Shevchenko Society celebrates 130th anniversary with conference in N.Y.

by Dr. Orest Popovych

NEW YORK - On December 11, 1873, in Austrian-ruled Lviv, Ukrainian scholars and community leaders from both sides of the Austrian-Russian border founded the Shevchenko Society. The scholarly society was born out of the necessity to preserve and promote the Ukrainian language and literature, which was possible under the relatively benign rule of the Austro-Hungarian empire at a time when in the Russian-ruled part of Ukraine Ukrainian literature was outlawed by the tsarist regime.

By 1893 the society had expanded its scope to assume the role of a de facto Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, adding "scientific" to its name. Associated with the early period of the society, known by its Ukrainian acronym as NTSh, were such pillars of Ukrainian scholarship and literature as Oleksander Konysky, Oleksander Ohonovsky, Oleksander Barvinsky, Vasyl Simovych, Ivan Puluy, Ivan Franko and Mykhailo Hrushevsky, to name just a few.

On December 13, 2003 almost to the day 130 years later, the pillars of today's NTSh from all over the world convened at the society's American headquarters in New York for a celebration of this jubilee, starting with a roundtable discussion of "The Future of NTSh."

Sharing their vision of the role of the society were: Dr. Leonid Rudnytzky, president of the World Council of NTSh, president of the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (known by its Ukrainian acronym as NANU); Dr. Daria Darewych, president of NTSh in Canada; Dr. Oleh Romaniv, president of NTSh in Ukraine, secretary-general of the World Council of NTSh, and a member of NANU; and Dr. Larissa Zaleska Onyshkevych, president of NTSh in America. The panel was chaired by Dr. Roman Voronka, professor of mathematics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Dr. Rudnytzky bemoaned the negative image of contemporary Ukraine in Western Europe and urged fellow scholars to work to remedy such impressions through lectures and publications that would promote and promulgate Ukrainian culture as part of the European heritage.

Dr. Darewych outlined the tasks of NTSh in Canada, which she sees as uniting Ukrainian scholars and scientists, conducting scholarly conferences and informing the Ukrainian community. She proposed the creation of a website common to all NTSh branches, which would include an address list of the membership.

Dr. Romaniv traced the 130-year history of NTSh in its role as a Ukrainian academy of sciences, which laid the foundation for the discipline of Ukrainian studies and has made an invaluable contribution to the self-identification of Ukrainians. The contributions of NTSh are by no means limited to philology, said Dr. Romaniv, as its scholars and scientists have developed Ukrainian terminology in various fields of the humanities and sciences.

The fact that today we no longer have to fight for the recognition of the Ukrainian language, as did the founders of NTSh, and that independent Ukraine does have a National Academy of Sciences, does not absolve NTSh from its historic role, continued Dr. Romaniv. In today's Ukraine, Russification is rampant, Ukrainian history is being falsified, prevalent scientific terminology remains essentially Russian, all things Ukrainian are being denigrated. Therefore, NTSh in Ukraine, where there are 15 chapters, and NTSh in the diaspora have no moral right to abandon its efforts in the promotion of Ukrainian studies and publications, concluded Dr. Romaniv.

A view from the NTSh in America was offered by Dr. Onyshkevych. While the society's founders had to prove the very existence of the Ukrainian language as a legitimate means of scholarly communication, the task now is to strive for the purification of Ukrainian orthography, transliteration and terminology, ridding them of undue Russian and English influences, she said. There is, however, a shortage of Ukrainian philologists, which NTSh must work to remedy. NTSh scholars should exert more influence in the political arena by making use of their expertise, by offering their input through conferences and publications in world languages.

In the future, NTSh activities in America are more likely to be conducted in English, said Dr. Onyshkevych. She also expressed concern about the demographic changes within the Ukrainian American community which are likely to result in fewer grass-roots contributions to NTSh. We can only hope for major individual benefactors, concluded Dr. Onyshkevych.

The roundtable was preceded by opening remarks delivered by Dr. Onyshkevych, followed by the reading of numerous greetings received by NTSh on the occasion of its jubilee. The greetings were read by Dr. Swiatoslaw Trofimenko (University of Delaware), vice-president and learned secretary of NTSh of America.

From Ukraine, felicitations came from: Volodymyr Lytvyn, chairman of the Verkhovyna Rada; Borys Paton, president of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NANU); Valeriy Kuchinsky, Ukraine's permanent representative to the United Nations; Serhiy Pohoreltzev, Ukraine's consul general in New York, (who read his own greeting); the Institute of Literature of NANU, signed by Mykola Zhulynsky and others; the Institute of the Ukrainian Language of NANU, which sent three separate messages - from Vasyl Nimchuk, director, Orysia Demska-Kulchytska, vice-director, and from other co-workers; Hennadii Boriak, chairman of the State Committee of the Archives of Ukraine; and Veniamin Sikora, president of the Ukrainian Association for Socio-Economic Research.

