Professor Nataliya Torkut, Head of the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre, and Professor Maya Harbuzyuk, from Ivan Franko National University, will take centre stage at the annual birthday celebrations on Saturday 22nd April.
Both academics are unfurling a Ukrainian flag during the birthday parade through the town centre, and Professor Torkut will also be giving the toast to the immortal memory of Shakespeare at the birthday lunch.
It is incredibly important for us to be in Stratford this weekend, and it is a great honour to be featured in the parade. I am delighted to be amongst people who were some of the first ones to offer support and practical help during the first days of the full-scale Russian invasion.Professor Nataliya Torkut, Head of the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre
This will be the first time the two will have left Ukraine since Russia invaded in February last year. Since the start of the war, Professor Torkut has been continuing her work running the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre, hosting online seminars, and taking part in academic events, often from bomb shelters.
The Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre has also been collaborating with Shakespeare-focussed theatre company, Flute Theatre, on a project exploring how Shakespeare can be used to support Ukrainian refugees with autistic children. Flute Theatre artistic director, Kelly Hunter, MBE, Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre member Dariia Lazaremko, who led this project, have also been engaging with Ukrainian mental health professionals to use theatre to help people cope with war-related trauma.
Professor Harbuzyuk has been collaborating with the Shakespeare Institute to open accredited online courses offered by the Institute to Ukrainian students.
Professor Torkut said: “It is incredibly important for us to be in Stratford this weekend, and it is a great honour to be featured in the parade. I am delighted to be amongst people who were some of the first ones to offer support and practical help during the first days of the full-scale Russian invasion, particularly Professor Michael Dobson and the team at The Shakespeare Institute.
“We would like to express our gratitude to the Government of the United Kingdom for their help with the war effort, and to people across the UK who have been supporting Ukraine on different levels, from hosting refugees to donating money to Ukrainian causes.
“Our work with global Shakespearean academic colleagues is crucial while the war is ongoing. This intellectual volunteering has included delivering lectures, taking part in panel discussions and supporting the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre’s competition for Shakespeare student research and creative projects.”
Professor Harbuzyuk said: “I have known Professor Michael Dobson through the work of the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre since 2018 when he visited Ukraine. During that visit, we attended five different Ukrainian Shakespeare performances. That relationship and the work that emerged from that visit have proved more valuable than ever. It is extremely important for Ukrainians to have their voices heard during wartime, and through the vibrant and talented theatre community in Ukraine, the world can hear it. It is thanks to the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, that it has become possible to put Ukraine at the heart of the Shakespeare birthday celebrations this weekend.”
The visit has been made possible thanks to the longstanding relationship between the Shakespeare Institute and the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre, and by the University of Birmingham’s twinning relationship with Ivan Franko National University in Lviv.
Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Professor Michael Dobson said: “I am delighted to welcome Nataliya and Maya to the Shakespeare Institute, and proud that they will remain Honorary Senior Research Fellows even after their return to the war next week. Nobody has done more to remind the world of the importance of culture in general, and of Shakespearean drama in particular, than has the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre.”