In a virtual symposium held on December 7, 2023, The International Center orchestrated a powerful discussion, delving into the heart of Indiana’s response to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The panel, comprised of four distinguished professionals from varying sectors actively engaged in supporting Ukraine, provided a comprehensive view of the state’s collective efforts. Moderated by Sarah Phillips of IU-Bloomington, the insightful webinar unfolded on Zoom from 12:00-1:00 pm EST, uniting minds and perspectives to address the ongoing crisis.
Svitlana Melnyk: Nurturing Educational Initiatives
Svitlana Melnyk, a distinguished professor hailing from IU-Bloomington, cast a luminous spotlight on the critical role of educational initiatives in shaping Indiana’s response to the Ukrainian crisis. Melnyk’s academic acumen and dedication were evident as she shared IU-Bloomington’s proactive approach, emphasizing collaborative programs and a wealth of academic resources aimed at supporting Ukraine. Her insights underscored the transformative power of education in fostering resilience and understanding during challenging times. By detailing the university’s commitment to educational outreach, Melnyk illuminated the potential for learning institutions to be catalysts for positive change, not only within the academic realm but in the broader landscape of international relations.
Jessica Neeb-Smith: Fostering Community Inclusivity
Jessica Neeb-Smith, an instrumental early literacy specialist at the Indianapolis Public Library, brought a warm and community-centered perspective to the panel. With a passion for inclusivity, Neeb-Smith highlighted the library’s commitment to embracing diversity by incorporating Ukrainian into bilingual storytimes. Her emphasis on the potency of literature as a tool for connection resonated deeply, underscoring its ability to foster a sense of belonging. By making the library a hub for shared experiences, she showcased the profound impact community spaces can have in uniting people from diverse backgrounds. Neeb-Smith’s dedication to fostering inclusivity exemplifies the potential for cultural institutions to serve as bridges that connect communities and promote understanding.
Svitlana Ramer: Global Development Perspectives
Svitlana Ramer, a seasoned professional affiliated with Development Alternatives International, brought a panoramic global perspective to the discussion. Her insights transcended geographical boundaries, providing a nuanced understanding of international development efforts responding to the Ukrainian crisis. Ramer’s expertise shed light on the interconnected nature of global responses, emphasizing the significance of collective action in addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by the invasion. By highlighting the global dimensions of the crisis, she underscored the importance of fostering international collaboration and solidarity as integral components of an effective response to complex global challenges.
Olga Vakulenko: Personal Narratives of Resilience
Representing the Burmese American Community Institute, Olga Vakulenko infused the discussion with the raw authenticity of personal narratives. Sharing her journey since arriving in the United States in 2022, Vakulenko vividly illustrated the challenges and triumphs of individuals directly impacted by the Ukrainian invasion. Her story not only added a poignant human touch to the conversation but also served as a powerful reminder of the resilience that emerges in the face of adversity. By sharing personal narratives, Vakulenko brought to light the human side of the crisis, encouraging empathy and understanding among the audience. Her contributions exemplified the transformative potential of personal stories in fostering a deeper connection and appreciation for the diverse experiences within our communities.
Love Lee: Embracing Ukrainian Art
Love Lee, our Community Outreach and Engagement Intern and a current student at Butler University, hails from Ukraine. Her international background has ignited a passion for understanding global issues and fostering cross-cultural dialogue. Currently, she delves into the analysis of Ukrainian poetry, aiming to unravel the profound cultural expressions that encapsulate the spirit of resilience and identity in the face of challenging times. Through this exploration, she seeks to provide unique insights into the poetic narratives that echo the sentiments of a nation grappling with adversity. The poem selection below is a portion from “My Testament” (1845):
When I am dead, bury me
In my beloved Ukraine,
My tomb upon a grave mound high
Amid the spreading plain,
So that the fields, the boundless steppes,
The Dnieper’s plunging shore
My eyes could see, my ears could hear
The mighty river roar.
Read Love’s full poetry analysis here.
Moving Forward Together
As we reflect on the diverse perspectives offered by each panelist, it is clear that Indiana’s response is multifaceted and deeply rooted in collaboration. The insights shared during this webinar open doors for community engagement. Whether through educational support, community programs, global initiatives, or personal narratives, each of us can contribute to the ongoing efforts to support Ukraine. Let’s stand united, informed, and compassionate, embodying the strength that comes from diverse voices working towards a shared goal.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the panelists—Svitlana Melnyk, Jessica Neeb-Smith, Svitlana Ramer, and Olga Vakulenko—for generously sharing their perspectives and expertise. Special thanks to Sarah Phillips for skillfully moderating the discussion. The International Center’s webinar not only shed light on Indiana’s response but also emphasized the power of collective action and unity in times of global challenges. Let this be a stepping stone for continued dialogue, understanding, and support for Ukraine.
Watch the full webinar below:
By: Grace Bland, Marketing & Communications Manager | Love Lee, Community Outreach & Engagement Intern | Amelie Zirnheld, Marketing & Communications Intern