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‘Now is the time for us to stand together and help each other’

TUM School of Management welcomes Ukrainian scientist Oksana Koshulko

The war in Ukraine has unfolded terribly. Many innocent people have fled their homes without knowing how their situation might develop in the coming months or even years. Scientists have also made their way to safety. To help them, TUM has launched a fellowship program.

For senior researchers and professors, TUM has set up a fellowship program that awards grants for an initial six-month research stay at TUM. Dr. Oksana Koshulko was one of the ten awarded researchers and arrived in Munich at the end of March. In a very personal interview, we spoke with her about her way to Munich, the situation in her home country, and her research topic, which is more relevant than ever: The migration of women in our time. In 2016, Dr. Koshulko published the monograph in this topic in the United Kingdom, entitled ‘Women from North move to South: Contemporary migration from the Former Soviet Union countries to Turkey,’ Transnational Press London Ltd.

Dr. Oksana Koshulko is an excellent researcher who has worked and conducted research in numerous countries such as Poland, Belarus, and Turkey as a fellow and an associate professor, as well as, she had some short-time studies and internships in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Romania. When the war began this year, she was in Korsun-Shevchenkivskyi city, Cherkasy oblast, in Central Ukraine, 144 kilometers from the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, with her mother. When the situation came to a head, they decided that Dr. Koshulko should take the chance to leave Ukraine and continue her research at a university abroad. After a few days in Cracow, Poland, she was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at the TUM Institute for Advanced Study. ‘For me, this is a wonderful opportunity. Besides, I always wanted to get to know German universities,’ says Dr. Koshulko.

Research where it is needed

With the support of Prof. Sauer, the Ukrainian researcher is working on a highly topical issue: how are the conditions for Ukrainian refugees, especially women and children, here in Germany compared to those arriving in Poland? ‘I would like to see how quickly they can integrate. For example, how long does it take them to find schools for their children and jobs for themselves? What opportunities are there for them to return to normal life’ explains Dr. Koshulko. She has been dealing with the topic since 2014 when the war in the Donbas region began. ‘We have been at war for eight years, but only now Europeans taking it seriously,’ says Dr. Koshulko. ‘I am very grateful for the fact that there is so much solidarity currently.’ As a result of her previous research, in 2022, the Brazilian scientific journal, entitled ‘Revista Estudos Feministas’ (‘Journal of Feminist Studies’) published an article by Dr. Koshulko on exploring women’s resistance against occupation and war in Ukraine. ‘I believe more international scientists and students will read it and get a better understanding of the situation.’

Research and volunteering at the same time

For her studies, Dr. Koshulko talked to many refugees who arrived at Munich’s main station or stay as refugees on the campus for the refugees in Messestadt (Messe München): ‘Sometimes, they perceived me as a psychologist to speak out.’ Being affected herself, she is touched by the tragic fates. ‘Especially since my mother is still in Ukraine, the situation is sad and traumatic for me, too. I try to think less about it and therefore keep working as a volunteer – translator in Messestadt.’ Even though Dr. Koshulko is now safe in Germany, her thoughts and heart are of course always in Ukraine. ‘I care a lot about staying in touch with my Ukrainian colleagues. Every day I write to them to find out if everything is fine with them. Currently, one of my colleagues is under occupation in Kherson, but soon his State University will open its doors for students in Western Ukraine, in Ivano-Frankivsk city and, I hope, the colleague will be able to leave the temporarily occupied Kherson.’ Dr. Koshulko tells us. Despite all the terrible news, some stories shed light on the dark times: ‘After living for several weeks in the epicenter of the war under Russian bombs near Kyiv, my colleague from one of the National Universities was lucky to relocate with her family to Volhynia in Western Ukraine. After her miraculously surviving together with her boyfriend, they decided to get married,’ Dr. Koshulko says. ‘When I saw the photos, I cried.’

How to cope: supporting others helps

Dr. Koshulko was lucky and found a wonderful host family with whom she will spend the six months in Munich. She is grateful for the many people in Germany, who help the incoming refugees. By helping others, Dr. Koshulko has also found a way to cope with the situation herself. After working in the office, she works as a volunteer – translator. She dedicates her professional and personal life to a topic dear to her heart and deserves the utmost respect. Furthermore, she wants to network with the other Ukrainian researchers who have arrived in Munich, as well as with colleagues of the Ukrainian Free University in Munich. ‘Now is the time for us to stand together and support each other,’ says Dr. Koshulko.

 

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