the flourishing of the Hetmanate, reflects not only a confluence of local tradition and Baroque culture but also has deep connections to religious feelings, customs, and ecclesiastic and social life in Ukraine at the time.
Through this new approach to Ukrainian literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Paulina was able to distinguish the differences between the Ukrainian, Polish and Russian traditions. She maintained that Ukrainian readers and spectators were exposed to Western techniques and literary devices and later transmitted them to Russian culture; but on the other hand, they were more inclined to a deep comprehension of the religious, Orthodox medieval heritage than Western readers or spectators of the Latin Middle Ages. In this context, Paulina's investigation of school drama and popular theater in Ukraine acquires a new significance.
Paulina Lewin's Ukrainian Drama and Theater in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries is the first English-language general history of that subject and is a fruit of a lifetime of scholarship. She began working on it at the beginning of the 1990s, and some of its novel conceptions and interpretations gained new momentum from the changing geopolitical situation in Europe, when Ukraine became an independent state and both Ukrainians and Western Europeans began to rethink Ukraine's history, culture, and literature in their entirety. It is a synthesis of Paulina's scholarly path and reflects the evolution of an entire era of Slavic studies (1958–91).
Even following her formal retirement Paulina continued to participate in the academic life of HURI, providing advice to younger scholars in the field, and, of course, carrying on with her research and publishing. She also donated her personal library to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, and left to HURI her extensive microfilm collection of manuscripts.
Paulina Lewin will be greatly missed by her colleagues, friends and all those who knew her.
After Giovanna Brogi's About Paulina Lewin and Her Book.