Meet the HUSI Class of 2022

June 23, 2022
Meet the HUSI Class of 2022

On Wednesday, June 15, HURI welcomed the 2022 Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute class on Zoom for orientation. For the third year in a row, the program will be held virtually, with courses and supplemental programming, such as the Public Event Series, taking place online.

students on zoom on laptop

The remote nature of the program has once again allowed us to draw a large, diverse, and geographically dispersed cohort. With eyes around the world focused on Ukraine due to the war, many working professionals have chosen to deepen their knowledge of Ukraine; this year's 33-student class includes high school teachers, journalists, active and retired military, and artists. These professionals are joined by graduate students, professors, and undergraduates in fields such as music composition, law, political science, education, and international relations. We're welcoming back three students who previously attended HUSI.

HUSI students will attend their Zoom sessions from Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Turkey, Italy, Hong Kong, and states spanning the entire United States. We particularly commend those who are logging in at all hours of the night to learn from our professors!

In addition to the acclaimed "Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge" course with Volodymyr Dibrova, HUSI 2022 includes two subject matter courses: Serhiy Bilenky's  “Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries" and a new course with TCUP Director Emily Channell-Justice: "Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine." Students will contribute to the HUSI Blog throughout the summer, sharing their insights and experiences as they embark on this intense intellectual journey.

Welcome, HUSI 2022!

Olivia Brinich

Olivia BrinichOlivia first visited Ukraine in 2004 and thereafter lived in Kyiv, working as an English teacher and nonprofit manager between 2005 and 2011. While in Ukraine, she experienced its rich culture and traditions and traveled by train to 19 of its beautiful regions and many of its famous cities, such as Sevastopol, Kharkiv, and Lviv. She also had the chance to travel extensively throughout the neighboring countries such as Poland, Romania, Germany, and Russia. She speaks Russian at an advanced level and is eagerly expanding her knowledge of the Ukrainian language daily. 

In 2019, Olivia received her Master of Arts in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis after finishing her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs with a minor in Russian Language and Literature in 2018 at the same university. As part of her graduate research in 2019, she spent two weeks in Kyiv gauging Ukrainians’ views toward the EU, NATO, and Russia. She wrote her thesis on Ukraine’s geopolitical significance and the role it plays in regional energy diplomacy.

This summer, she is taking "Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries” with Dr. Serhiy Bilenky and “Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine” with Dr. Emily Channell-Justice. As a student of HUSI, Olivia seeks to expand her knowledge of Ukrainian history and society and to better understand its role in world politics. She is doubly excited to get to know her classmates and meet important leaders in the field through the speaker series planned for Fridays. After the summer session, she plans to apply to PhD programs in regional studies and develop her skills as a documentary filmmaker.

Betsy Fawcett

Originally from Wisconsin, Betsy is excited to return to HUSI this summer to take Professor Dibrova’s Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge course. Betsy is a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she focused on using data to improve systems of education. Betsy’s interest in Ukraine and in education began during her time as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Kropyvyntski, Ukraine, where she taught pre-service English teachers but also became fascinated by the New Ukrainian School education reforms.

Betsy is returning to HUSI to learn Ukrainian to help continue her research in Ukrainian Education Policy. She will also be using her studies this summer as she works with a Polish non-profit to develop teacher trainings about integrating Ukrainian refugee children into Polish schools. This summer she is so excited to become more confident in a language that she has had a lot of exposure to, but not a lot of direct instruction. Betsy also looks forward to engaging with the HUSI community because she learned so much from her peers during the summer of 2020! 

Diana Gor

A child of Ukrainian immigrants, Diana is from the Russian-speaking immigrant community of South Brooklyn in NYC where the remnants of Soviet culture combined with American assimilation have prevented her from being connected to her Ukrainian roots. She recently completed her Bachelor's degree at CUNY Hunter College where she double majored in theater and English literature and earned a certificate in arts management and leadership. Her background is primarily in the theater; she has previously worked as a designer and director and presently focuses on dramaturgy and non-profit arts administration. Currently, she is part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts internship program which she will be finishing alongside Serhiy Bilenky's "Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries" course.   

