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LCC International University > News and Events archive > A Ukrainian Scholar Visits LCC: When Religion Heals Intergenerational Memories and Trauma

A Ukrainian Scholar Visits LCC: When Religion Heals Intergenerational Memories and Trauma


During October 2022 our Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation at LCC University had the honor of hosting Dr. Julia Buyskykh, a Ukrainian scholar from Kyiv. She is in the Scholars at Risk program and has a 6-month fellowship at Cork University in Ireland.  Students and faculty attended lectures she gave about her work as an anthropologist and her long-term research on pilgrimages at the Polish-Ukraine border. While visiting, she shared her belief that one of the reasons for the present war is the reaction to consequences of unhealed grief, wounds of the past, and “bordering”.  Offering ideas on the healing aspects of pilgrimages at borders, she stimulated questions around the ways of healing communities where harm has existed, building trust in social research, and why silence in those affected matters.

Giving various class lectures and reflecting on her uncovered knowledge, she spoke about freedoms and religion in an Ethics class with Professor Tricia Van Dyk. She suggested that when borders are drawn by politicians, they don’t think about the people and community life relations that are being cut apart. Furthermore, she argued that freedom is made through local work in communication were religion influences practices and behaviors. In the class on Conflict Transformation and Trauma Healing with Instructor Naomi Enns, she looked at ways of resolving historical trauma. She consistently highlighted research findings that silence matters, and it needs to be witnessed, as it reveals multiple concerns. Dr. Buyskykh’s research looks at the post World War II period, displacement, and the silence that occurs in 2nd and 3rd generations. She discussed how silence is a  culturally learned strategy. That it is often used in times of adjustment and as a need for self-defense. Yet, imposed silences lead to violence. Through analysis of borderlands and the function of silence, she suggests that “Resettlers {from one side or the other} are seen as unwanted refugees with mixed identities where the wounds of war appear as ruptures in society”. She described how silence by victims is a “habitual strategy of coexistence”. One that  deals with needs of forgiving (and not forgetting), forgetting (and deliberately not remembering) and feigning (pretending not to remember and silencing the past). Looking closer at silence, she remarked how the ways in which silence shows up helps us to understand the trauma of past displaced Ukrainian people living near or at the Polish-Ukrainian border by looking closer at its use. Noting, how “researching silence can offer insights into the everyday experience of living with the legacies of past violence”.

 In a region where multiple displacements have happened, silence has served as resistance, a way for many to find agency in not taking on undesired identities required by those in power or used as a coping mechanism when the harms were too terrible to speak about. Yet, to get at the stories of truth about historical harms, trust is required from those whose families have suffered. She highlighted that creating a trust-filled relationship between people who are affected by war traumas is very difficult. For her, the only way she felt she could earn trust was by being silent herself;  only listening to them without asking a lot of questions. She challenged us to see the various angles of silence-it’s powerful presence between people in healing divisions where needed at times, yet perilous to peace when it remains.

Her presentation, “Borders, Bridges and Belonging: When Religion Heals Intergenerational Memories and Trauma”, offered professors and students an opportunity to better understand how peace is built through pilgrimage on the Polish-Ukraine border. As a  chain of memory, pilgrimages offer a sense of belonging which allow for discovery of silence, its functions, and the power of presence as a witness. It allowed a way to understand the context of her study. She raised the question “What is home?” while discussing pilgrimages to religious shrines which she proposed are a part of healing the wounds of bordering and displacement. Identifying how, engagement with the ‘other’ through religious memorial spaces and community initiatives helps to integrate past harm and make space for positive change. Our LCC community received a glimpse into how the value of reengaging with others to build empathy and make the world a safer place for human diversity is vital. Nini Lekashvili, a freshman shared thoughts after listening to Dr. Buyskykh,  “It was interesting and exciting to learn something that I didn’t have knowledge about  before”.  Later in the week, a coffee meeting was organized where Ukrainian students had the opportunity to sit and enjoy a coffee while casually having a conversation with a fellow scholar about the task of survival, healing, and living lives touched by the pains of war.

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