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Even though it was not my first time studying in the USA, I was astonished by Harvard University and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute in particular during this 7-week program.

HURI is the place where world-known intellectuals and scholars, along with students thirsty for knowledge, discuss the issues Ukraine is facing through the lenses of history, political science, economics, sociology, and other related disciplines.

This summer, I took two courses. The first, Dr. Sophia Wilson's class, "State-Society Relations in Contemporary Ukraine," shed some light on the main political, social, and economic changes that occurred in Ukraine and Eastern Europe in the last 30 years. We put a great emphasis on the issues of the Soviet legacy, Orange revolution, and Revolution of Dignity while studying different theoretical approaches within political science. In addition, the class compared the dominant ideologies of the 20th century – communism, fascism, and liberalism – and their impact on Ukraine and the post-Soviet region.

My second class, "Tradition and Modernity in the 19th and 20th centuries in Ukraine," with Dr. Serhiy Bilenky illustrated the transition from traditional to modern society in the most prominent Ukrainian cities (Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Donetsk). We also covered the issues of different national minorities and their cooperation on the territory of modern Ukraine. Dr. Bilenky suggested the best works of literature and cinematography to help us better immerse in the epoche. Among others, we viewed Sergiy Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" and Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera," and read the novels of Sholem Aleichem, Aleksandr Kuprin, and Isaak Babel.


Sviatoslav Hnizdovskyi
HUSI 2019 | Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Because of its brand association with Harvard, HUSI’s instant credibility sets it apart from similar programs. Having world-renowned professors like Bilenky, Grabowicz, and Plokhii at your fingertips is a life-changing experience. In addition to interacting with Professor Plokhii over the summer and fall, being able to collaborate on potential Ph.D. dissertation topics was so valuable in getting applications ready for Ph.D. programs. I also made lifelong friends and still interact with my HUSI peers.

My peer group and professors at HUSI challenged me in class to think about certain aspects of Ukrainian history, literature, and film more critically. Getting grilled by Professor Grabowicz in class about literature and film makes one step up their game to contribute at the highest level. The Holodomor reader from that class was amazing, as was the other literature we worked with. The amount of reading and work that HUSI expects to get excellent grades is great preparation for rigorous Ph.D. work. Using the Hollis system was invaluable in completing my MA theses for ENERPO and MARCA through European University at Saint Petersburg.

One also has great networking and collaborative opportunities with professors and the program directors, and the extracurricular programs enriched the program. The seminar with Bishop Borys Gudziak, Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris, was an amazing lecture. Plus, having pizza, beer, and a good conversation with Prof. Bilenky at the end of the week always helps.

As far as advice for future HUSI students, I’d say: Work as hard as you can. Soak in the Harvard experience. Harvard is truly a magical place. Harvard is heaven.

Patrick Osborne
HUSI 2016 | MA student, European University at Saint Petersburg

Participating in HUSI is a great way to expand your knowledge about Ukraine over the summer. The Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge course with Dr. Dibrova is structured in such a way so as to build on your prior linguistic knowledge, as most members of the class had background in Slavic languages, but had never formally studied Ukrainian. The course materials are focused on building important vocabulary and keying in on grammatical features of Ukrainian, within the context of engaging readings in a congenial classroom environment. Due to HUSI I feel that I made a great amount of progress in my ability to understand written Ukrainian in a relatively short amount of time, and this is thanks to the unique way that this course is structured. I would recommend this course and program to all students and scholars wanting to learn more about the Ukrainian language, as well as Ukrainian culture and history.

Sarah McEleney
HUSI 2016 | PhD student, University of Virginia

Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge, under Dr Dibrova, motivated me to get out of bed every day the summer of 2016!

This was a course where life experiences and world affairs expressed in Ukrainian lent new perspective through the unique freedom and flexibility of the language. I learned Ukrainian from my parents many decades ago, but I never knew its nuance and humor or all the ways it could be used until I enrolled in Dr Dibrova's course. Yet it's done with the simplest and fewest of rules, which is the secret to its elegance!

I particularly enjoyed the impromptu exercises, such as taking dictation from the performance of an old Cossack ballad, and the surprising etymology of certain vocabulary and expressions - Ukrainian has absorbed or borrowed more from the world than you might think!