Diana decided to study at HUSI this summer for various personal and professional reasons. On a personal level, she hopes this course will help her reconnect with her Ukrainian heritage as well as offer a greater understanding of her family history through Ukraine's cultural and political history. Professionally, this course will serve as a stepping stone toward graduate studies in Slavic/Ukrainian culture and literature, where she plans to explore the way Ukrainians have been represented and misrepresented in the American theatrical canon. 

“Since the launch of the Russian war in Ukraine, my interests in Ukrainian culture have only deepened, as they have for every Ukrainian in the world,” she said. “As our heritage is actively destroyed, and our friends and relatives are fleeing the country or hiding from constant shelling, learning more about Ukraine has not only become an opportunity to study a foreign country in its greater global context or reconnect with our roots, but also a responsibility to preserve our culture and protect our right to exist. I'm looking forward to meeting other Ukrainians and those interested in Ukraine, getting involved with the public event series, and hopefully making new friends!” 

Dariia Hrinchenko

Dariia earned her bachelor’s degree in Law at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Currently, she is finishing her first year of the Master’s program in International Security Studies offered jointly by the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa and the University of Trento.

"I came from eastern Ukraine and having studied in Kyiv I could acknowledge the difference in perception of national belonging, from the Ukrainian language to the political preferences," she said. "But things have to change and are already changing at an exponential rate. The world can see, and I can feel, how the consciousness and awareness of our belonging are being transformed: Ukrainians are united, loyal, free, and ready to give their lives for their motherland." 

“Ukraine is my homeland. It is my soul and my everything,” she added, noting that the current generation of policymakers, as well as future reformers, face the challenge of guiding Ukraine’s development in all spheres to avoid collapse.

She believes the course “Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine” will help her navigate the rapid changes in Ukraine, understand the unexpected and destructive events related to the war, and have a fuller view of Ukraine that will ultimately help her in her career and education. She looks forward to hearing different points of view about Ukraine and its place in the world, discovering the strongest and weakest points, and building a sense of which areas to focus on.

In addition to studying at HUSI, Dariia plans to volunteer abroad this summer.

Alex Jackson

Alex is a Californian living in Cambridge, MA, and an incoming Harvard PhD student studying Eastern European and Eurasian history. He is especially interested in Soviet nationalisms and internationalisms, and the tensions within the Soviet state between self-determination and Russian nationalism.

Alex is studying the Ukrainian language this summer in order to read Soviet Ukrainian writers and understand Ukrainians' relationships with the Soviet state and other constituent republics.  He wrote his Master’s thesis on Soviet support for an independent state in the American South for areas with a Black majority. “In my thesis research, I noticed that a disproportionate number of proponents of this cause were Ukrainian,” he said. “This, along with having lived in Odessa for a few months, fostered my desire to read the writings of Ukrainian intellectuals and politicians and learn how they understood the situation of Ukrainian national consciousness within the Soviet Union.”

Anna Lordan

Anna is starting a new position as Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian at Oberlin College this summer. In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she is designing a course on bearing witness to conflict in literature and film. The course was inspired by the war diary of contemporary Ukrainian writer and photographer Yevgeniia Belorusets. The course will also include work by Serhiy Zhadan, Marianna Kiyanovska, Lyuba Yakimchuk, and Andrei Kurkov, as well as films by Irina Tsilyk, the Mariupol collective of independent filmmakers FreeFilmers, and others. The course will explore ways in which writers and filmmakers as well as ordinary people are bearing witness to the war. 

At HUSI, Anna is taking the “Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge” course with Professor Dibrova. She is excited for the opportunity to build her Ukrainian language skills, to be able to read the texts that will feature in the course in the original Ukrainian.

Anna is also looking forward to being part of — and learning from — a community of scholars and researchers working on Ukraine.

Katarina (Kat) Mazur

Katarina (Kat) is a multidisciplinary artist, vocalist, and harpist and M.A. Music Composition student Wesleyan University. Her focus lies in an intuitive, spirited, spontaneous creative practice. Drawing upon her Ukrainian heritage, her work often refers to her Ukrainian-ness through traditional song, decoration, and dance.

