Dmytro Shtohryn may have retired as a professor at Illinois in 1995, but his commitment to the university and the field of Ukrainian studies remains as vibrant and meaningful as the Ukrainian paintings hanging on the walls of his home.
Shtohryn, 94, and his wife, Eustachia, still live in Champaign, where they’ve lived since 1960, when Shtohryn turned down a professional librarianship position at Harvard to join Laurence Miller, professor of library administration and the first head of the Slavic and East European Library (SEEL), and the late Ralph Fisher, professor of history and the first director of the Russian and East European Center (later renamed the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC)), in their quest to teach and expand the Russian and Slavic collections at Illinois. The native of Ukraine is credited with establishing Ukrainian studies as a discipline at Illinois.
The Shtohryns' home is highlighted with Ukrainian décor on the walls and resting in glass cases, and their two children bear traditional Ukrainian names. On their living room table rests a handsome statue of Taras Shevchenko, the most famous poet of Ukraine, from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America honoring Dmytro and Eustachia for their community service.
“You can recognize from our accent that we speak Ukrainian in our home,” Shtohryn said. “We usually correspond with our daughter through the computer—we write to her in Ukrainian but use the Latin alphabet.”
Now, Shtohryn’s daughter, Liuda, is honoring her father’s career by establishing the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures at Illinois. The endowment for the department will be used for conferences, symposia, individual lectures, and other learning opportunities on the topic of Ukrainian studies.
“There will be a number of symposiums and lectures not only covering the literature and language, but also Ukrainian culture, history and so forth,” Shtohryn said. “The endowment will also be giving money to the Program of Ukrainian Studies in the REEEC and its unique institution, the Summer Research Lab on Russia and East European Countries, and so maybe even next year we will have some papers on Ukrainian topics through the endowment.”
Born in Ukraine, Shtohryn’s life was upended by World War II, and after the conflict he lived in a displaced persons camp in Augsburg, Germany, near Munich. While there, he attended the Ukrainian Free University.
In 1950, Shtohryn immigrated to Minneapolis, where he worked as a physical laborer while spending evenings going to school and volunteering as a young leader of the local unit of Ukrainian Boy Scouts (similar to American Boy Scouts).
He married Eustachia (née Barwinska) in 1955, and the pair moved to Ottawa, Canada, where Shtohryn attended the University of Ottawa and received a bachelor’s degree in library science and a master’s and doctoral degrees in Slavic studies. His PhD dissertation was about Pavlo Fylypovych, a Ukrainian renowned literary scholar and poet, who was arrested by the Soviet KGB in 1934 and shot in the Karelian forest in northwest Russia with hundreds of other Ukrainian political prisoners in 1935.
The opening of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at Illinois in 1959 caught Shtohryn’s eye. He joined the faculty at Illinois in 1960 as the Cold War was heating up.
During his 35 years at the university, Shtohryn, who served in the SEEL, was one of its key members who built the Ukrainian program from the ground up, obtaining a collection that includes hard copies, microfilm, and other forms of published materials.
When he began his work at the university, there were about 7,000 books devoted to Russian and other Slavic studies at Illinois. Today the university boasts over half a million holdings, and is one of the largest collections of Slavic and East European resources in the country. Its Ukrainian collection might be recognized as the largest one west of the Library of Congress. In fact, it is rivaled only by Harvard, Columbia, New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. Scholars come to Illinois from across the world each summer to conduct research at the REEEC’s Summer Research Laboratory. In 1995, Dmytro and Eustachia Shtohryn established an endowment at the University of Illinois Foundation to further enrich the collection he’d been so pivotal in creating.
During his work as cataloging librarian at the SEEL, Shtohryn taught a course of Ukrainian language, and, with Ralph Fisher, a course of history of Ukraine. In the 1970s he established courses of Ukrainian literature in translation and later a course of Ukrainian culture, and thus taught a multitude of classes until 2000.
In the 1980s he organized, with REEEC sponsorship, the Ukrainian Research Program which organized and conducted (within the framework of the Summer Research Lab) 27 (including 25 annual) international conferences on Ukrainian subjects. From 1982 to 2009 those scholarly meetings were attended by approximately 2,500 participants, including 276 speakers and discussants from 24 countries in five continents.
Besides his library work and teaching Ukrainian courses in the 1970s, Shtohryn was elected to the University Senate. For several years he was visiting professor of Ukrainian literature at the University of Ottawa, the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, Germany, and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome, Italy.
He has authored and edited five books in English and Ukrainian and was editor and member of editorial boards for five English and Ukrainian scholarly periodicals. He is author of nearly 100 articles on American librarianship and Ukrainian culture, especially Ukrainian literature.In the introduction to prominent Ukrainian scholar Jaroslav Rozumnyj’s “Twentieth Century Ukrainian Literature: Essays in Honor of Dmytro Shtohryn,” the author declares, “For over forty years, the Ukrainian presence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been synonymous with Dmytro Shtohryn.”
And with the newest endowment from his daughter, Shtohryn’s impact will be even deeper for years to come.