Research & Teaching

Current project

Militarisation of Women During the Second World War in East-Central Europe and the USSR.

This research was funded by Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship (2015-18). The monograph is currently being prepared for publication.

The experiences of servicewomen during the Second World War in Central and Eastern Europe remain poorly researched and are often subject to trivialisation or sensationalism. This comparative research project explores the range of these experiences by focusing on women who served in the Red Army and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The project examines how active participation of women in wars shapes the position of women as a gender in society. I argue that, by actively contributing to the war effort, women entered a masculinised, militarised sphere which allowed them to claim involvement in their respective patriotic projects and demand the betterment of their rights based on this claim. The short-term consequence of this entailed some women’s inclusion in the patriotic project. The long-term consequence, however, was that, by participating in wars as part of patriarchal militarised organisations, women legitimised patriarchal power structures, thereby ultimately accepting and endorsing their own inferior position. Women who challenged the patriarchal order were seen as subversive and thus a threat.

My research demonstrates that, in both cases, the prevalent perceptions of gender roles in the respective societies were more influential in shaping women’s experiences of war than any other factor. In addition, my work shows that representations of the historical participation of women in wars shapes contemporary perceptions of women who engage in political violence and has a direct impact on legislation, institutional culture and wider societal attitudes towards gender equality. The primary material (archival data and original oral testimonies) gathered by the project, combined with its theoretical framing within gender studies, history, sociology, feminist international relations and memory studies and its comparative perspective, form a significant, original contribution to the historiography of the Second World War and the study of women in political violence.

Archival documents from Ukrainian Insurgent Army and Red Army women veterans.

Future project

The Untold Stories of One Building.

This project focuses on the history of the building in which I grew up: 8 Lazneva Street in L’viv (now Ukraine and formerly part of Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Built in the late 1800s, the building changed occupants as the city changed hands between states multiple times throughout the 20th century. 8 Lazneva Street is located in the heart of the city and is one of only two surviving buildings on the street: most other buildings, including the Chasidim Shul Synagogue, built in 1791, were destroyed during the Second World War. Like much of the region of Galicia, L’viv was once home to Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Armenians, and others, but the upheavals of the twentieth century left none of these groups intact, turning L’viv from a multicultural city into an almost entirely homogenous one. This study will trace the fates of the inhabitants of 8 Lazneva Street in relation to the dramatic changes in historical circumstances.

While there are several studies looking at the city of L’viv, this micro-history of one building will provide a unique perspective on everyday life in East-Central Europe in the context of tumultuous political, social, economic and demographic transformations. The research will have an impact within and beyond academia, as it will create partnerships with historians, artists, writers and heritage specialists with expertise in the region.


Chasidim Schul Synagogue after 1918 pogrom and the site now. Photo: The Centre for Urban History.

Past project

Tracing the end of a war: a micro-historical approach to the Waffen SS 'Galicia' division's journey from capitulation to civilianisation, 1914-1950. (PhD thesis, UCL, 2011).

The thesis examines the case of the Waffen SS 'Galicia' (a unit of the Waffen SS consisting of ethnic Ukrainian men) and analyses the process of their post-war civilianisation after 1945, when they surrendered to the British authorities in Austria, and until their re-location from the UK to Canada in the 1950s. The thesis also offers a critical analysis of the creation, development, and influence of the narratives concerning the Division, starting with the formation of the 'Galicia' and continuing to the present day. The thesis argues that the current polarization of historiography on the 'Galicia' Division (i.e. regarding them as either freedom fighters or collaborators) is unhelpful in attempting to produce a balanced account of the Division's post-war history and to explain the controversy surrounding its members' civilianisation. The thesis does not attempt to justify or condemn the Division's actions. Through the analysis of archival material and using a micro-historical approach it traces and analyses the combination of factors which enabled eight thousand Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the German Army to be moved to the UK and be allowed to settle in the West as civilians.

Ukrainian SEP Camp in Rimini (Italy), 29 March 1946. Courtesy of Dave Borshik. | On a ship from Italy to the UK, 9 May 1947. Courtesy of Janet Gwynn.

Teaching

Few things make me more nervous than a sceptical look on a bright student's face in the first week of teaching. Few things make me more satisfied than a student's question to which I have no answer and so we answer it collectively. Those are the moments when I know we are all learning: from each other and from the world around us. I love teaching and am always on the outlook for new and exciting ways of educating myself and, if I'm lucky, others.

I have taught history of East-Central Europe, Ukraine, Russia and the Soviet Union at the University of Cambridge, University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies, the University of East Anglia, the Ukrainian Catholic University in L'viv and King's College London. I am thrilled to have been able to teach and very grateful to have been able to learn in the process.

Photo: Students of 'Women and Political Violence in 20th Century East-Central Europe' module, L'viv, 2019.

Student feedback

'I felt a nuanced perspective was given on each topic, along with the personal experience of the convener which I found very interesting but also useful. […] The lecturer is very engaging and approachable, and very motivating for the module.’ (KCL History student, 2018).

'I have learned a huge amount from our sessions and the discussion has been a particular highlight of not only the course but of my week!' (KCL History student, 2019).

'Thank you for truly engaging classes and for opening my mind to fresh ways of thinking about the history of East-Central Europe.' (KCL History student, 2018).