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Dr. Myroslav Shkandrij


Unique Holodomor and Holocaust course offered at University of Manitoba

by Rhonda J. Prepes, January 15, 2013

For the first time ever the University of Manitoba is offering a unique course “Holodomor and Holocaust in Ukrainian Literature and Culture” – one that is not offered at any other university. It is being taught in the Faculty of Arts by Dr. Myroslav Shkandrij, a professor in the Slavic Studies program. The course is also listed in the Judaic Studies program.

“I was fascinated by what was written in Ukrainian literature about the 1930s and 1940s. The subject of the Holodomor and Holocaust in Ukrainian literature has never been tackled before, and I felt that there should be an opportunity to learn about it, particularly about Jewish-Ukrainian relations and how they evolved during that time,” said Dr. Shkandrij who has a Ph. D. in Slavic languages and literature from University of Toronto.

“In the late 1930s anti-Semitism was rising throughout Europe and there was some resentment towards Jews in Soviet Ukraine due to their perceived financial status and high-ranking government positions. In 1941 when the Germans invaded, the initial response by the Ukrainians towards the sight of Jews being evacuated was often a sense of relief, but that changed when Ukrainians realized what the Germans were actually doing. When the mistreatment of the Jews became apparent Ukrainian sympathies often switched, and this changed perception is recorded in the memoir literature and fiction.”

Dr. Shkandrij was Faculty of Arts professor of the year for 2010, and has been described as “a remarkable teacher, an exceptionally successful administrator, and one of the most influential and active members of the Ukrainian community in and outside Winnipeg.”

He has researched the relationship between Ukrainians and Jews in the former Soviet Union and the depiction of these two peoples in literature and the arts. He is the author of many publications about Ukraine literature, politics, art and culture, and has spoken at many conferences throughout North America.

“There are 10 students currently registered for the course which begins in January. They come from different disciplines and probably chose the course for very different reasons, based on their interests, their backgrounds, or because their curiosity was stimulated by the current discussion around the Canadian Human Rights Museum,” said Dr. Shkandrij.

“I could see connections between the Holodomor and the Holocaust. The Great Famine and a large part of the Holocaust by bullets (the shooting of the Jews in the Ukraine) actually occurred in the same place. In the literature produced in Ukraine you see that both these events were part of people’s consciousness. The same people sometimes witnessed both and the population has been deeply scarred by both events.”

“These were enormous tragedies that have taken time to be fully understood, and both have sparked a lot of denial. Over the decades there has also been reluctance to talk about them, and a resistance to looking at both in a joint framework. This course offers the possibility of examining the reasons for denial, and of discussing in an open dialogue how both events have been represented.”

Dr. Shkandrij is an author, translator, and editor of many publications dealing with Ukrainian literary history and art. His third book, Jews in Ukrainian literature: Representation and Identity contributed to a public dialogue on Jewish-Ukrainian relations and was recently nominated for the Kobzar Literary Award.

This first appeared in the Jewish Tribune

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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