Greetings to the membership of NTSh in America were conveyed in person by representatives of the other structures within NTSh: Dr. Rudnytzky (World Council of NTSh), Dr. Darewych (NTSh of Canada) and Dr. Romaniv (NTSh of Ukraine).

From the diaspora, congratulatory messages came from Bishop Basil Losten; Dr. Olexa Bilaniuk, president of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S.; Dr. Assya Humesky, president of the Association of Ukrainian University Professors; Dr. Myroslava Tomorug Znayenko, president of the American Association of Ukrainian Studies; Dr. Larissa Kyj, representing the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; Dr. Lubomyr Wynar, president of the World Scholarly Council of the Ukrainian World Congress; the Ukrainian Historical Association, signed by Dr. Lubomyr Wynar and Dr. Oleksander Dombrowsky; and Slava Rubel, chair of the World Plast Bulava.

Furthermore, written greetings were read from the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, signed by Dr. Mark von Hagen and Dr. Catherine Nepomnyashchy.

Part 2 of the program featured talks within the Shevchenko Scientific Society's scholarly sections, chaired by Dr. Roman Andrushkiw, the first vice-president of NTSh in America and professor of mathematics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The session began with two presentations of the mathematics-physics-technology section, followed by one from the medicine section. All three dealt with cutting-edge technologies, but were presented in a manner accessible to a general audience.

Dr. Lubomyr Romankiw spoke on the "Development of Magnetic Recording on Discs - Past and Future." Since 1962 Dr. Romankiw has been working at the IBM Watson Research Center, where he holds the highest scientific title - that of IBM Fellow. He is the founder and director of the electrochemical laboratory for the preparation of the magnetic reading heads, which are used in all computers. For his invention of these devices, Dr. Romankiw has received 55 patents and a multitude of awards, of which the most prestigious are the Perkin Gold Medal for chemists and the Lieberman Award for electrical engineers. He is the author of over 300 scientific papers.

Dr. Romankiw traced the evolution of magnetic reading/writing sensors, from the heavy units of the 1970 vintage to the present-day electroplated thin-film heads, which enable the storage of some 100 gigabytes of information on discs of one inch or less, having cut the cost per megabyte from $500 in 1970 to 0.01 cents today. If you use a personal computer, you can thank Dr. Romankiw for his patented inventions.

The next talk, "Fiberoptics Communication" by Dr. Andrew Chraplyvy of the Bell Labs, dovetailed with Dr. Romankiv's talk on another aspect of the miniaturization of communications equipment. Dr. Chraplyvy invented a new type of optical fibers, which are highly transparent to infrared radiation, thus enabling a significant increase in the transmission of information via the fiberoptics method. The combination of fiberoptic transmission with the miniaturized computer recording devices described by Dr. Romankiw is what determines the speed of modern transmission and retrieval of information.

Dr. Chraplyvy holds the rank of Bell Labs Fellow and is director of the fiberoptics research there. The author of many scientific articles and patents, he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the International Electrical and Electronic Engineers Society, and the Optical Society of America. Recently, the latter honored Dr. Chraplyvy with the John Tyndal Award - its highest honor.

State-of-the-art medical research was featured in the talk by Dr. Larissa Bilaniuk (University of Pennsylvania), titled "Why Does Diagnostic Magnetic Resonance Deserve a Nobel Prize?" The reference here is to the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, which was awarded for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Dr. Bilaniuk displayed a number of MRI's of the human brain and fetuses, explaining how they can be used to identify defects and guide neurosurgeons in corrective operations. An MRI can map out brain functions, monitor areas of stimulation, follow various physiological effects and even detect psychoses. Eventually, brain imaging may be able to determine whether a person is telling the truth or lying, concluded Dr. Bilaniuk.

The author of over 200 scientific articles and 50 chapters in medical books, Dr. Bilaniuk has participated in numerous medical conferences and has lectured as a visiting professor throughout Ukraine. She has conducted courses four times for the professional upgrading of physicians in Ukraine.

The section of social sciences, history and philosophy was co-chaired by Prof. Martha Trofimenko, Esq., and Dr. Taras Hunczak (Rutgers University).

Dr. Volodymyr Bandera, professor of economics at Temple University, delivered a talk titled "Russia Is Buying Up Ukraine." Basing his presentation mainly on a recent monograph by Bohdan Sikora titled "Russian Economic Expansion in Ukraine," Dr. Bandera enumerated the danger signs facing Ukraine, particularly in the energy and telecommunications sectors, where Russian capital has become increasingly dominant.