The Ukrainian that you learn from textbooks won't give you the insight into the language that this class will. Ukrainian, like any language, can tell stories, poems, relate facts and arguments, as well as tell lies and spread propaganda. Dr Dibrova used a style of humor that was the perfect tool to stimulate more thinking about what one was reading or saying, whether from texts, websites, or news videos.

Another surprise to me was the diversity of student peers and how they came to be interested in the language. Every student in this class provided a new perspective on some aspect of the language that I had not noticed before. I really enjoyed learning the many uses of Ukrainian within various fields of research and general interest.

Having access to old magazines and literature in Lamont and Widener Libraries was a small and delightful win for me. I must admit, I not only looked up some hard-to-get articles on Ukrainian or Slavic matters, but was able to work on some quick research on my historical interests.

Anatole Sykley
HUSI 2016

HUSI was a valuable experience because I learned Ukrainian for reading knowledge. Being able to read an entire article in Ukrainian was a powerful experience that made feel proud of myself.

HUSI prepared me for my professional career because I want to go to graduate school. Ukrainian for reading knowledge is a graduate course, and I was able to take it while I was an undergraduate. HUSI was an excellent introduction to graduate school.

One of my best experiences in the class “Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge” was my presentation on Mykola Lysenko. Every Friday, students had the chance to present on a topic related to Ukraine. I presented the music of Mykola Lysenko.

I think HUSI distinguishes itself from other programs because it transcends academic barriers. The program is not only focused in academics, but also in culture. I was able to meet people from Ukraine. I am especially thankful to HUSI because I received a full-tuition award to attend. I am glad to say that HUSI is accessible and diverse.

Jonathan Gonzalez-Contreras
HUSI 2016 | Student, University of Texas at El Paso

The HUSI program is special because it means taking part in a community, not just a course. Each participant in this community brings different experiences of Ukraine and different interests. The Institute brings together an unparalleled group of scholars. Coursework is supplemented by lectures and films. The coursework itself was essential for my dissertation, but the opportunity to make lasting connections with fellow students and scholars was equally valuable.

I attended HUSI in 2012 and took Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge with Dr. Dibrova. I enjoyed the class (and him as a professor) so much that I later did a year-long Ukrainian tutorial with him. That summer I was just entering my PhD program in the History Department. I am currently a 5th year doctoral candidate in the History Department, advised by Serhii Plokhii. My dissertation is a history of the Dnipro River in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Megan Duncan Smith
HUSI 2012 | PhD Student, Harvard University

Studying at HUSI was my first Ivy League experience. I think that HUSI is like a hardcore summer camp for youth, and if one is lucky to get in, it’s a transformative event that leaves a trace forever.

I took two classes, one with Professor Flier and the other with Professor Bilenky. Professor Flier’s class was tough, and this is exactly what I enjoyed about it. I'd blame Boston’s sun for partial amnesia but I changed my opinions on a range of issues, especially in sociolinguistics, e.g. Rusyn language and the status of surzhyk. Professor Bilenky’s lectures were one of the most valuable academic experiences I've ever had. With the materials he provided, I was able to deconstruct certain narratives I came with from a Ukrainian school. I believe that history is a political science; it usually serves someone’s interest to justify particular claims in a current moment. With Professor Bilenky, we discussed Ukrainian history through the history of its cities. Now I’m writing my MA thesis on Soviet architecture.

One memory that stands out: I was hesitating whether to go to the library one day. Suddenly I met Professor Dibrova, who invited me to join his class at The Fogg Museum. It was very generous, and I enjoyed every minute I spent there. It's important to have meetings like this, and they are possible only at places like Harvard. I should also mention that Boston’s architecture and galleries were a great source of inspiration for me.

Serhii Tereshchenko
HUSI 2015 | Graduate Student, Columbia University

My summer at HUSI was the best experience of my life. I met some extraordinary people (we have all stayed in touch!). When it comes to my professional career, I have to admit that the wonderful professors made me want to work even harder (I received my PhD degree in 2015). All people at HURI were very welcoming. I truly recommend HUSI!

