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 is 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.

There’s a flickr page with more photos, and a nice article (in Ukrainian however) here.

I know that they are planning more events in the future, in Chicago and other cities with Ukrainian communities. If you’re interested, they have a facebook page and a google group.

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.

Unity & Collaboration

I was invited to speak at a one-day conference tomorrow (Ukrainian Unity Day) in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village.

The holiday of Ukrainian Unity is celebrated annually on the day of Reunification Act declaration of the Ukrainian National Republic and West Ukrainian National Republic, held in 1919. Officially, Ukraine Unity Day (Den’ Sobornosti) is celebrated since 1999.

I was contacted a few weeks ago by Daria Kaleniuk, a Fulbright scholar from Ukraine studying in Chicago. She and several other Ukrainian students had decided to organize Zlukacamp. This from their website:

ZlUKACAMP is a barcamp-conference, where Ukrainian students in the USA and Ukrainian Diaspora will unite efforts to search the ways for Ukraine to overcome the economic and political crisis. Conference will be held in the format of a barcamp, where every participant can become a speaker.

I’m excited to be a part of the event, looking at ways to bring the Ukrainian and Ukrainian American communities together. My own talk will focus on:

  • Preserving and sharing Ukrainian culture in Diaspora Literature
  • Magic realism as an exploration of the immigrant experience

With an impressive lineup of speakers, all the topics look fascinating and engaging. A sneak peek:

  • How diaspora managed to preserve the Ukrainian heritage in a society that called itself a “melting pot.”
  • Social Scientific Research on Ukraine: Why we should get involved
  • USA/USA program: raising new leadership in Ukraine and promoting Ukrainian language through “Word a Day” project
  • The strategy of return to Ukraine
  • Perspectives and Initiatives of Ukrainian Student Movement in State of Illinois as an origin and USA in general
  • Why and How Ukrainian students in the USA can be involved in projects of Diaspora
  • Crimean Tatar people. Who are they? History, deportation, struggle for life, and current situation. Story of one family.
  • The need and value of archaeological researches in Ukraine

There will also be group work and a dinner gathering. As you know, I really appreciative collaborative work, and I look forward to talking with the students who put this event together and will be in attendance.

I’m not sure where this will lead, but the possibilities are exciting!

If you’re interested in attending, it’s not too late! They will be registering participants at the Ukrainian-American Federal Credit Union Selfreliance (2332 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60622) at 9:30am on Saturday, January 22. The event with be Ukrainian/English (I’ll be speaking in English.)

I hope to see some familiar faces there!