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New Nazareth trip to Ukraine Explores a Rising Democracy

At a time when Ukraine is repeatedly in national headlines, Nazareth students and faculty traveled to Ukraine for a 15-day experience that broadened their insight about the country, its history, and its future. The international trip is part of Nazareth's growing number of overseas learning options for undergraduate and graduate students, to provide global perspectives, personal growth, and new connections.

A Nazareth group photo by a mural on the campus of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

A Nazareth group photo by a mural on the campus of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, which traces its history to 1615.

A dance performance by the Alliance dance ensemble at the Town of Slavuta Children's Art School

A dance performance by the Alliance dance ensemble at the Town of Slavuta Children's Art School in Slavuta, Ukraine. This was part of the reception and educational program prepared by the town's mayor and administration for the Nazareth group.

"This trip has had a much larger impact on my life trajectory than I would have thought. I have found myself captivated by Ukraine and feel a pull back to the region," says Emmarae Stein '21, a double major in communication and media and English literature. "After graduation, I will be looking into volunteer and even possible job opportunities in the area. I hope to continue to learn more about the history of Ukraine."

A reception and award ceremony in Ukraine offered by Nazareth's Ukrainian partner institution

A reception and award ceremony in Ostroh, Ukraine offered by the rector (president) of our Ukrainian partner institution, the National University of Ostroh Academy, which traces its origins to the original Ostroh Academy, the first institution of higher learning in Eastern Europe, established in 1576. In the center is Dr. Ihor Pasichnyk, rector (president) of the University.

The Space of Synagogues

The Space of Synagogues: a public history project dedicated to the long history of the Jewish community in Lviv, Ukraine, and the memory of the Holocaust victims. The stone tablets are engraved with inscriptions from former Jewish residents about their lives in Lviv, the Holocaust, and their post-Holocaust lives, as well as images of prewar life. Several stones are left empty in commemoration of the voices that were extinguished.

In May, nine Nazareth students (including two who are military veterans), four Nazareth faculty/staff, and two leaders from the Ukrainian-American community in Rochester traveled to Ukraine to learn first-hand about the country's politics and military veteran issues there. They explored how democracy is developing in Ukraine and learned about Ukrainian identity, given recent years of conflict with Russia.

Enjoying Armenian coffee at Virmenka, one of the most iconic coffee houses in Lviv, Ukraine

Enjoying Armenian coffee at Virmenka, one of the most iconic coffee houses in Ukraine. It was established in 1979 and became an important gathering space for dissidents, artists, and hippies.

Rotunda of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War in Kyiv.

Rotunda of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War in Kyiv.

The Nazareth students included majors in history, communication and media, nursing, occupational therapy, business, public health, communication sciences and disorders, and art history. The variety of backgrounds of the trip's participants enhanced its impact. Students were able to learn about Ukraine from Ukrainian college students, an experience that Erika Klock '20, found invaluable:

"On this trip, I met many Ukrainian students my own age who eagerly shared their thoughts on the current Ukrainian political climate and their shared history," said Erika, who's double-majoring in art history and museums, archives, and public history. "Many of the students who I spoke to had various opinions concerning which direction Ukraine should head in and how. One thing that almost everyone who I met could agree on is that Ukraine is a unique and strong nation that will continue to fight against the oppressive grasp of Russia."

Nazareth's group at the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide in Kyiv

Nazareth's group at the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide in Kyiv, by a haunting statue known as the "Bitter Memory of Childhood," showing a malnourished girl clutching a handful of wheat ears in the middle of the main alley. This statue is dedicated to the most vulnerable victims of starvation – children. Picking up wheat left on the collective farm fields after reaping was declared to be a crime and was punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment or even death.

A group picture on Prospekt Svobody (Freedom Avenue) in Lviv

A group picture on Prospekt Svobody (Freedom Avenue) in Lviv at the monument to Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), a poet whose literary heritage provides a foundation of modern Ukrainian culture, modern Ukrainian language and modern Ukrainian national identity. To the side of the statue is a 12-meter stela known as a Wave of National Revival, depicting the core symbols, ideas, and values articulated in Shevchenko's monumental body of work.

As Nazareth students learned more about Ukraine, they also learned more about themselves. According to history major Joshua Fess '21, "Traveling to a place can break down false stereotypes and also bring context to many events in world history that might be too complex to understand from your point of view." He and others benefited by taking a Nazareth course before the trip. Ukraine, Russia, and the West: Historical Roots of the Current Crisis was taught by Olena Prokopovych, a Nazareth associate professor of political science who also was one of the guides for the trip. Prokopovych was born and raised in Ukraine, until age 17.

Heavenly Hundred Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine

Heavenly Hundred Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine, one of many commemorative sites for 100+ protesters who gave their lives during the massive 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests — also known as Revolution of Dignity — that demanded the signing of an association agreement with the European Union and opposed an attempt to drag Ukraine back into Russia's orbit.

Reception at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, the largest university in Ukraine.

Reception at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, the largest university in Ukraine.

As Ukraine makes the news over war, peace, and politics, the Ukrainian trip offered Nazareth students the opportunity to become immersed in a different culture and history and to learn to synthesize nuanced perspectives in a complicated political reality.

Partnerships

The trip grew out of partnerships that Nazareth and the Ukrainian-American community in Rochester have with a Ukrainian university — the National University of Ostroh Academy — that's one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe (founded 1576).

Nazareth previously has hosted Ukrainian students, faculty, and other guests from Ukraine, including soldiers and providers of veteran services, who wanted to learn how Nazareth supports veteran students. The Nazareth travelers learned how Ukraine approaches identifying and caring for veterans.

The Ukrainian community in Rochester has raised money to help Ukrainian students attend Nazareth through the exchange, and this year contributed to help Nazareth students pay for their trip.