"Till we meet in Donetsk": identity and conflict. Panel discussion. 24 April 2019, 7pm

The war in Donbas laid bare the importance of identity and historic narratives presaging it, as well as how these issues are manipulated by propaganda. Due to its unique Soviet and post-Soviet history, the region proved particularly receptive to Russian propaganda narratives and became a petri-dish for special information operations on a massive scale. Whilst the post-Soviet identity was strengthened in Donbas, the Ukrainian identity in the country as a whole consolidated in the face of external aggression and the suffering caused by the war. The question of how two diverging identities will be reconciled is a pertinent one. Meanwhile, the areas of Donbas under Ukrainian control have become the target of numerous cultural as well as civil society projects, aiming to stimulate discussion about changing identities and shifting underlying values. 

Olena Styazhkina,  a Donetsk-born writer and public activist and Iryna Shuvalova, poet, translator and currently Gates Cambridge scholar at the University of Cambridge are at the forefront of these changes. They will be reflecting on the issues of identity and the role of historic narratives and culture in conflict, as well on what gets “lost in translation” when western media report on the war in Donbas, where the borderline between reality and farce is thin.

Iryna Shuvalova will share the findings of her PhD research, dedicated to the war songs of the combatants fighting on both sides of the conflict in Donbas and will offer insights on the construction of "otherness" and consolidation of diverging cultural narratives. 

DATE: Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

TIME: 7pm

VENUE: 79 Holland Park, London W11 3SW

The event will be in English and will be moderated by Ursula Woolley, Member of the Board of Trustees of Ukrainian Institute London. 

Tickets £7 (students £5). Book here

Speakers' bio: 

Olena Stiazhkina is a Ukrainian historian, prose writer and political activist. A senior researcher at the History Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, she is the author of Zhinky v istorii ukrains’koi kultury drugoi polovyny XX stolittia [Women in Ukrainian cultural history, second half of the 20th century] (2003) and Ludyna v radians’kii provintsii: Osvoennia (vid)movy [A person in Soviet province: mastering the discourse (and its rejection)] (2013), «Stygma okkupacii: okkupovani radians'ki zhinky u samobachenni 1940 rokiv” [“The stigma of occupation: the occupied Soviet women in the 1940's self-reflection"](to be published in 2019, the" Spirit and Letter "publishing house). Author of ten books of prose, among them books about the current war “Movoiu Boha” ["In God’s language"](2016),"Rozka"(2018). She was born and lived in Donetsk, worked at the Donetsk National University, since September 2014 – a displaced person / refugee, lives and works in Kyiv. Member of Ukrainian PEN.


Iryna Shuvalova is an award-winning poet, translator and scholar from Kyiv, Ukraine. She authored three poetry collections in Ukrainian, with the fourth one forthcoming in 2020. Her translations appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation and Words without Borders among others, and her own poetry has been translated into nine languages. She undertook multiple writing residencies, including the Hawthornden fellowship in 2015, and performed her poetry internationally, most recently at the Oslo International Poetry Festival. She was awarded Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize in 2012. Formerly a Fulbright scholar at Darmouth College, she is currently a PhD student and Gates Cambridge scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she also teaches. Her first book of poetry in English translation 'Pray to the Empty Wells' is due in 2019 with Lost Horse Press. Her academic research centers on the issues of identity and othering in the War in Donbas as seen through the prism of war songs.