Religion as a Means of Resistance: Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Poland
A hybrid seminar by Dr Julia Buyskykh (UCC) as part of the Trinity Centre for Resistance Studies Seminar Series.
Dr. Julia Buyskykh is a socio-cultural anthropologist affiliated with the Institute of History of Ukraine, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and an NGO the Centre for Applied Anthropology in Kyiv. She held a post-doc at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw (2015 – 2016), and several research stays in Polish academic institutions (2014, 2015, 2022). She spent the academic year of 2019-2020 at Pennsylvania State University as a Fulbright scholar. Her research interests include lived religion (Christianity) in Ukraine and Poland, inter-confessional relationships, memory and border studies, Polish-Ukrainian shared history, ethics and empathy in qualitative research. Currently, she is a Sanctuary Fellow at the University College Cork, Ireland.
About the seminar:
From 2015 to 2018 Dr Buyskykh conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the multiconfessional rural communities of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands, including those in Przemyl, Subcarpathian province in Eastern Poland, and also Ukrainian communities in North-West of Poland (Biay Bór, Cyganek). Those communities were forged from Greek Catholics and Orthodox of various backgrounds (Lemkos, Boykos, Rusyns, however, all mostly related to Ukrainians), forcibly resettled from their homeland in Subcarpathia (the Western part of former Austro-Hungarian Galicia) in the frames of Operation “Vistula” (1947) to the North-West of post-war Poland, the so-called returned lands (pl. “ziemie odzyskane”). Some families were able to escape the resettlements, but the majority was shifted to the North-West of Poland and dispersed. Since the late 1950s – early 1960s some Greek Catholics, and later their descendants, started to come back to their ancestral lands in Subcarpathia trying to settle in old family places or closer to them. Since 1980s this movement has been also connected with reviving shrines, places of worship, pilgrimage routs and churches that were devastated, ruined or desecrated. In communist Poland, the Greek Catholic Church was officially prohibited, and a number of priests were persecuted. Greek Catholic clergy and believers were forced to convert to Orthodox Christianity or Roman Catholicism. Greek Catholic Church was perceived as a threat because of the essential role it played in the establishment of Ukrainian national identity and cultural movement on the terrain of former Austro-Hungarian Galicia. Despite the prohibition, a number of priests and nuns continued to carry out their pastoral work underground, organizing secret meetings at home, providing lessons of Ukrainian language and basics of catechesis. This quiet resistance against communist state-imposed Polish homogeneity and silence of the communist era, together with the memories about resettlement, religious rites, rituals and liturgy in their native language transmitted through family’s upbringing and sense of belonging, forged Ukrainian Greek Catholic minority in Poland with rather distinctive religious and ethnic identity. In this talk, Dr Buyskykh will draw on qualitative data from Przemyl and the surrounding rural area, also from Biay Bór and Cyganek to illustrate how local Ukrainian Greek Catholics were able to resist, to survive through communism, and to develop their communities through religion.
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