‘Writing the War in Ukraine’: A student-created digital exhibition of Ukrainian poetry and songs

Author: Keith Sayer

Writing The War In Ukraine Web 1080x

The Nanovic Institute for European Studies announces the launch of a digital exhibition of Ukrainian poetry and songs, along with responses from eight undergraduate students from the University of Notre Dame and Ukrainian Catholic University. The result of a 2023 summer research project organized by the Nanovic Institute, this online exhibition, titled “Writing the War in Ukraine,” also includes selected oil paintings from Ukrainian artist Kateryna Kosianenko’s “Victory” collection. These works were chosen to complement the themes discussed in each piece. The day of the project’s release, September 8, coincides with International Literacy Day, which is devoted to “promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies.”

“Writing the War in Ukraine” builds upon a previous student research project and art exhibit “Ukrainian Art as Protest and Resilience” released in February 2023. It also continues the conversation from the Ukraine Independence Day celebration at the University of Notre Dame on August 24. During this event, the Nanovic Institute exhibited a selection of Kosianenko’s artwork, and the program included a reading of one of the poems in the collection, “The First Letter to the Corinthians” by Artur Dron in its original Ukrainian and English translation. The release of the digital exhibition allows the Notre Dame community, scholars, and friends from the local and international communities to continue to elevate Ukrainian responses to war.



Writing the War in Ukraine

A summer 2023 student research project

Describing the significance of this project, Sofiia Dobko, a 2023 graduate of Ukrainian Catholic University, writes in her introduction,

“It is so out of the order of our usual way of being that any conceptual representation of the war seems incapable of doing justice to the truth, to lived experience. This is where poetry comes to the rescue. Like any genuine art, it is not meant to represent reality or explain it. It does not invite its addressee to engage in an interpretation but acts upon the person and makes one see more, hear more, feel more.”

Abigail Lewis, director of undergraduate studies and postdoctoral research associate at the Nanovic Institute, adds, “In the context of the war in Ukraine, war has demanded the emergence of a particular vocabulary and an immediacy of language that can testify directly to the reality of war experiences.”

Clemens Sedmak, director of the Nanovic Institute and professor of social ethics at the Keough School of Global Affairs, reflects upon the project, saying, “We at the Nanovic Institute invite all to encounter these written works by Ukrainian artists and responses by students from both Notre Dame and Ukrainian Catholic University. Paired with the ‘Ukrainian Art as Protest and Resilience’ project, it allows for a multi-modal way to understand the human experience of war in Ukraine.”

Student Researchers:

Ukrainian Catholic University

  • Andriana Opryshko
  • Yuliia Sokolenko
  • Halyna Tuziak
  • Bohdana Yakobchuk

The University of Notre Dame

  • Lindsay Burgess
  • Anna Gazewood
  • Abigail Keaney
  • Jake Miller

Project Leaders:

  • Sofiia Dobko
  • Abigail Lewis
  • Gráinne McEvoy

Special thanks to Kateryna Kosianenko for graciously allowing her artwork to be featured throughout the digital exhibition and to Taras Dobko, rector of Ukrainian Catholic University, for recommending her artwork and attaining permission to use it. Special thanks also to Askold Melnyczuk, Julie Morrissy, and Darina Sikmashvili for meeting with the students in this project and sharing their expertise.

Originally published by Keith Sayer at nanovic.nd.edu on September 08, 2023.