How does an organization devoted to preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of a country respond when its very history is threatened by an unprovoked war?
For the Ukrainian History and Education Center, located in Somerset, NJ, the answer is to carry on its work.
“In this time of war, we at the UHEC have been supporting Ukraine by doing what we do best: telling non-Ukrainians about Ukrainian history and culture, and teaching Ukrainian folk arts,” the Center recently wrote to its supporters.
The New Jersey Council for the Humanities was proud to support the work of the UHEC with an Action Grant in 2020 as well as additional funding via a COVID-19 response grant. Undoubtedly, that work has taken on a new meaning and urgency in light of the war being waged on Ukrainian soil.
Since the war began, UHEC archivist Michael Andrec has presented a number of talks for groups throughout the state, focusing on the historical and cultural context of the war and correcting much of the “fake history” used as propaganda to justify the war.
In addition, UHEC arts staff members have presented more than 20 events at a variety of venues to continue sharing Ukrainian traditions and raise funds for Ukrainian relief efforts.
Despite challenges posed by COVID-19 and the ongoing war, the organization also is moving forward with its previously scheduled Nashi Predky/Our Ancestors Spring 2022 Online Conference on May 15.
The conference will provide invaluable information for individuals conducting genealogical research into Jewish and Ukrainian lineages.
“In addition to creating mass displacement, suffering, and death, the war in Ukraine has, of course, severely curtailed researcher access to Ukrainian archives, and has prevented us from having any speakers from Ukraine this time around,” the Center reports. “Regardless, we have a great, though slightly abbreviated, program on topics related to records in the United States (including a talk on the newly-released 1950 Census by genealogy superstar Stephen Morse!), and tools and case studies that you can make use of when Ukrainian archives again become accessible.”
The Center also continues to host exhibits and provide access to special collections and research archives, as well as a variety on online resources and artifacts. The UHEC museum permanent collection consists of over 15,000 objects of folk art, fine art, religious ritual objects, textiles, and icons, as well as objects that document Ukrainian and Ukrainian American cultural, religious, and political history.
The UHEC Archives holds hundreds of collections documenting the lives and work of Ukrainian and Ukrainian American individuals, families, organizations, and parishes.
The current exhibit, supported by an NJCH grant, Autonomy Lost and Regained: The Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv, 1633-2019, is open for in-person visits and is accessible online through June 2022.
To learn more about the UHEC, access its resources, or support it with a donation, visit www.ukrhec.org.