On Thursday 5 June, my wife and I boarded a train in Ivano-Frankivsk, travelled to Kyiv and then flew to London on Friday. So since then, we have been out of Ukraine. The date was chosen as we were attending our friends’ wedding in Sheffield on Saturday. Family and work commitments mean my wife will return to Ukraine for part of the summer, but for me – the author of this blog as “UA-UK Lecturer” – my time in working and living in Ukraine is almost certainly over. I started living in Ivano-Frankivsk this time around in August 2012 after getting married in Ukraine earlier that summer. I worked for four semesters at the Precarpathian National University, adding to the semester I was employed at the university in 2008.
It is over six months now since I completed my PhD at the University of Glasgow and I have spent that time applying for various lecturing and research positions around the world. With a doctorate in something fairly obscure and interdisciplinary, so on postwar Polish social history (if you want to know, the title of my thesis is Peasants, Professors, Publishers and Censorship: Memoirs of Rural Inhabitants of Poland’s Recovered Territories (1945-c.1970)), and with the current climate in British academia especially, where the arts and humanities are being denigrated, then finding a job or a research post is not easy. Of the ten or so posts I have applied for, there have been over one hundred applications for one post and over fifty for another. I didn’t realise there were so many unemployed or underemployed specialists in the Central and East European region.
Today, my wife and I attended a very interesting one-day symposium hosted at the University of Warwick by scholars working on Belarus and Ukraine by and large in culture and language studies. The aim was to seek to develop projects and ideas for promoting the study of these countries beyond the social sciences and within the British academic context. While Russian and even, to some extent, Polish studies are seen as successful in attracting students and funding (Polish and Czech studies have faced struggles, though) Ukrainian and Belarusian studies have been overshadowed. And the problems discussed today were indicative of the difficulties facing young scholars in the arts and humanities, and particularly Slavonic and East European area studies: there is a lack of undergraduates coming into the field and this affects job opportunities and ultimately funding opportunities, while research funds are, anyway, harder to come by in the current environment where profits come before learning and cultural needs. Scholars working in Britain will, then, continue to face the difficult of how to represent these countries, their people and their cultures through a paradigm that is not dominated by questions of protest and opposition or by these countries being objects of Russian and Western policy.
And so, anyway, I plan to spend the summer in Britain applying for more posts and seeking to make ends meet. The question now is what to do with this blog. It seems to have built up a fairly decently-sized readership, producing some debate and dialogue. It is also something that is read more widely than anything that I have published so far in the academic sphere and, in all probability, will have a wider readership than anything I will write in future.
I am open to suggestions from readers for how to continue the blog, if at all. I have some ideas and materials collected during my time in Ivano-Frankivsk for posts that I will develop as and when possible over the coming weeks. I will keep an eye on the local news from Ivano-Frankivsk, but I don’t plan on producing news summaries. I might comment on any relevant events, although it is not really worthwhile doing so extensively without experiencing at first hand events, their consequences or responses to them.
So, your author is still here and active on this blog, but it is likely to transform over time into something different to the chronicle of the revolutionary, the political, the everyday and the culinary that it has been so far.
Thank you all for reading, from the handful of individuals who clicked on to the first posts to the hundreds who now find their way to the most recent posts. And I hope to provide more inspiration, information or infuriation in the weeks and months to come.