On February 20th in the University of Washington Faculty Club an event took place that was as welcome as it was unusual. A group representing Washington State’s Ukrainian American community, the College of Arts and Sciences (whose Development Office hosted the occasion), the Slavic Department, the REECAS Program, and the Association of Alumni and Friends of the Slavic Department gathered over lunch to publicly launch a new initiative to secure a place for Ukrainian studies in the University of Washington’s curriculum. The guest of honor was the ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Anton Buteiko, who was visiting Seattle for talks with the Boeing Company, and had spoken the day before at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Trade Development Alliance and the World Affairs Council in the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. The luncheon took place against a backdrop of paintings and sculptures by Ukrainian artists living and working in Seattle, and a musical interlude was provided by Barvinok, a trio of professional vocalists from Ukraine whose enchanting performances have been heard at recent Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations.
This occasion marks a milestone. It is the first formal public event of the Ukrainian Studies Endowment, an organization that began with an approach from Professor Eugene Lemcio of Seattle Pacific University, President of the Ukrainian American Club of Washington, and has come together over the past year with the goal of establishing the study of Ukraine at the University of Washington. The plan is first to add Ukrainian to the Slavic Department’s language offerings with an endowed lectureship, then to raise the additional funds for a tenure-track position in Ukrainian studies. This will be in fact the first wholly endowed position in Slavic studies at the University of Washington, and it will also represent an important extension of the area coverage for the REECAS Program, as well as for many of the home departments of the faculty associated with REECAS.
I have had the pleasure of working with Gene Lemcio over the last eighteen months as he has brought together representatives of the various groups that make up the Ukrainian community in Washington, and infected them with his enthusiasm for the preservation of their language and their cultural heritage. The College of Arts and Sciences has responded very positively to these efforts (we owe something here to the ice-breaking success of the Baltic Studies Endowment!), and the College Development Office has committed time and resources to the Endowment’s initial stages. All the signs suggest that the Ukrainian Endowment will reach in the next few weeks the level of funding at which a formal charter is drawn up with the University. Donors are being sought, not just in the Northwest region but nationwide, among both the Ukrainian communities in this country, and people of any background who can appreciate the importance of studying a country whose size, economic potential, and historical and cultural significance place it at the center of today’s Eastern Europe.
As a first step in the desired direction, this year the Slavic Department will be offering Ukrainian alongside Russian and Czech in its intensive Summer language program. Though it is not yet possible to add Ukrainian to the academic year curriculum, the Summer language course is a useful start to the process of building up a group of students with knowledge of the language as a clientele for future courses in Ukrainian studies.
We would be glad to hear from anyone who is interested in helping to further the Ukrainian Studies Endowment in any way. I can be contacted at 206-543-4829, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Eugene Lemcio can be reached at 206-281-2208, or by email at email@example.com.