I’m behind on my post about Zlukacamp that I attended on Saturday, January 22, in Chicago. It was a remarkable experience, and I consider myself lucky to have met this driven and passionate group of Ukrainian students.
We began with a symbolic representation of our connections to Ukraine as each participant marked the place in Ukraine where they were born or most identified with.
Truly we were “all over the map,” with our roots stretching across Ukraine. It was a fitting way to begin our talks on January 22–Ukrainian Unity Day, commemorating the declaration of unity between the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) proclaimed in Sofiyska Square in Kyiv on 22 January, 1919.
These Ukrainian students spoke eloquently about issues dear to their heart: Why do some students from Ukraine choose to remain in the US? Why do others return and what kind of support system is in place to help them to succeed? How can they work with Ukrainians in Diaspora to affect change in Ukraine?
Dr. Myron Kuropas presented the history of Ukrainian Diaspora and attempts by the Ukrainian communities to preserve their culture and traditions in America.
Several of the Ukrainian students spoke about the challenges at hand: corruption, education, expectations, and politics. There are so many obstacles for anyone who wants to make a positive change for Ukraine and her people, and these young people are aware of those challenges and continue to develop ways that they can make a difference.
I spoke about my novel, The Silence of Trees, and my own feeling of being on the threshold between two worlds: Ukrainian and American. It’s characteristic of Diaspora literature, this connection to ancestral homeland and the idea that those in Diaspora should collectively be committed to the preservation/restoration of this homeland.
Joined by the Consul General of Ukraine in Chicago, Kostiantyn Kudryk, we listened to a variety of speakers including one of the founders of Zlukacamp, Daria Kaleniuk, as they presented strategies for the future, including supporting Ukrainian students who choose to return to Ukraine, and building a team of Ukrainians and Diaspora who can work together to create projects aimed at supporting Ukraine.
Afterward, we headed over to the Ukrainian National Museum where we heard three additional speakers talk about the importance of archaeological research, the plight of the Crimean Tatar people, and the work of Ukrainian author, Andriy Gudyma.
I was inspired to be in such good company, and proud of this generation of young people coming out of Ukraine. They care deeply for Ukraine and understand that it’s going to be a long road toward improvement. Many of them seem up for the challenge and eager to collaborate with others who share their passion for helping Ukraine.
I know they welcome others who are interested in collaboration, brainstorming, and networking. I am proud to have been a part of it, and I hope to stay involved in some way.
This is a group to watch. They are capable of incredible things.