This subject was explored further in the next talk, "Single Economic Space: Consequences for Ukraine" by Katrya Vasilaki of the International Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank. Ms. Vasilaki perceived not only the obvious minuses emanating from Ukraine's membership in the SEC, but also some plusses. As positives she views the prospects of free trade and lowered tariffs with Ukraine's northern neighbor. However, she warned against the idea of a common currency with Russia, recommending instead that the hryvnia's value be fixed to the euro.

George Farion, Esq. (Odza, Gindhart, Steckiw & Farion), shared with the audience his experience with "Challenges in Researching the Subject of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen ('Sichovi Striltsi')." He displayed a number of written and photographic materials that he has uncovered in his research.

The philology section was co-chaired by Dr. Humesky (University of Michigan) and Dr. Znayenko (Rutgers University).

First to speak was Dr. Wira Selansky (Wira Wowk) of the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In her presentation "About Changes in Orthography" she warned against government interference in mandating any such changes. To improve the language situation in Ukraine, she recommended that scholars inundate Ukraine with articles on Ukrainian language and literature. At the end of the program Ms. Wowk was honored for her poetry with a ceremony that included the reading of her poems by herself and others.

Next to speak was Dr. Humesky, the director of the philology section and professor of Ukrainian and Russian literatures at the University of Michigan. Dr. Humesky has authored a multitude of articles in the fields of languages and literatures, as well as more than 30 textbooks on the Ukrainian language. In her talk she examined the question "Was Chyzhevsky a Formalist?" The reference here is to the late Dmytro Chyzhevsky, professor of Slavic languages and literatures, mainly in German universities. Dr. Humesky concluded that Chyzhevsky believed in examining literary form without ignoring the context, an approach she called synthetic analysis. We should be grateful to Chyzhevsky for his synthetic analysis of the works of Taras Shevchenko, Dr. Humesky underscored.

Lesya Kalynsky, a doctoral candidate in the field of cinematography at New York University (previously a student at the Drahomanov University in Kyiv and the University of Illinois) gave a highly specialized talk on "Yuri Andrukhovych's Prose - A Post-Modernist Phenomenon."

Last on the program was the section on arts and musicology, chaired by its director, Titus Hewryk, architect and former director of facilities development at the University of Pennsylvania.

First to speak in this section was Dr. Darewych, professor of art at York University, the author of numerous articles and monographs on the subject of art history, an editor of the English-language edition of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, former curator of several art exhibitions and a member of the governing board of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Dr. Darewych's lecture, "Kateryna Antonovych: On the 80th Anniversary of the Founding of the Ukrainian School of Visual Arts in Prague," traced the life and career of this prominent Ukrainian artist, teacher and community activist (1884-1975), which spanned Kyiv, Prague and Winnipeg, where she founded her own art school. Many examples of Ms. Antonovych's art were displayed and discussed.

Next to appear was Dr. Renata Holod, professor and former chair of the department of art at the University of Pennsylvania. A specialist in Islamic art and architecture, Dr. Holod has published numerous scholarly articles in this field and is the author, co-author or editor of nine monographs. Dr. Holod spoke about the need to expand the "Program on the Archeology of Ukraine," focusing primarily on the Black Sea region, including the Crimea.

This subject was pursued more specifically by Dr. Holod's colleague from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Oleksander Leskov, who spoke on "Ukrainian Archeological Treasures in Western Collections." Dr. Leskov referred to the thousands of gold and silver artifacts that have been uncovered in the Scythian burial mounds in Southern Ukraine and the Crimea. They all represent a common culture and should be presented to the world as Ukrainian treasures. Unfortunately, said Dr. Leskov, many of them have been sold on the black market worldwide. He showed pictures of a number of the treasures he talked about.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Leskov served as director of a number of archeological expeditions for the Institute of Archeology of Ukraine. He is the author of numerous scholarly publications in Ukrainian, Russian and German, and serves on the editorial board of the Encyclopedia of Prehistory.

The program concluded with a talk by Dr. Olenka Pevny (University of Richmond), a specialist in medieval and Byzantine art history. In 1997 Dr. Pevny worked at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, where she was involved in preparing the exposition "Glory of Byzantium" as well as the catalog for it, contributing a number of articles, including one on Kyivan Rus'. Dr. Pevny taught as a visiting professor at Columbia, Michigan and Emory universities. In her talk she analyzed the history and the architecture of the ancient St. Cyril Church in Kyiv.

In her closing remarks, Dr. Onyshkevych thanked all the speakers and participants who packed the hall for their contributions to the success of the NTSh jubilee conference and invited all to continue the celebration at a reception.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, January 4, 2004, No. 1, Vol. LXXII

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