Ukraine-Russia: Academic flees war to be granted rare scholarship in Scotland

An academic whose work focuses on the historic ties between Poland and Ukraine is drawing on modern day connections between the two countries to settle into Aberdeen after fleeing the ongoing war in her homeland.

Dr Natalia Gromakova, who fled her hometown of Bucha with her daughter, Olena, has joined the University of Aberdeen’s history department as part of the ‘Scholars at Risk’ programme for Ukraine.

She is one of seven recipients of a fellowship from the Royal History Society and academic partner organisations to take up a position in a UK or European university, with the host university matching the contributions for the scholarship.

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Dr Gromakova specialises in the social and associational life of Polish society in the nineteenth-century Ukrainian lands occupied by Austria and Russia after the Third Partition of Poland in 1795 up to the First World War.

Dr Natalia Gromakova with Professor Karin Friedrich of the University of Aberdeen. Picture: University of Aberdeen

A researcher at the National Pedagogical University in Kyiv, Dr Gromkova fled to Germany with her daughter, leaving her husband in Ukraine to fight in the war.

After initially staying near Hanover in Germany, Dr Gromakova sent her CV to the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich which has a strong Department of East European History.

The Department in Munich put her in contact with the University of Aberdeen’s Professor Karin Friedrich who is part of the University’s Centre for Polish-Lithuanian Studies and has been, through her academic networks, trying to support refugee scholars from Ukraine.

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Dr Gromakova said: “I was delighted to be selected and to have the opportunity to come to Aberdeen. It has long been a dream of mine to study and work in Scotland, although the circumstances are not those I’d have chosen.

“I have enjoyed great support from the University, and I think the Centre and facilities here will really help me to advance my research.”

She added: “The connections with the Polish community in Aberdeen have also made it much easier to integrate. There is a real feeling of solidarity with Ukraine here and that has made me feel very welcome.”

Professors Robert Frost and Karin Friedrich said: “We are delighted to welcome Natalia to Aberdeen so that she can continue her research work in safety.”

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