Mateusz Świetlicki
University of Wroclaw, Institute of Slavonic Studies, Faculty Member / HUSI 2012

My participation in Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute was definitely one of the most enriching experiences of my life. As a young person coming from Ukraine, that experience was truly a door opener: it brought me right into a superior level of academia and international affairs, and also gave me a much deeper and wider understanding of where Ukraine stands on the global map in terms of its political activities, complex history and abundant cultural heritage.

There are so many memorable things and events from those days, way back in summer 2000, but a few are worth focusing on for their special imprint on my life.

First of all, HUSI provided first-class quality knowledge about Ukraine, especially in a wider comparative context. Lectures of renowned professors Yaroslav Hrytsak and Myroslava Mudrak on Ukraine’s Modernity from a Historical Perspective and Ukraine’s Modern Art History, respectively, opened for me a much different panorama on a country where I lived at that time. That was the educational experience that truly enriches you and thrills your mind for many years after.

HUSI turned out to be a very good networking experience. HUSI and the entire Harvard Summer program offers just an incredible concentration of very interesting, erudite people, and it’s a crime not to take advantage of it. At HUSI, I met excellent academic staff, made good friends among my peers, with whom I have continued warm, enriching relations already for two decades after that summer school!

HUSI was an informal meeting point with a bunch of wonderful, knowledgeable people. For instance, we had a few discussions around the pizza table about Timothy Synder’s new book-in-progress. Then, the distinguished professor was still a post-doc fellow. Those small, informal talks and exchanges of ideas with my HUSI colleagues all revolving around Ukraine were invaluable and thought provoking. I would say that was a context where our mature critical thinking and academic professionalism was shaped. And most of us managed it really well on our career paths later on, be it in academia, the cultural sphere, or even business.

Finally, participation in HUSI provides access to the vast educational resources of Harvard University and the entire exquisite cultural realm of Cambridge and Boston, MA. That’s an immense opportunity in itself. I am sure that Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute will offer young generations that top-class, enriching educational experience and great inspiration for years to come.

Vira Byy
Engagement Manager, N-iX / HUSI 2000

Prior to attending the summer programs at HURI, I traveled to Dnipropetrovsk and was struck by the influence of Russian culture on this major city in Eastern Ukraine. Downtown, I primarily heard spoken Russian. Our neighbors spoke surzhyk and their political views were seemingly formed by news broadcasts from Russian state-run media. Even the city itself was named for a man who was complicit in the Ukrainian Holodomor. However, as we traveled away from the city to live with relatives in the village of Mykolaevna, I observed aspects of a more purely Ukrainian culture. At dawn I awoke to join our 70-year-old grandfather (a man who rose to work before dawn, as I still slept, and continued to work until long after dark) in the necessary chores of the day. I spoke with our grandfather about Ukrainian history and literature. He stressed that Ukraine had always been European in its orientation, with a democratic history that rejected the autocracy of Russia.

At the end of the work day, I always went for a walk. Near our property there was an incredible field of sunflowers, which stood in a sort of attentive unison before the setting sun. The image was beautiful and vibrant and bright, and yet it also seemed to convey a certain sense of sorrow. This image became for me symbolic of a Ukrainian cultural identity, which despite being for so long characterized by only its most visibly salient qualities (hopka, vyshyvanka, etc.), had so much more substance to offer the world.

My exposure to Ukrainian culture influenced my decision to apply to the summer program at HURI. As I began the program, I had no idea which aspects of Ukrainian studies I wanted to focus on in my own studies and I was not sure what to expect. But what initially struck me during my first summer at HURI was the sense of community that I felt. Our program activities were structured in such a way that the Ukrainian and American students were frequently together outside of class, attending lectures by renowned Ukrainian scholars, practicing Ukrainian language together at meals, and travelling together on various cultural excursions.

When I arrived at HURI, I felt welcomed, and this feeling carried over into my courses. I enrolled in Dr. Bilenky's class, a cultural and historical survey of Ukraine which covered three centuries. I was drawn to the Revolutionary period of 1917-1920, and by the end of the term I developed an appreciation for the cultural and literary significance of the era. Dr. Bilenky took a personal interest in my academic studies and we met frequently to discuss my ideas and questions concerning my thesis.