As a student of the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute, she hopes to bring greater intention and context to her creative engagement with Ukrainian culture through coursework on “Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Century,” as well as “Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine.”

Liza Menshikova

Currently displaced from Kharkiv to Lviv, Liza is a student at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, majoring in Philosophy, and an alumna of the Ukrainian Leadership Academy. Currently, she is a content writer in a startup-mobile app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy and philosophy to help people improve their lives.

She is looking forward to exploring the history of Ukraine through the history of its cities in “Tradition and Modernity,” noting that Ukraine’s cities are quite different and have to be explored as independent units. She also appreciates the inclusion of movies in the syllabus as an effective tool for understanding Ukraine. 

“Since the 24th of February, I haven’t reflected on everything that’s happened during the full-scale Russian invasion, and it’s always painful to recall the years under the Soviet terror,” she said. “The course ‘Ukraine in the World' will be a personal challenge for me, but I also expect to explore topics that are strongly connected to the orientation of my graduation work next year, where I plan to overview the freedom of conscience under the prism of the centuries-long Russian-Ukrainian relationship.” 

She values the opportunity to see Ukraine through the varied perspectives of her classmates, including those with an outsider’s perspective.

“I love exploring every detail of Ukraine,” she added. “My homeland never gets tired of surprising me.”

Aliide Naylor

Aliide NaylorAliide is a returning HUSI student based in London, UK. Having taken Volodymyr Dibrova’s language course last year, this year she will be studying “Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine” with Serhiy Bilenky. She hopes to deploy her developing Ukrainian language skills to assess a variety of historical sources which may shed light on the Ukraine of the late 19th and 20th centuries. “Understanding Ukrainian history has never been more vital; history has long been a battleground, selectively deployed and manipulated by bad actors in attempts to justify present-day aggression,” she explained.

Aliide has continued to work as a freelance journalist, editor and translator over the past year, contributing regularly to The Times (of London) and the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) journal Europe’s Edge. Given the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, she hopes to form further connections in a community of individuals who care deeply about the region and who have been similarly affected – directly or indirectly – by Russia’s aggressive actions towards its neighbor(s).

Isabella Palange

Isabella just finished her third year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying in the Slavic Languages and Literature Ph.D. program. After receiving her B.A. in Folklore and Mythology with a focus on the Russian-speaking world at Harvard College in 2016, she spent time in both Russia and Kazakhstan before beginning her graduate studies in literature. Isabella is excited to start preliminary dissertation research this summer, which will directly engage with both Russian- and Ukrainian-language sources, focusing on the peasant class and conceptualizations of the nation in the Russian Empire in the 19th century and will blend together the study of literature with her background in folklore studies. “As the Russian Empire expanded westward, writers and scholars were experiencing a renewed interest in the histories of these lands, from the time of Kyivan Rus’ onward,” she noted. “For this reason, interpretations of folk tradition, identity, and nationhood from this time period should necessarily involve Ukrainian sources.”

With this project in mind, Isabella will be taking "Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge." “I am looking forward to advancing my proficiency in reading Ukrainian because I know it will open up an entirely new world of source material for my research," she explained. Isabella is excited to use this knowledge to delve into the folk and cultural history of Ukraine. Outside of the classroom, she is looking forward to connecting with other members of the 2022 Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute and attending the extracurricular events that the program has planned.

Sofia Polishchuk

Sofia is a political and cyber affairs intern at the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York City. She is also the executive director of The Children of Ukraine Foundation, which is providing emergency humanitarian relief to orphanages and grassroots organizations in Ukraine.

Sofia is an incoming law student at the George Washington University Law School specializing in national security, cybersecurity, and foreign relations law. At the same time, she will be completing an M.A. in European and Eurasian Affairs to ground her legal studies in a regional framework.

Sofia holds a B.A. with the highest distinction in International Studies from Fordham University. Her undergraduate research was focused on Russian disinformation campaigns in Ukraine and the United States during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sofia’s interest in Eastern European security and emerging technology stems from her Ukrainian heritage.

