Dr. Yuliya Ladygina gave an address entitled "Ol'ha Kobylians'ka's War Fiction: Cultural Encounters during the First World War and their Aftermath for Ukraine's Postwar Liberationist Movement" at the 2nd Annual Interdisciplinary Conference: "A Sense of Space and Place: Global and Local Perspectives," organized by the Mellon Globalization Forum at the University of the South April 6-8, 2017.
Drawing on recent scholarship on First World War literature, my paper argues that Ol'ha Kobylians'ka's war stories, a rare case of a Ukrainian woman writing about the First World War on the Eastern Front, deserve our attention, not only as long-ignored curiosities from the pen of Ukraine's most sophisticated writer of the time, but also as an effective means to reimagine the transformative experience of an unprecedented range of encounters and exchanges between peoples from different ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds that took place during 1914-1918. My paper pays particular attention to Kobylians'ka's creative assessment of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian treatment of Western Ukrainians during different stages of war, which exposes anew fatal political weaknesses in Europe's old imperial order and facilitates a better understanding of why Ukrainians, like many other ethnic groups in Europe without a state of their own, began to pursue their national goals more aggressively as the war progressed.
Alongside popular texts, such as "To Meet Their Fate," "A Letter from a Convicted Soldier to His Wife," and "Judas" of 1917, my paper examines less-known stories, such as "The Forest Mother" of 1915 and "Vasylka" of 1922, to prove that Kobylians'ka's astute psychological profiles of Western Ukrainians struggling with multiple loyaltis during the First World War register a series of profound transformations in their views on national identity that helped them crystalize their previously inchoate national aspirations for Ukraine's political independence-a somewhat utopian goal that defined postwar Ukrainian politics. In conclusion, my paper reflects on homw the Ukrainian experience that Kobylians'ka described in her war stories relates to the broader issue of continued tension between ethnicities, nationalities, and global citizenship.