The Tumult that COVID-19 Has Made in Our Daily Lives, continued

In continuation of our first post documenting the changes that COVID-19 is making in the lives of people across the globe, this week we are publishing a secondary post of three more responses from Budapest, Tbilisi, and Rome.

Emma Pratt, Tbilisi, Georgia

I have been staying at home since before the government restrictions were passed, so I don’t have any photos of my own, but I highly recommend these photos of deserted Tbilisi from Open Caucasus Media: First Night Under Curfew and the contrast they present to the photos circulating on social media of packed churches. My neighborhood definitely sounds quieter than it did before: fewer fireworks and more dogs barking.

Jessie Labov, Budapest, Hungary

This is me shopping on March 12, one of the last days before the official lock-down. I was unfortunate enough to be handed a sign from the cashier to put on my cart stating that I was the last one in my lane, and spent the next 45 minutes explaining to everyone who wanted to get behind me in line that the lane was closed. As the line next to me got longer and longer, up to 30-40 carts, it got pretty ugly. One guy tried to bribe me 30 USD to let him in front of me.

Busy grocery stores

Jessie Labov in line at a grocery store in Budapest

Jesse Smeal, Rome, Italy

Daily life has changed dramatically. No more going out and meeting friends and family. Basically, any resemblance of a once vibrant social life has disappeared. Long lines and wait times at the supermarket and pharmacies are the social activity of the day.

<<Stay tuned for our next post on Monday, May 4 on what our participants have been up to under quarantine to pass the time!

The Tumult that COVID-19 Has Made in Our Daily Lives

The Tumult that COVID-19 Has Made in Our Daily Lives

Launching our blog post series “Notes from the Field”, we start our exploration of the havoc that the virus has caused on our daily lives by documenting the changes in routine and environments in which we live. We asked our participants to reflect on and share an example and/or photo of how COVID-19 has changed daily life in the city and country in which they are living.

Eric Bednarski, Warsaw, Poland

It is now mandatory for everyone in Poland who goes out in public to wear a face mask, a completely surreal sight. Until now I would say only about one third to half of the people you’d see on the street would have on a mask. Now, it is everyone.

Adela Muchova, Prague, Czechia      

The quarantine rules and obligation to wear facemasks anywhere in public is the most visual representation and reminder of the changes people in the Czech Republic are facing now. More out of sight, daily life changed dramatically when people had to start working from home and home-schooling overnight.

People wearing face masks

Adela Muchova and family in Prague

Conrad Rinto, Budapest, Hungary

Below is a picture of the popular Budapest tourist destination, the Houses of Parliament. On a beautiful spring day, Parliament with its adjoining square, Kossuth Ter, would be brimming with tourists. Due to the COVID-19, the Budapest tourism industry has evaporated.  In addition to the missing tourists and vendors, the Hungarian Honor Guard no longer perform their ceremonial flag display in front of Parliament.”

Large building on an empty square

<<Check back tomorrow morning for set two of responses, with entries from Budapest, Tbilisi, and Rome!

About the authors

Our participants—friends, alumni, and affiliates of CSEES and Ohio State who are living across Eastern and Southern Europe and in the Caucasus— in the Notes from the Field blog series are:

Eric Bednarski, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Warsaw, was due to screen his film Warsaw: A City Divided at the Wexner Center for the Arts on April 5th. As a result of the pandemic, the screening had to be cancelled. There are tentative plans to reschedule a screening of this fascinating documentary sometime in November.

Jessie Labov is a resident of Budapest, Hungary. She is a Resident Fellow of the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University, as well as the Director of Academic and Institutional Development at McDaniel College Budapest. Prior to moving to Budapest, Jessie was a professor of Slavic and East European languages and cultures at Ohio State.

Ann Merrill, a translator and tour leader with CHERNOBYL TOUR® Educational Programs, graduated from Ohio State with a BA in Russian and an MA in TESOL and has been living for some years in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Kathryn Metz is a former outreach coordinator for the Center for Slavic and East European Studies (CSEES). She holds an MA in Human Rights from Central European University and she has carried out extensive field work in the Balkans supporting refugees and migrants.

Adela Muchova is PhD Candidate at the University of Vienna who currently is residing in Prague, Czech Republic. She works as a project manager for European Platform, an educational NGO focused on European themes.

Emma Pratt is a 2011 graduate of the CSEES MA program in Slavic and East European studies. A long-time resident of Tbilisi, Georgia, she currently works as lecturer at the International School of Economics.

Conrad Rinto is a 2017 graduate of the CSEES MA program in Slavic and East European studies. Since fall 2019, Conrad has been based in Budapest, Hungary as the Ohio National Guard Liaison in the U.S. Embassy there as part of the Ohio National Guard’s state partnership program.

Lyudmila Skryabina, who holds a PhD in history and ethnography, lives in Moscow and works with the film production company OKAPI and as a consultant for the ethnographic museum Tom River Cliff-Drawings in Kemerovo, Siberia.