At HUSI, Sofia will take two courses: "Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries" and "Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine."

“The Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute offers the most rewarding environment to advance my knowledge of Ukrainian affairs and contextualize ongoing developments,” she said. “Gaining a deeper understanding of geopolitical relationships throughout history, major socioeconomic trends, and novel perspectives on regionalism will equip me with the tools necessary for multidimensional advocacy and legal analysis.” She also anticipates that answering questions of identity, ideology, local politics, and culture will supplement her American-based education with internal Ukrainian points of view.

Aside from coursework, Sofia is looking forward to the event series and discussions with her peers. She hopes to learn about the diverse backgrounds and niche expertise of her instructors and fellow students.

Edina Smaha

Edina was born and raised in a small town called Prudentópolis, located in the state of Paraná, Brazil, where 70% of the population has Ukrainian background. "Prudentópolitanias have been nurturing their ethnic identity for almost 130 years now and striving to keep their language and culture alive," she said. "I am one of them."

Edina holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Ivan Franko University of Lviv, Ukraine. Since she returned home from Ukraine, she has been contributing to her community by developing and taking part in several projects aimed at promoting the visibility of the Ukrainian language and culture in Brazil. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s in Linguistics.

Even though she recently moved to the United States, Edina maintains strong ties with her community in Brazil. "My passion for the Ukrainian language and culture transcendes boundaries, and I continue to develop my research and teach the Ukrainian language at the Brazilian-Ukrainian Central Representation (BUCR) and Center of Slavic Studies (NEES) at Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste, in Brazil, in an online format," she explained. 

"I found out about the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute from a Facebook post and became especially interested in the Ukrainian for Reading Knowledge program," Edina said. "I strongly believe that taking this course will help improve my Ukrainian language knowledge and skills, which will positively impact my teaching and, consequently, the Ukrainian community in Brazil."

Marian Smith 

Marian is taking Serhiy Bilenky’s "Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries." In addition to her role as an Upper School History Teacher, she also serves as an academic advisor to 12 vivacious and talented juniors at The Baldwin School, an independent girls' school in Bryn Mawr, PA. 

Marian holds a BA in Asian Studies from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard. Before joining the Baldwin faculty in 2020, Marian pursued a Ph.D. Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan, focusing on early modern Iranian and Central Asian history and culture. Her graduate studies afforded her many opportunities to conduct research, study foreign languages, and travel throughout Eurasia, including Russia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and India. 

In addition to teaching her year-long 9th grade Modern World History course, Marian will teach electives on the history of the Soviet Union and the Holocaust in the 2022-2023 academic year. 
She is excited to pursue coursework in modern Ukrainian history at HUSI in order to deepen her own knowledge of the subject and, hopefully, benefit the students enrolled in her history courses. 

Tamara Struk

Having previously studied public health and public policy, Tamara is taking “Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine” to learn more about how to view current events from a cultural and historic perspective.

“With Ukraine making global headlines, it is a poignant time to look deeper at the country with the guided lens of study at HURI,” she explained. She currently works in the global supply chain to help make wellness products, so she has a frontline view of how the escalated Russian aggression is having a global impact that affects commodities, materials, resources, livelihoods, and so on. Through HUSI, she expects to broaden her scope of study and augment her work and reading about the country. She is excited to connect with a community that shares an interest in Ukraine, recognizing the opportunity to share ideas.

“As a Ukrainian-Canadian, I have been taking Ukrainian language courses part-time the last few years as a way to return to my Ukrainian roots,” she said. “In light of current events, I feel a newfound pride in my heritage and seek to be more educated and thoughtful as I engage those around me to help them understand how Ukraine plays a role in today's history.” 

Jimmy Suh

Jimmy SuhBorn in Germany, raised in both Canada and South Korea, Jimin (Jimmy) is a Classical Latin and Attic Greek teacher in Cheongshim International High School in South Korea. Jimmy graduated from Yonsei University with a B.A. in French Language and Literature and an interdisciplinary degree in Comparative Literature, and from Seoul National University with a M.A. in International Relations with a thesis that explores diplomatic history in the early 20th century. 