In my second summer at HURI, I took Dr. Dibrova's Ukrainian language class, the coolest language class that I have ever taken. Dr. Dibrova is definitely one of my favorite professors. We studied language through the lens of Ukrainian culture, which provided a necessary context to appreciate better the richness of Ukrainian language. On Fridays, Dr. Dibrova bought us all coffee and spent time hanging out with us during the breaks. We all went to restaurants together, to the art museum. Dr. Dibrova was always willing to meet with me to discuss my academic interests. And it was Dr. Dibrova who encouraged my interests in Ukrainian and Russian Revolutionary literatures.

Outside of class, we attended lectures by authorities in the field of Ukrainian studies. Dr. Plokhii introduced his then-newest book, The Last Empire. I bought an extra copy of the book for my father, to whom Dr. Plokhii graciously wrote a note on the inside cover. When I claimed that I was interested in applying to the history PhD program at Harvard, Dr. Plokhii met with me for an hour to explain the admissions process and to offer assistance with my academic research interests. I attended Dr. Grabowicz’s lectures on Ukrainian literature and discussed with him my own literary interests. Since that time, his scholarship—particularly his concept of symbolic autobiography in the works of Khvylovy—has figured prominently in my own academic research. Dr. Flier was extremely kind to me and met with me during the summer break to discuss a course of study in an appropriate PhD program.

In addition to the supportive atmosphere, I was very excited to learn about the opportunities for scholarship at HURI, which are unparalleled anywhere else in the country. In addition to the Widener Library, the size of which rivals the Boston Public Library in terms of numbers of volumes, the Lamont, Pusey, and HURI libraries are repositories of historical, literary, archival, and cartographic materials. I was excited by the opportunity to make use of these resources which were available to HUSI students, including a huge number of Ukrainian-language periodicals. For my own research this was extremely useful, as I had access to, among many other things, the first issue of Khvylovy’s literary journal, Vaplite.

The sheer size of the Widener Library is intimidating, and conducting research there can seem daunting, so the Institute held a course on conducting research for the students, which was led by Mr. Truslow, the librarian for the Davis Center collection and for the Fung Library. In the class, we were introduced to various methods for conducting research in the libraries and searching online databases, which proved indispensable for my own academic endeavors. My experiences at HURI have made a significant impact on the course of my academic career, and the friends that I’ve made over two summers in the program have enriched my appreciation for Ukrainian studies. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to conduct a course of study which I am passionate about and in an environment that was supportive of my academic goals and interests. For those who are interested in Ukrainian studies, the HURI summer program offers a unique experience which is both academically challenging and intellectually rewarding.

Abraham R. Layman
PhD Candidate, University of Texas / HUSI 2015

I participated in the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute in 2008, just prior to the start of my graduate program in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. I took two courses for graduate credit: Intermediate Ukrainian and Twentieth-Century Ukrainian Literature. At the conclusion of the program, I received the Theodosius and Irene Senkowsky Prize for Achievement in Ukrainian Studies.

The courses I took at HUSI packed in a wealth of material in a very short timeframe and at a very high level of instruction. Yuri Shevchuk helped us develop a feel for intricacies of the Ukrainian language that I have not seen covered anywhere else. George Grabowicz not only introduced us to a survey of twentieth-century Ukrainian literature, but also challenged us to engage in a reconsideration of the literary canon through the investigation of experimental and controversial pieces of writing. These courses required a great deal of concentration and focus, leaving an indelible imprint on my current approaches to literary and linguistic studies, as well as influencing my own teaching methods.

At HUSI I made relationships that have continued well beyond the conclusion of the program. Undergoing rigorous language training in a relatively small group tightens bonds of friendship immensely. We worked together on many assignments and saw each other on a daily basis. A particular memory (for which I have included a picture) is the end-of-program talent show. Our Intermediate Ukrainian group performed an original skit that we wrote completely in Ukrainian. It served as a culmination of all of our work for the summer.

My HUSI experience continues to be extremely valuable to me. Harvard is a first-rate academic environment that provided an ideal location for study. The HUSI program included lectures, readings, and performances on a regular basis. The bounteous library collections at Widener and HURI gave immediate access to essential resources. I would strongly urge any scholar with an interest in Slavic Studies to consider applying for the program--it will open your mind and enrich your understanding of the world.

