Of lasting friendships forged in Harvard's summer heat

by Svitlana Kobzar

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - As the last traces of the summer quickly disappear, there's still time to reflect on its special moments. A unique mix of students and professors made their mark at Harvard this year. Lasting friendships, lively discussions and fun memories are part of the experience of the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute's students.

Dzvenyslava Matiyash is one of the people who made the HUSI summer unforgettable. She received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in literature from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Lublin, Poland, at the European Collegium of Polish and Ukrainian Universities.

Ms. Matiyash developed a love for literature as a child, remembering that "unlike many of my peers, instead of going to play outside I would find a quiet place to read." She translated her first poem when she was in the fifth grade. This personal interest flourished in her adult career.

Now, as a student of literature and a translator, she enjoys reading and translating different genres, such as history, poetry, fiction, etc. In 2002, she, along with four colleagues, translated and published the Belarusian poet Andrei Khadanovich. Ms. Matiyash considers translation a creative act. She explains that "translating works is similar to writing new text. On one hand, there is freedom to search for various words and phrases which will best convey the author's intent; on the other hand, the text of the original author creates a boundary within which a translator needs to stay."

At HUSI, Ms. Matiyash spent time diligently working on translating from English to Ukrainian Timothy Snyder's "The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999," while enrolled in the interdisciplinary graduate seminar "Studying 20th Century Ukraine: Theory, Methodology, Identity." "The days were full of interesting experiences of meeting and learning about people," said Ms. Matiyash about her two months at HUSI. She added that she hopes to keep in touch with the people she met this summer.

Another student from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy who attended HUSI this year was Vira Moskalenko, a Ph.D. student interested in the theoretical aspects of social policy and social security. Ms. Moskalenko said she believes that studying political science, especially from a theoretical perspective, is particularly relevant in the modern world. She believes "an examination of Ukraine's social transformation based on theory will enable us to affect Ukraine's future reforms." Ms. Moskalenko hopes to teach political science at the university level.

Reflecting on her HUSI experience, Ms. Moskalenko said she realized that the goal of academia is "an understanding of effective methods of learning and critical thinking. ... Learning is not just gaining facts, but the goal of learning is to learn how to learn." This summer she saw various teaching styles. She explained that HUSI strengthened her desire to become a professor and employ teaching techniques she witnessed this summer. "Higher learning teaches people to think critically, and, as a professor, I would be happy to be part of this process."

This trip to Harvard was Ms. Moskalenko's first experience abroad. She enjoyed visits to museums in Boston and New York. "HUSI enabled me to encounter a world culture It is one thing to study art, and another to actually see it," she noted. She said she was especially impressed with the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She added that this summer seemed like a single moment, very quick, and that "these kinds of moments constitute life. I am fortunate to have had such a rich experience both culturally and academically. ... The HUSI experience will always remain in my heart."

It was a pleasure to compare notes with Tania Kurokhtina, who is currently studying at Moscow State University (MSU) and began learning Ukrainian when she entered the Slavic department at MSU. "I found it very interesting and exciting to study something new that had never been taught in Russia," she noted. Ms. Kurokhtina found out about HUSI from Prof. Oksana Ostapchuk, her supervisor, who had spent a semester at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute as a Eugene and Daymel Shklar Fellow for 2002-2003.

As Ms. Kurokhtina looked back at her HUSI experience, she remembered joyful moments. "I met so many interesting people who enjoy studying Ukrainian as I do, and who are in love with everything connected with Ukraine." She also noted, "The level of teaching at HUSI is very high, and I am not sure if I will ever be able to enjoy anything else [academically] as much as I enjoyed HUSI." Lectures by Prof. George Grabowicz and Prof. Volodymyr Dibrova strengthened her interest in Ukrainian literature and language. In addition to helping improve her Ukrainian skills, HUSI professors led Ms. Kurokhtina to think about her future. "If I choose to be a teacher, I will definitely try to be like my teachers at HUSI," she said with admiration.

HUSI's academically strong and culturally enriching curriculum led its students to think analytically about Ukraine's past, present and future. Lasting friendships were forged in Harvard's summer heat. When HUSI students reflect on memories of the 2003 institute, many find these two months to be the most intense and joyful they have ever had.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 14, 2003, No. 37, Vol. LXXI

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