As war continues to ravage Ukraine, one San Jose State University assistant professor is working to preserve the country’s culture.
Assistant professor Ulia Gosart of SJSU’s School of Information and her colleagues have been raising money to buy equipment and technology to digitize rare books, ethnographic materials and 3-D objects like cultural linens for the Cherkasy Library in central Ukraine, which has remained relatively safe during the war.
Gosart, who grew up in Ukraine, trained as a librarian at the University of Kyiv. She said that digitizing Ukrainian culture was a practical way for her to help people who have been displaced by the yearlong war.
Gosart and her colleagues began a GoFundMe fundraiser last semester that drew the attention of Saving Ukrainian Culture Heritage Online (SUCHO), an initiative of international volunteers to digitize and preserve Ukrainian cultural heritage that added funds to Gosart’s efforts.
Gosart’s fundraiser and SUCHO sent a high-resolution scanner and computers to Cherkasy Library, which Gosart said is a repository of unique Ukrainian content.
Gosart said that hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced by the war have flocked to the Cherkasy region in the last year and the library has been a sanctuary for those refugees.
“The libraries are places where people come to talk and meet and even though there was no light there, they use candles.”Ulia Gosart
“The libraries are places where people come to talk and meet and even though there was no light there, they use candles,” said Gosart.
Gosart and her colleagues recently sponsored a children’s drawing contest with the Cherkasy Library to help displaced families cope with the trauma of war.
Over 400 Ukrainian children participated in the contest, some drawing images that reflect on the horror of war and lost childhood, some drew the strength they saw in their soldiers — many of whom were their fathers. Others drew their hopes that Ukraine will rise again or thanked the country’s allies.
The winning illustration, “Guardian Angels Near the Defenders,” drawn by 16-year-old Nazar Shcherbatyuk, is a combination of all those things.
In it, Ukrainian leaders from the past surround Ukraine’s soldiers as ghosts while they fight for their land while the sun shines on fields of sunflowers in the background.
“From the evidential point of view and documenting the war and the ways in which kids see it. It’s a powerful way of creating a memory and history of the world,” Gosart said.