Tatiana Shchytssova is a professor at and director of the Center for Research of Intersubjectivity and Interpersonal Communication at the European Humanities University and is also president of The International Association for the Humanities (IAH). She currently lives in Vilnius, Lithuania. The IAH 2020 International Congress was originally scheduled to take place in June and is now being rescheduled for early October.

Jesse Smeal, a 2003 graduate of John Cabot University in Rome, has a BA in International Affairs as well as an MA from St. John’s University in International Relations. He owns and operates two American-style restaurants called Homebaked–Grandma’s Kitchen, both located in Rome, Italy.








Announcing Notes from the Field Blog Series

In response to the international COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Slavic and East European Studies is running a series of blog posts featuring insights from affiliates throughout the Eastern European and Eurasian region about this current crisis. We hope that these posts will help to enlighten our readers about the perspective of those from outside the U.S. towards the pandemic, as well as highlighting commonalities!

Please note that we have edited slightly the responses that we have collected.

Posts will be published weekly on Mondays, with a secondary publication on Tuesdays if we have multiple sets of responses for a week’s featured topic. Check back often, subscribe to updates, and/or subscribe to our weekly email newsletter for reminders about publications!

Photo caption: Beloved Russian chocolate bar Alënka has been transformed into “udalënka”, or “social distancing”, amidst a thriving COVID-19 pandemic meme culture.

Summer language programs and FLAS in a time of uncertainty

By Eileen Kunkler, CSEES assistant director

Peterhof Palace, Russia

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, plans for summer 2020 for many have been upended. In the past few weeks, most of us have had to make radical changes to our personal and professional lives, including cancelling study abroad and travel plans for the foreseeable future, learning how to teach or take classes online, and caring for children, loved ones, and pets while working from home. In point of fact, this article was written from the comfort of the author’s home with her trusty dog by her side, instead of in the pet-free confines of Enarson Classroom Building, and most of you reading this will presumably be doing something similar from your own home offices. And the situation does not seem likely to change within the next couple of months. Recent university restrictions prohibit travel for most of the summer, study abroad programs have been cancelled, and almost all colleges and universities have decided to keep teaching online for the summer until there is more clarity about the pandemic and its duration.

Park Pobedy, Moscow, Russia

From the student perspective, summer semester, or quarter for those of us from an earlier vintage, was the chance to study abroad, to visit a foreign country or continent, to explore the world and young adulthood with a degree of independence and unfettered by family or typical routines and obligations. This is not to say that studying abroad is frivolous or without academic rigor. Summer programs are appealing exactly because they combine both, the chance to experience something different, as well as plunging into research or learning about language, history, art, culture, etc. in depth and hands-on. For language students in particular, summer programs offer the opportunity to study a foreign language intensively and usually in an immersive setting, whether abroad or at one of the many U.S.-based language workshops. These summer intensive programs give students the opportunity to make significant progress in the development of their language skills, typically studying the equivalent of two semesters of language courses over the period of six to ten weeks.

Mikulov, Czech Republic

For decades, CSEES has been a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship granting institution, and the hundreds if not thousands of CSEES summer FLAS awards over the years have funded graduate, and more recently undergraduate, students to focus on language studies during the summer. Many readers may have at some point received a FLAS, whether from CSEES or another institution. FLAS alumni are spread throughout higher education institutions across the country, graduate programs, and government agencies, creating a lasting network that supports and advocates for the study of foreign languages in the U.S. If you have ever attended an area studies conference, you know that more than one introduction or conversation has been started by sharing a FLAS reminiscence.

Prague, Czech Republic

Despite COVID-19, CSEES’ summer 2020 FLAS program will continue, though in an admittedly abbreviated and drastically altered form. Understandably, many students are disappointed to not have the opportunity to study abroad or experience the camaraderie of studying with a cohort at a domestic program. But many programs are adapting to the current situation that we find ourselves in and are figuring out how to create good virtual, intensive programs for the summer. Additionally, the Department of Education has given FLAS programs temporary permission to award summer fellowships for online programs with case-by-case approval, a break from usual prohibitions against online learning. As a current language student myself, I must admit I started online coursework a few weeks ago with trepidation, but I quickly saw that with a good teacher and program, language learning can be effective online. Programs with long histories of providing quality, in-person instruction are making the leap to maintain what programming they can, and some such as the Critical Languages Institute are even offering a much-reduced tuition fee for many of their programs. Below are a few examples:

This is not meant as an exhaustive list, or to recommend certain programs over others. However, it is meant to say that there are still opportunities out there for language students that are FLAS eligible and ways to keep pursuing language and area studies even in a remote environment. Hopefully summer 2021 will see our world returning to normal. But in the interim, the CSEES FLAS program intends to keep supporting students’ language and area studies learning goals through new modalities, faithfully adhering to its mission.