Joseph Schlegel
PhD Candidate, University of Toronto / HUSI 2008

I participated in HUSI in 2007, taking Intermediate Ukrainian with Professor Yuri Shevchuk. He was an exceptional teacher and made learning the rules of Ukrainian grammar very fun and enjoyable. I also enjoyed joining the Ukrainian music group and performing traditional folk songs at our final presentation for the rest of the HUSI participants.

My favorite parts of the summer included meeting other Ukrainians, studying on this beautiful campus, and improving my Ukrainian. As a third-generation Ukrainian-Canadian, I grew up speaking Ukrainian at home with my father but wanted to improve my knowledge of Ukrainian grammar in this unique environment.

Another wonderful part of the experience for me was exploring Ukrainian scores in the music library, which formed the basis for one of my current professional interests - Ukrainian art song. I am currently studying and working as a classical mezzo-soprano and incorporating a great amount of Ukrainian music into my work.

Stephania Romaniuk
Vocal Apprentice at Vocal Arts Institute of Alberta / HUSI 2007

HUSI in some ways became a starting point determining my future outlook. HUSI courses gave me some crucial insights on how to become an active and responsible citizen, at the same time giving me the experience of multicultural dialogue on well-known topics. As a second-year, inexperienced undergrad student, it was a fantastic occasion to have everyday informal talks with Professor Motyl while dining in the Harvard refectory. Courses taken: Ukraine as a linguistic battleground (Michael Flier), and Professor A.J. Motyl’s course about Ukrainian politics.

PhD, Lviv Polytechnic National University, public activist; currently conducting independent research at Harvard, thanks to HURI.

Yuriy Kosmyna
Research Fellow at Harvard University / HUSI 2007

I attended HUSI in 2007. I took A. Motyl's course on politics and M. Flier's course on sociolinguistic aspects of Ukrainian language. I was an MA student at that time, studying political science at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. The HUSI experience was terrific. First and foremost, it introduced the world of superb academic research and provided an inspiring environment. Thanks to HUSI, I've realized how interesting and stimulating an academic career can be. I'm pretty sure the HUSI experience drove me into PhD studies.

The courses were excellent. And so were other events organized by HURI. The program was really great as we had numerous opportunities to communicate with the best scholars in the field. Communication with other participants of the program was also stimulating. Some of the friends I made there remain my good friends now. After the program I've kept in contact with Prof. Motyl. HUSI stands out as a program because a) it brings you to one of the best universities in the world, a rare opportunity for Ukrainian students; b) it immerses you into academic activities of various kinds in one of the most vibrant centers for Ukrainian studies, HURI; and c) it is an excellent place to see how western academia works.

Without any exaggeration, I think HUSI made a turning point in my life and I'm infinitely grateful for that opportunity.

After completing her MA studies in political science, Dariya started her PhD studies in mass communications. She received her degree in 2013 from Autonomous University of Barcelona and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (a joint PhD program). Dariya is a senior lecturer and coordinator of research activities and projects at the Mohyla School of Journalism (Kyiv-Mohyla Academy). At present, she is at Stanford University as a visiting scholar, where she also teaches a course on "Media, democratization and political transformations in the post-Soviet societies".

Dariya Orlova
Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Research Activities and Projects at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy / HUSI 2007

I attended the summer school in 2010 and studied Advanced Ukrainian as an undergraduate student at University College London. The course stretched and developed my language skills, while broadening my cultural perspective through the use of a wide range of source materials, such as poetry and historical texts. Volodymyr Dibrova's excellent teaching skills made the course both enjoyable and highly informative. HUSI's enormous range of resources and the selection of events run throughout the summer school also added to the overall experience.

For me the main takeaway from the course was the confidence it gave me with my Ukrainian language skills moving forward. I am currently in Ukraine conducting field work research for my PhD thesis in political science.

Edward Johnson
PhD Candidate, University College London / HUSI 2010

I took part in the HUSI program as an assistant professor. I was working to complete my first monograph, and needed to refresh and improve my Ukrainian for my research. Prof. Dibrova was an outstanding teacher. The advanced class covered both general grammar and literary topics. My fellow students were smart and serious, and the cultural component of the course was great. I had already been a HURI fellow and it was a pleasure to return as a student.

I am currently Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at UC San Diego. My research focuses on the intersection of Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish literature and culture.

Amelia Glaser
Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at UC San Diego / HUSI 2010