Jimmy yields a fair command of more than 10 languages, including Ukrainian. He studied Russian in a Moscow State University preparatory course jointly run by Pushkin House in Seoul, as well as Classical Chinese for four years in Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies. With his Ukrainian language skills, he hopes to further investigate his research on intellectual and comparative history of the East and the West from the Early Modern period. Developing from his preliminary research on Nerchinsk treaty in 1689, he aims to navigate European expeditions to the East with a special emphasis on the Orthodox mission to Qing dynasty led by Ukrainian Archimandrite Hilarion Lezhaysky (Іларіон Лежайський) in the early 18th century.

At HUSI, Jimmy is taking "Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries." He looks forward to exploring the history of Jews in Odesa and looks forward to developing novel ideas to interpret Ukraine’s Jewish population as a part of global migration history. “I am planning to further engage in interactions between Korean and Jewish in Birobidzhan in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast established by Stalin in Russia in 1934,” he noted.

Sophia Tailor

Sophia was born in Lviv, Ukraine, and lives and works in the Washington, DC area. She graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA dual major in Politics, Philosophy, Economics, and Law (PPEL) and Environmental Studies. Now, Sophia is an energy and environmental policy consultant for a small government affairs firm outside of DC. She also volunteers as a Co-President of the Arlington Sister City Association's committee paired with Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine.

Sophia noted that reducing Eastern European and Eurasian dependence on Russian oil, gas, and coal is vital to these regions' securities and futures. Her professional interest is in securing Ukraine's energy independence and bolstering its renewable energy sector to ensure its future autonomy and progress. 

At HUSI, she is taking “Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine” and “Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries.”

“HUSI offers a distinct opportunity to study Ukraine independently from mainstream academic programs,” she commented. “I am thrilled to finally learn about my native country in a scholarly community that strictly focuses on and is passionate about Ukraine.” Sophia looks forward to meeting and learning alongside other young professionals in this field, and hopes to continue working with them after the summer.

Simon Weppel

Originally from Germany, Simon is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, where he recently submitted his doctoral thesis analyzing the development of heritage preservation policy in the Soviet Union. Besides his studies of Soviet cultural history, Simon also has a longstanding interest in contemporary Ukraine, having carried out extensive fieldwork on questions of cultural heritage and memory in Dnipro and Kharkiv during his Master's degree at the University of Cambridge. 

In 2021, he worked at the Kyiv office of a German party-political foundation, from which he organized seminars with Ukrainian trade unions and civil society representatives. He said, “Working with wide sectors of the Ukrainian public - from meeting mine workers in the Donbas to discussing Ukraine’s IT sector with experts in the Carpathian Mountains - I became firmly convinced of the vibrance and resilience of Ukrainian society.” While in Ukraine, Simon also studied Ukrainian at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. 

Planning a career in foreign policy after finishing his PhD, Simon is particularly interested in Ukraine’s perspectives on joining NATO and the European Union. He is excited to widen his regional expertise by participating in the course “Ukraine in the World: Exploring Contemporary Ukraine.”

Sarah Westenburg

Sarah is currently working on her Master’s in History at the Harvard Extension School. Her primary focus is on exploring Modernity as it manifests across the various cultures in the development of nationalism, the emergence of the intelligentsia, and avant-garde movements.  She is also interested in how Art Nouveau changes and adapts to different cultures. She currently works for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division in the Freedom of Information Act Office. 

Sarah began her academic career in International Studies. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in both History and Art History from Portland State University. The History specialization is in Early Modern France and Russia with the Art History focus on Medieval and late Byzantine studies. She studied Russian for three years at PSU and has a reading knowledge of German, French and Italian.   

This summer, Sarah is taking “Tradition and Modernity in Ukraine, 19th and 20th Centuries” while developing her Master’s thesis. “It is my hope to learn more about Ukrainian history and how modernity developed within its cultural context,” she said. 

See also: HUSI