September 11, 2015

On the frontlines of scholarship: Shevchenko Scientific Society elects president, board


NEW YORK – At the general meeting of the Shevchenko Scientific  Society in the U.S.A., which took place on May 16 in the society’s lecture hall in New York, developments in Ukraine, where Russian aggression continues, and the bicentennial of the birth of Taras Shevchenko were at the forefront of reports and discussions.

Society President George Grabowicz, members of the board for the past three-year term, and the heads of the Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington chapters reported on their work.

The participants honored the memory of society members who had passed away during the past three-year period with a moment of silence. The meeting also greeted 61 new members, who had been accepted during that time. The members in attendance chose Vitaly Chernetsky to chair the meeting. Leonid Rudnytzky, president of the World Council of Shevchenko Scientific Societies, read a greeting from that organization.

In his report to the membership, Prof. Grabowicz outlined the society’s chief accomplishments. In particular, he reported on the Shevchenko Jubilee Project on the 200th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The society president noted that during the past term, and especially in 2014 and the current year, the society’s initiatives had taken place “in an extraordinary political context, under conditions of armed aggression against the Ukrainian state.”

The Russian war against Ukraine, he continued, was being waged with powerful informational as well as military resources. Hence, countering attempts to discredit Ukraine by word and by idea had taken on unprecedented significance. In this dimension, the Shevchenko Society’s scholars are also on the front, and every high-quality scholarly publication strengthens the spirit of resistance against the invaders.

Among the society’s recent achievements, Prof. Grabowicz mentioned the publication of a facsimile edition of Taras Shevchenko’s “Haidamaky,” his own monograph on that poem and a bibliographic study by Oles Fedoruk on the poem’s first edition, as well as the first of two volumes on Shevchenko criticism. Other studies on Shevchenko by Oleksander Boron, Viktor Dudko,  and Prof. Grabowicz have also appeared, while others are ready for publication. In 2014, the society sponsored two New York conferences on Shevchenko. The first volume of a new series of the society’s “Zapysky” (Proceedings) will soon be published, while work continues on the third volume of the Encyclopedia of the Ukrainian Diaspora. In 2014, the society participated in organizing a Shevchenko exhibit at The Ukrainian Museum.

Prof. Grabowicz also pointed out some of the society’s weaknesses, such as relations between the central offices and the regional chapters, and the uneven activity of its scholarly sections. The society’s website still needs to be renewed. Ties with other scholarly organizations should be intensified.

Among the other reports was that of First Vice-President Halyna Hryn, who detailed the society’s Shevchenko jubilee commemoration, including the concert at Merkin Hall in the fall of 2014. She mentioned the need for strategic planning for the next five to 10 years.

Scholarly Secretary Anna Procyk stressed the importance of supporting Ukraine in a time of war, for example by supporting a film project on the Maidan and on the subsequent military operations in eastern Ukraine. Dr. Procyk discussed the participation of the historical-philosophical section in international conferences, and praised the contributions of non-Ukrainians such as Timothy Snyder to Ukrainian studies. Looking ahead, she urged timely preparation for the upcoming centennial of the Ukrainian Republic (1917-2017).

Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair Natalia Honcharenko presented a financial report and suggested formulation of development and fund-raising plans. The creation of a new website, she pointed out, would help in these initiatives.

Dr. Myroslava Znayenko discussed the work of the library and archive, citing the detailed report by the chairman of the library committee, Jurij Dobczansky. In particular, she noted the need to modernize the library’s electronic catalogue.

Roman Samulyak of the physics and mathematics section questioned whether scholarly publications are an appropriate criterion for full membership of engineers, whose scientific achievements are not always reflected in published form. In his report, he also noted that his section supports annual competitions for young mathematicians in Ukraine.

The director of administration, Dr. Vasyl Lopukh, reported on the work of the society’s administration, the press committee and the computer committee. He praised the society’s progress in strengthening community ties. Dr. Lopukh also discussed the society’s website and database. Vasyl Makhno, who heads the publications committee, announced the forthcoming publication of a series of memoirs based on archival records. Committee chairmen Oleh Wolowyna, Vitaly Chernetsky, Oleksander Luzhnytsky and Virko Baley also spoke.

During the lengthy discussion, attorney Askold Lozynskyj called for a firm response to anti-Ukrainian propaganda and closer cooperation among the various Shevchenko Scientific Societies throughout the world. Several other members took up these themes. Attorney Andrij Szul outlined some legal issues concerning the society’s status as a non-profit corporation, stressing the need for community outreach.

As head of the auditing committee, the society’s previous president, Dr. Orest Popovych, called upon the members present to vote their approval of the administration’s activity over the past three years. This was done. Dr. Lopukh, head of the elections committee, conducted a tally of the votes for the next three-year term, which in accordance with procedure were cast by secret ballot. He then announced that Prof. Grabowicz had been re-elected president, along with the new board that had been proposed to the membership.

In his closing remarks, the re-elected president raised the question of how the Shevchenko Society should react to the political events which are so vital to Ukraine. In Prof. Grabowicz’s view, the society’s calling is to create an appropriate social atmosphere in which each member, acting as a scholar, can provide a quick public response to groundless accusations or false invectives. This kind of engagement will have a long-term strategic effect.

Thanking the board and membership for their accomplishments as well as their constructive criticism, which should be seen as a stimulus to greater efforts, the newly elected president called for new scholarly projects. These, along with technical improvements such as the transition to electronic media, will require long and patient effort.