A few years ago I had the pleasure of serving as an outside advisor for Maureen Flaherty’s dissertation. Her dissertation titled “Narrating the past to vision the future: Constructing civil society with women in Ukraine” was completed at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. She used Peace and Power processes in her work with the women. It is now published in a book – an amazing story of her work with women in the eastern and the western portions of the country to explore their visions of peace for their country. When the recent conflict erupted in Ukraine, I contacted Maureen to let her know that my thoughts are with the women whose stories were told in her dissertation, now book. She shared this message about her ongoing connections with the women she worked with:
I have had the great privilege of hearing from women in Ukraine – women whose stories contest what is being shared in the mainstream media. Peggy, as you know, at the time of the last presidential election in Ukraine (2010) I did a participatory study with a group of eighteen from the two reportedly most diverse areas of Ukraine. Eleven of the women were in Lviv in the west, and seven came from Simferopol in Crimea; all were born and raised in Soviet times. The study began as each woman met with my wonderful, interpreter/friend Sonya Stavkova and me to share their life stories, hopes, and dreams for Ukraine. The women then gathered in regional groups for a group visioning exercise, and finally met cross-regions via a video conference to share their thoughts and strategies for future work.
This multi-ethnic group was raised speaking Russian, but women from the west today live much of daily life in Ukrainian. All shared a vision for a united Ukraine where both languages and others would be welcome, where people of all ethnicities, and abilities would find a home. They dreamed of a strong Ukraine that would be active and viable on the world stage.
In the months of protest leading to the present strife in Ukraine, women have continued to hold steadfastly to their dreams. They also now share great fear that they will be torn from each other- that Ukraine will be torn apart. With the availability of e-mail, Skype and Facebook it has been so good to be able to talk with people. Actually, it is mostly listening as many teeter on the edge of despair. The last few days have sparked more hope – and more fear. Women from both regions are struggling. There is now talk of Crimea, where half of the women live, “returning” to Russia. People there have been reluctant to say much as bank accounts have been frozen and visas rescinded for those who speak out. Both groups are trying to continue with their work, much of which is with young people, and so particularly important in their eyes.
If people are interested in reading more about these women’s lives and dreams, the study sharing their stories and the study process has been published in a book, Peacebuilding with women in Ukraine: Using narrative to envision a common future (2012) published by Rowman & Littlefied/Lexington. The book is available directly from the publisher or at booksellers on line.
You can also leave comments here, and I will make sure to share your thoughts with Maureen. Join me in sending thoughts of peace and strength to the courageous women and men who are seeking peace in Ukraine, and in countries, communities and homes everywhere