Dartmouth students hold poetry reading with Ukrainian counterparts

Associate Professor Victoria Somoff, center, welcomes attendees to a student “warshop” on Ukraine, a collaboration between Dartmouth students in her newly-created Intensive Ukrainian class and Ukrainian students from Ternopil Ivan Puluj National Technical University, who participated via Zoom, at Dartmouth College’s Sudikoff Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. Dartmouth students worked with their Ukrainian counterparts to translate poems, prose and songs about the war into English, which they recited in both languages during the event. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Associate Professor Victoria Somoff, center, welcomes attendees to a student “warshop” on Ukraine, a collaboration between Dartmouth students in her newly-created Intensive Ukrainian class and Ukrainian students from Ternopil Ivan Puluj National Technical University, who participated via Zoom, at Dartmouth College’s Sudikoff Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. Dartmouth students worked with their Ukrainian counterparts to translate poems, prose and songs about the war into English, which they recited in both languages during the event. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus photos

Tonia Zakorchemna, second from right, a Dartmouth Student Alliance for Ukraine member from Ternopil, Ukraine, listens to students present poems in Ukrainian and English at Dartmouth College’s Sudikoff Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. Zakorchemna spoke during the event about the schools in Ukraine that were destroyed by Russian forces, which community members are working together to rebuild so their children can continue their education. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Tonia Zakorchemna, second from right, a Dartmouth Student Alliance for Ukraine member from Ternopil, Ukraine, listens to students present poems in Ukrainian and English at Dartmouth College’s Sudikoff Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. Zakorchemna spoke during the event about the schools in Ukraine that were destroyed by Russian forces, which community members are working together to rebuild so their children can continue their education. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

A pin in the colors of the Ukrainian flag reminds viewers that the country is not Russian territory at Dartmouth College’s Sudikoff Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A pin in the colors of the Ukrainian flag reminds viewers that the country is not Russian territory at Dartmouth College’s Sudikoff Hall in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 11-20-2023 2:43 AM

Modified: 11-21-2023 9:03 AM


HANOVER — Students in an intensive Ukrainian course at Dartmouth College concluded the term last week by sharing their translations of poems.

That in itself might not be so special for a language class, but they did so in partnership with students at Ternopil Ivan Puluj National Technical University in Ukraine who participated in the Thursday event — “Student Warshop on Ukraine” — via Zoom, and the poems and songs they chose to share were written by Ukrainian soldiers.

As part of the college’s first-ever Ukrainian language course, the seven Dartmouth students enrolled were matched with students in Ukraine, who served as peer tutors.

They met together twice weekly throughout the term. In addition to working on the translations, they also played language games and used flashcards.

Victoria Somoff, an associate professor of Russian who is originally from Ukraine, said in a Friday phone interview that she created the course because she believes “that the voices of Ukrainians need to be heard right now.”

Often, she said, words from “experts” are considered sufficient to explain the war in Ukraine. In 2014, Russia invaded and occupied Ukraine in the Crimean peninsula and parts of Eastern Ukraine. More recently, Russia conducted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“I wanted Ukrainian voices to be present,” she said.

Somoff said there is a common misconception that learning Russian is sufficient to understand former Soviet countries.

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“They’re very, very different countries and cultures,” she said. “It’s very important for people to learn about the country (and) culture of Ukraine.”

While Somoff no longer has family in Ukraine, she still has friends there, including Lesia Nazarevych, the professor at Ternopil Ivan Puluj National Technical University, with whom she partnered to offer this course.

Somoff was able to offer small stipends to the Ukrainian students who partnered with the Dartmouth students but, she said, “they were willing to do it as volunteers.”

She was initially uncertain whether there would be sufficient student interest to offer the course, but there was.

“I’m grateful to them,” she said, noting that she considers them brave for taking on the subject.

Nazarevych similarly expressed gratitude to the Dartmouth students in her remarks at the beginning of Thursday’s program.

“You chose to study Ukrainian and, this way, you supported Ukraine in its struggle for freedom, identity and independence,” she said. “Best friends make hard times easier!”

In addition to the poetry readings, the warshop also included presentations by members of the Dartmouth Student Alliance for Ukraine, a group that formed after the Russian invasion for which Somoff serves as faculty advisor. There also was a moment of silence for those who have died in Ukraine “as a result of Russian aggression.”

Somoff expects six students to take Ukraine winter term, and she hopes to be able to offer more advanced courses next year.

“I will do my best to convince the college (and) my department chair to offer it again,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr c an be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CLARIFICATION: Russia first invaded and occupied Ukraine in 2014 in the Crimean peninsula and parts of Eastern Ukraine. Russia conducted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. A previous version of this story incompletely described the origins of the war.