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Full Ukrainian Summer School team.
Full Ukrainian Summer School team.

Ukrainian academics and students have travelled to Birmingham to take part in a summer school on their country’s language, history, and culture – one of the first events of its kind in the UK.

Ivan Franko National University of Lviv (IFNUL) and the University of Birmingham are co-hosting the two-week summer school with seven Ukrainian academics and three students joining British participants.

Working in partnership with Birmingham allows IFNUL to continue its long-running summer school programme, which is not possible given the current conflict in Ukraine - maintaining the Lviv institution’s tradition of teaching Ukrainian language and culture to non-Ukrainians.

IFNUL and the University of Birmingham signed a twinning agreement in June last year, demonstrating their shared values during the current invasion of Ukraine. 

The ‘Unlocking Ukraine: A Journey through Language, Culture, and History’ summer school will help to:

  • Raise awareness of Ukraine’s culture and context to a broader audience including University of Birmingham students, members of the public, and Eastern European communities in the Midlands;
  • Provide an opportunity to study a language rarely offered at UK institutions, yet crucial for interpreting the war through Ukrainian, rather than Russian, eyes;
  • Unite Ukrainian scholars and cultural representatives with University of Birmingham experts to share research and expertise; and
  • Support the City of Birmingham’s sanctuary mission by working with local stakeholders to build a culture of hospitality and welcome.

Language tutor Oleksandra Antoniv (Senior Lecturer of Ukrainian Applied Linguistics in the Faculty of Philology, IFNUL) commented: It is very valuable for Ukrainian researchers to be heard in the world. The summer school in Birmingham is a unique opportunity, together with British researchers, to open the multifaceted world of the Ukrainian language and culture to those who want to destroy stereotypes that have been imposed for a long time.

“I am very impressed by the stories of the participants who opened their hearts to Ukrainians, opened their homes to Ukrainians and support Ukraine in this difficult time. And these human contacts became a motivation to study Ukraine.”

Academic Olena Haleta (Professor of Literary Theory and Comparative Literary Studies, IFNUL) commented: “The summer school, organized by the University of Birmingham in cooperation with the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, is a unique opportunity to build a direct dialogue between our academic communities and, more broadly, our societies. This is an opportunity to convey two important messages: that an exhausting and destructive war continues in Ukraine today because of the Russian invasion, but that Ukraine today is not only a war, but also a rich cultural and intellectual tradition, modern social and creative initiatives, and hard work for the future. We are sincerely grateful to our Birmingham colleagues and summer school participants for their openness and willingness to develop mutual understanding and share common values.”

The summer school is a joint venture between IFNUL academics and the University of Birmingham’s Institute for German and European Studies (IGES) and Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies CREES, and the two universities’ international offices.

Our diverse community of learners have come together to explore, appreciate, and celebrate the richness of culture in all its forms. We appreciate the curiosity of the participants and the will to expand their horizons. We are also convinced that this school will lay the foundation for further comprehensive cooperation for the development of education and cultural exchange.

Liubov Mykiievych, Andriana Terekhovska and Anhelina Berezhnenko, Students contributors, IFNUL

Students contributors, Liubov Mykiievych, Andriana Terekhovska and Anhelina Berezhnenko commented: “Ukrainian culture is a huge treasure with many traditions, rich language, art, and cultural heritage. We believe this summer school should bring wonderful memories, transformative experiences, and valuable knowledge that its participants can gain throughout the enriching program. Our diverse community of learners have come together to explore, appreciate, and celebrate the richness of culture in all its forms. We appreciate the curiosity of the participants and the will to expand their horizons. We are also convinced that this school will lay the foundation for further comprehensive cooperation for the development of education and cultural exchange.

"We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the organisers, students, teachers, and staff who contributed to the successful beginning of the summer school. Their enthusiasm, commitment, and open-mindedness brought together an exceptional learning community that will now have the opportunity of personal growth and intellectual discovery."

The summer school also features experts on Ukraine from across the UK, as well as Birmingham-based art institution Centrala - a non-profit organisation supporting Central and Eastern European migrants in Birmingham since 2009.

By raising awareness and fostering understanding of Ukrainian culture and heritage across communities, the summer school complements Centrala’s aim to improve integration and community cohesion, and strengthen the City of Birmingham’s sanctuary pledge to build a society where Central and Eastern European communities are welcomed and integrated.

The summer school also showcases the University of Birmingham’s unique collection of archaeological items from the Kherson region, housed on campus in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Since Russia’s invasion in February last year, interest in Ukraine and its rich culture has surged to unprecedented levels in the UK. The summer school offers participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Ukrainian language and the complexity of Ukraine’s history and culture.

Professor Adam Tickell, University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Tickell commented: “We welcome our Ukrainian guests to the University of Birmingham for a summer school experience which promises to provide participants with a deeper appreciation of Ukraine and its people.

“Since Russia’s invasion in February last year, interest in Ukraine and its rich culture has surged to unprecedented levels in the UK. The summer school offers participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Ukrainian language and the complexity of Ukraine’s history and culture.”

The summer school’s extensive and diverse curriculum includes an exploration of modern Ukrainian theatre, histories of displacement, and the intricacies of multiculturalism in Ukraine. Participants can choose to take part full-time, which includes engaging language-learning sessions, or part-time for those who prefer a more flexible schedule and do not wish to have language training.