With the recent crisis in Ukraine, many people may have heard the word “Slavic” used in the media as an ethnic categorization that unites not only the Ukranians and Russian people, but also many people in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including the Czechs, Croats, Serbians, Yugoslavians, Bosnians, Poles, and Bulgarians, to name a few. The Slavic Club at Boston College aims to educate students about their own personal Slavic heritage as well as excite non-Slavic students about this diverse, unique culture.
Because there are so many different countries that fall under the umbrella term of Slavic, the club aims to include as many of these individual heritages as possible into its programming.
“Slavic is a broad term, so we want to have as many people as possible to be involved, and we want to be able to have events for everyone,” said Madina Smetankina, Slavic Club president and CSOM ’14. “This way we can bring all of these heritages together.” The members of the Slavic Club e-board all had differing paths that sparked their interest in the organization. Smetankina, who is originally from Russia, moved to the U.S. 10 years ago and has always been involved in her Russian heritage. “When I found out there was a Slavic Club, I joined right away because I wanted to meet people of similar backgrounds,” Smetankina said. “There was a sense of creating a community of people so they can come together.”
Monika Dworakowski, Slavic Club secretary and A&S ’16, has strong ties to her Polish heritage, as Polish was her first language and all of her extended family still lives in Poland. “Freshman year at the activities fair I was walking by the Slavic Club table, and it was the first time I saw a Polish flag somewhere,” Dworakowski said. “I was therefore drawn to Slavic Club right away.”
To help foster some of those ties to familial heritage, the Slavic Club informally gets together and has lunches with conversation in Russian or Polish. “We would like to expand that and have as many people participate in it as possible,” said Matt Schlanger, Slavic Club vice president and A&S ’15. “When you come to BC, if you are Russian or Polish and spoke your heritage language at home, there are not that many opportunities to practice. [The Slavic Club] is a great outlet and place to practice.” It is through different culture events that the clubs hosts throughout the year that it aims to spread the Slavic culture and facilitate conversation around it. The club has regularly hosted “Slavic Movie Nights,” including films in Polish and Russian with English subtitles. Events that the club will be hosting throughout the remainder of this year include egg painting on April 15 for Orthodox Easter. For those students who may be more interested in trying Slavic food, the club is putting on a blini workshop on April 27, where students can make this Russian version of pancakes.
The Slavic Club just recently hosted a “Crisis in Ukraine: A New Perspective” event, wherein different professors from the political science, Slavic and Eastern languages & literatures, and history departments, including Gerlad Easter, Paul Christensen, and Andrey Ivanov, offered different viewpoints on the current situation in Ukraine. The event had a great turnout, as the topic is garnering significant attention. The aim of this event was to show all of the different sides of the conflict in an unbiased way.
Schlanger viewed this event as a “microcosm” for the Slavic Club in general, as it illustrated the different perspectives and views. “This event showcased a really positive part of the Slavic Club,” Schlanger said. “You don’t necessarily have one view. You don’t have a ‘Crisis in Ukraine’ event that is purely from a Russian perspective that is bashing the U.S. Even though all these countries are Slavic, obviously Ukraine and Russia have very different views on what is going on in Ukraine. You are able to get a good taste of both of those perspectives.”
With this plethora of events that the Slavic club has hosted and planned for this year, it is becoming a more visible organization on campus. “Slavic Club has historically been a small organization on campus,” Schlanger said. “I think there are a lot of people who would be interested in doing more things with the Slavic Club if it were more active. We want to show those people that we are active and encourage them to join us.”
Whether one is hoping to brush up on his or her language skills, further explore his or her own heritage, learn about a new culture, or just eat some amazing food, the Slavic Club offers opportunities for all students.