Skip navigation to content

Back to postgraduate list

Darya Tsymbalyuk


Supervisors: Dr Victoria Donovan, Dr Jeffrey Murer (School of IR)

Thesis title:

Education and Experience

I received my BA, magna cum laude, from Kenyon College (Ohio, USA) in 2013, where I double majored in Studio Art and Modern Languages (German, Italian).

In 2017 I graduated from an MLitt Erasmus Master Mundus Crossways in Cultural Narratives programme with distinction and during my two years of studying I attended Università degli Studi di Bergamo (Italy), University of St Andrews (home university) and L’Université de Perpignan via Domitia (France).

In September 2017 (two weeks) and in April 2018 (two weeks) I was a resident at the Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe (Lviv, Ukraine), where I worked on conducting interviews with the internally displaced persons.

I returned to the University St Andrews in 2018 to continue working on some of the themes I have started to explore in my Master’s thesis, such as the current displacement from the Donbas region in Ukraine. Bringing together cultural memory studies, ecocriticism and critical plant studies, in my PhD I closely focus on narratives about plants - house plants, gardens and trees -  in oral histories of the displaced.

I am exploring the narratives I analyse for my research not only academically, but also artistically. Since 2019 I have been working on a docufiction animation film Displaced Garden ( as a scriptwriter and a director. The script of the film integrates quotes from eight oral histories of the internally displaced. The pre-production stage of the film was funded by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.

In addition to research, I am a graduate assistant of Centre for Russian, Soviet, Central and Eastern European Studies (CRSCEES), a research assistant for Slavic Studies Goes Public: Creating an ECR Network for the Public Humanities workshop (BARSEA) led by Dr Victoria Donovan and a member of Cultural Memory Research Group.

My research is funded by the School of Modern Languages and the Douglas and Gordon Bonnyman Scholarship.

In 2019 my work with oral histories of displacement through research and Donbas Odyssey was chosen by the University of St Andrews as a winner of the Public Engagement Newcomer Award and a Highly Commended for the Public Engagement Innovation Award.


RU1005 - oral classes


‘Reluctance to self-identify as ‘displaced’ and the question of agency’ in Naukovi Zapysky Natsionalnoho Universytetu “Ostrozska Akademiia, pp. 9-12, issue 18, Vydavnytstvo Natsionalnoho Universitetu “Ostrozska Akademiia”, 2017

‘My trip to a village displaced after the Chernobyl disaster’ in Eastern Iowa Review, issue 6, 2018

It’s time to collect songs’ [‘Chas zbyraty pisni’](pp. 12-17), ‘From memories of the Burba family’ [‘Zi spogadiv rodyny Burba’], together with Demet Ögüt(pp. 60-67), ‘The story of Olga Petrivna Peredelskykh’ [‘Istoriya Olgy Petrivny Peredyelskikh’] together with Demet Ögüt (pp. 84-90),  ‘Following the streets of old Vilcha’, [‘Vulytsyamy staroyi Vilchi’], (pp. 177-186)in Vilcha. A Displaced Village, [Vilcha. Pereselene selo], Kharkiv: Drukarnia Madrid, 2018


(forthcoming) Plant narratives in oral histories of displacement: the case of Donbas, Ukraine, Mobilité des plantes à travers le récit / Plant Mobility and Narrative » conference, McGill University and Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada, May 14 -16 2020

Plants, displacement and memory in times of a military conflict, Working with the Vegetal IV workshop, Stockholm University of the Arts Research Centre, Sweden, October 17, 2019

Memory of coal: from the Carboniferous Period to industrialisation, Cultural Memory Research Group & CRSCEES seminar, University of St Andrews, September 25 2019

The sun rises differently in Kyiv: mental mapping and memories of the displaced, Moving Memories, A CISI Postgraduate Symposium, University of St Andrews, September 6 2019

‘I’m a fig tree’: house plants and gardens in narratives of displacement from Donbas, Ukraine, ASN 2019 World Convention, Columbia University, New York, USA, May 2-4, 2019

Roundtable Ways of seeing, ways of doing: public engagement and the visual arts in research about Donbas, BASEES, University of Cambridge, UK, April 12-14, 2019

Narrating displacement through art, Visualising war in different media: interplay and intervention, University of St Andrews, April 8 2019 

Donbas Odyssey: sharing stories of displacement through art, Byre World at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, UK,  January 30, 2019

A conversation about plants, memory, nomadism and war, Donbas Studies, IZOLYATSIA.Platform for Cultural Initiatives, Kyiv, Ukraine, January 17, 2019

Oral histories from Donbas: resisting names, subverting imposed narratives, reclaiming space, Imaginary Borderlands. ‘Othering’ and ‘Domestic Other’ on Post-Soviet Frontiers, Centre for Applied Anthropology, Kyiv, Ukraine, June 21-22, 2018

Oral history and the urgency of “now”: how to ask without hurting, how to let voices speak in a current context?, Zwischen abweichenden Narrativen und nationaler Loyalität: Oral History und Geschichtspolitik im östlichen Europa, Herder-Institut, Marburg, Germany, March 2-3, 2017

Tales of premonition and other stories from Donbas, Ukraine, Fragile memories: doing oral history with vulnerable narrators, Sixth international Finnish Oral History Network symposium, Helsinki, Finland, November 24-25,  2016

Tales of premonition and other stories in narratives of internally displaced people from Donbas, Ukraine, Conflict at the Critical Juncture: perspectives on international, regional and domestic dynamics in the Syrian and the Ukrainian conflicts, University of St Andrews, June 6, 2016

Draw me a map of a home I lost: stories from Donbas, Ukraine, an interdisciplinary workshop on Cultural Memory, University of St Andrews, March 14, 2016

Other activities

Together with Dmyro Chepurnoy, I was a programme coordinator of the Donbas Studies Summer School: The Plant Gave Us Everything: the role of art and community engagement in the cultural transformation of Donbas which was took place in Kyiv, Sieverodonetsk, Rubizhne and Lysychansk (Ukraine) from June 23 to July 6, 2019

Donbas Odyssey

In 2015 together with two other colleagues (Julia Filipieva and Victor Zasypkin) I co-founded an art project Donbas Odyssey, which uses oral history and mental mapping to tell stories about Donbas and displacement through art exhibitions and interventions in public space. Some of the Donbas Odyssey initiatives are listed below:

Donbas Odyssey exhibition, Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Scotland, UK January 30 – February 13, 2019

Donbas Odyssey exhibition, Migration Stories Festival, Izmir, Turkey, May 2018

Donbas Odyssey in Lviv, Lviv, April 2018

Donbas Odyssey in Odesa, 4City, Odesa, Ukraine, October-November 2017

Donbas Odyssey art project: 4 interventions and an exhibition, Special project of the Fifth Odesa Biennale of Contemporary Art, Odesa, Ukraine, August-September 2017

Donbass Odyssey, group exhibition ‘What is Your Name?’, Mystetskiy Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine, December 8-25, 2016

Borderlands, an intervention, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine, June 20, 2016

Donbass Odyssey, interventions in public space of the city, Kyiv, Ukraine, August-September 2015


In addition to my academic interests, I keep working on various art projects and writing short stories. My most recent stories have been published in Fiction International (‘Strawberry Summer’, November 2018) and Litro (‘Adrian’, December 2018) and my most recent paintings from the series ‘disruptions’ were exhibited at ‘Woman Shall Inherit the Earth’ show, curated by NOHAT at the Panacea Museum, Bedford, UK, July-August 2018. You can find some of my projects here

Back to postgraduate list

Darya Tsymbalyuk