Ukraine's ally in Rochester's libraries : NewsCenter
Even without context, the terse, matter-of-fact delivery of those six words holds a palpable incredulity. Zelensky began his address by delivering the news that the museum and historic home associated with 18th-century Ukrainian philosopher and poet Hryhorii Skovoroda were destroyed overnight. “As of May 7, the Russian army destroyed or damaged nearly 200 cultural heritage sites already,” reported Zelensky. The current threat to Ukrainian culture and heritage has made their preservation more important than ever. Wolodymr Pylyshenko “understood how fragile a people’s history could be,” says Miranda Mims, the Joseph N. Stewarded by the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP), the Ukrainian Rochester Collection comprises more than 100 boxes of original handwritten documents and published materials, including organization records, club minutes, family papers, memoirs, photographs, and ephemera. Pylyshenko was born in Ukraine when it was dangerous to be Ukrainian. Following his parent’s example, Pylyshenko became heavily involved in the Ukrainian-American community in and beyond Rochester. Katja Kolcio, one of Pylyshenko’s daughters, recalls waiting for her parents to return from trips to the Soviet Union. “Ukrainians who fled felt responsible for preserving their country’s intellectual and cultural heritage,” writes Kolcio, an associate professor of dance and environmental studies at Wesleyan University, in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed.
Pylyshenko worked with people in the community to preserve their family documents. Over the past three months, thousands of Ukrainians have become casualties of war. Mims: The Ukrainian Rochester Collection tells the stories of the people who immigrated to Rochester in the early 1900s and those of their descendants. We are so fortunate Mirko had the foresight to actively document and protect his community’s memory. Mims: One significant aspect is that it is rich with handwritten documents written in Ukrainian. Mims: Mirko was instrumental in helping to build the collection held by the diaspora library, which is named for the late US senator and opened in 2019. I learned about all of this in the summer of 2021, at a celebration for the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence here, in Rochester. Through an existing relationship with Tamara Denysenko, the former executive director of the Ukrainian Federal Credit Union, we began to have conversations with Nataliya Cherneshova (Director of the Department of Economic Affairs, International Cooperation, and Investments), Oleh Repan (Director of the Museum of the History of Dnipro), and Olexsandr Sanzhara (City Council Secretary), who were visiting at that time from Dnipro, Ukraine. We are hopeful that we can fully realize this partnership one day. This summer, we will begin our first translation project, spearheaded by Lev Earle, our special collections archivist.
Mims: Thanks to the ICA, in June, we celebrate International Archives Day (June 9) and Week (June 6–June 10). Archives, by design, are opportunities for understanding and reckoning with the past. Mims: Material culture is most at risk during times of conflict. The surviving records that make up the Ukrainian Rochester Collection speak to the complexity of immigrating to America and show how the Ukrainian Diaspora in Rochester came together through shared traditions, family customs, and celebrations of their identity and culture. However, times of conflict are also the times to remember that archives are records of the past. Art historian Peter Christensen has a new role as a juror advising the United Nations in its work designating UNESCO World Heritage sites. Fact-checking Putin’s claims that Ukraine and Russia are ‘one people’ Rochester historian Matthew Lenoe explains how Ukraine’s history is intertwined with Russia’s—but also with that of many other nations, empires, ethnicities, and religions. The family of Louise and Bob Slaughter is donating the late congresswoman’s official papers to the University of Rochester.
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