ЗаявникStampfer Shaul Professor Emeritus (Israel)
ФорумМіжнародна наукова конференція «Бібліотека. Наука. Комунікація. Від управління ресурсами – до управління знаннями» (2021)
ЗахідСемінар. Академічна юдаїка в незалежній Україні (1991–2021): досвід наукових бібліотек. Семінар присвячений пам’яті Ірини Анатоліївни Сергєєвої (1958–2019).
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УДК 027.54(477-25)ІРНБУВ:025.171]:94(477=411.16):001.8](092)Сергєєва І.
Shaul Stampfer,
PhD, Professor Emeritus,
Rabbi Edward Sandrow Professor of Soviet and East European Jewry,
former Chair of the Department of Jewish History,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, Israel


In her last article “История Музея и Архива Еврейского историко-этнографического общества после октября 1917 г.”, Iryna Serheyeva wrote in a proper and objective academic style, but her personality and concerns are reflected in the small details. Through her life experiences, she learned the importance of maintaining collections and of library organization and this influenced her writing.
Key words: Iryna Serheyeva, life, Judaica Department, archives, museum, history.

I was lucky. I had the privilege of knowing Iryna Serheyeva. I didn’t know her well and I didn’t know her for as many years as some of the other participants in this conference did but I can say that I met her and had coffee with her – and for that I am a lucky person. There are some people whose contribution to their society was in what they wrote. As we shall see, Iryna Serheyeva certainly wrote and what she wrote is important and of lasting value. However, her real contribution was in her stimulating personality, in the assistance that she gave others – without limit and in the model that she was for everyone who met her. These are qualities that are irreplaceable and unique.

Iryna Serheyeva grew up in a world that is ancient history for many today – in Soviet Ukraine. She was born in 1958, taught history, studied archaeology and worked for several years at the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. From there she moved in 1986 to what would become the Vernadskyi National Library of Ukraine but at that time, this was inconceivable. Thus, at a relatively advanced age, the Iryna Serheyeva that we knew had not yet come into being. The transformation began in 1990 as part of the great metamorphosis of Ukraine and all of Eastern Europe. As Iryna described it several years ago:
“In 1990, Nikolai Senchenko, who was then the director of the library, called me and said that there were many Jewish books that needed attention. Although I was not a specialist in Judaica, he reasoned like this: "You are an archaeologist, so go and dig."” (here and further is given my English translation from Russian; the quotation is taken from the last interview of Iosif Turovskii with Iryna Serheyeva: Туровский, Иосиф. “Ирина Сергеева: «Директор библиотеки сказал мне – ты археолог, вот иди и раскапывай».” Еврейский обозреватель: информационно-аналитическое издание Еврейской конфедерации Украины. № 8/320. Серпень 2019. С. 1–2.). And dig she did. Of course, there were no specialists in Judaica at that time in the library but Senchenko’s choice was a brilliant one.

It did not take much time before there were results. Iryna’s first article on Judaica was published just a year later. She was the co-author together with the Dr. Senchenko. The article dealt with Jewish scholarly institutions and library collections in Kyiv after 1917 and appeared in both English and Ukrainian (Сергєєва Ірина, Сенченко Микола. “З історії формування колекції єврейської літератури Центральної наукової бібліотеки ім. В. І. Вернадського.” Світ, № 3–4 (1991): 64–87.; Senchenko Nikolay and Irina Sergeeva. “Jewish Scholar Institution and Library Collections in Kiev After 1917: A Brief Historical Sketch.” Soviet Jewish Affairs 21, no. 2 (1991): 45–50). I see this as a reflection of her awareness of the importance of the international audience and her commitment to Ukrainian language and culture. Indeed, as became more and more clear, her attachment to the study of Jewish culture and history was not at the expense of her deep ties to Ukrainian life. Instead, as I see it, her commitments strengthened each other.

Iryna’s personal warmth and her deep interest in people were no secret to the many individuals who came into contact with her. A close reading of at least some of her academic publications shows that here as well – underneath the careful academic formulations of a serious researcher, lies a great deal of her positive personality.

Iryna’s last publication (Сергеева И. А. История Музея и Архива Еврейского историко-этнографического общества после октября 1917 г. // Judaic-Slavic Journal. № 1(2). 2019. С. 13–43. deals with the History of the Museum and the Archives of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society after October 1917. A far as I know, she was undergoing treatment for her cancer as she was writing it and very possibly, she knew already then that her days were numbered. She made no secret of her struggle with cancer and indeed, it would have been difficult to hide. However, as much as possible, she did not let it interfere with her routine. She appeared to me to be honest and without self-pity but at the same time – in full awareness of the realities.

I want to discuss this article carefully and to point out how much of Iryna Serheyeva is in it. I am not certain that she would have been happy with my analysis nor am I certain that she would have agreed with it. However, I have no doubt that with her typical graciousness, she would have smiled and said: Let’s change the topic. What are you working on these days?

The annotation or summary of the article is rather dry and that is an understatement. To ‘find’ the author it is necessary to read the article carefully. The topic of the article is the history of the collection of the Museum of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society (St. Petersburg, 1908–1930) and of the files that made up the archives of the society, in the period between October 1917 and the early 1990s. It is based on archival documents found in Europe and in the USA as well as on published sources. The author reveals historical events related to the collections, reconstructs the composition and the content of the collections and discusses the fate of the museum materials and the archival collections.

The history of pieces of paper over a period of 70 years is not very exciting at first glance. In a sense, it is a chronicle of packing and unpacking, of organizing and disorganizing that has continued almost until today – and it is far from over. If you wish, you can see it as a history of changes of address.

Iryna Serheyeva saw in the topic of museums and archives significance and importance that someone who was less familiar with these institutions could easily miss – and she certainly convinced the reader of the important of the topic. At the same time, she was aware of the social impact of these institutions. For many historians, history is a tool to learn more about social dynamics or about the ways human societies develop. Indeed, history can serve this function. However, history also plays a role in how people develop concepts of a nation and how they understand the characteristics and developments of specific nations. To do this, historians need sources that can inform them about the past and allow them to write and interpret that past. For this, archives and archival collections are essential tools. Moreover, the very existence of archives – or museums, can serve as symbolic expressions of the existence of a nation. Indeed, even books can fill the same function. A history of a people, especially a multi-volume history, can be seen as a statement about the existence and significance of a nation – just as a dictionary does the same for demonstration the reality of a national language.

It should therefore not surprise us that one of the last projects that Iryna Serheyeva was involved in was a planned (and massive) five volume study and collection on the material culture of the Jews of Ukraine. It was intended to be an illustrated guide to the cultural and historical relics of the Jewish people that are preserved on the territory of Ukraine together with detailed information about the relics themselves, the personalities whose names are associated with certain items and building and finally, about Jewish history.

The emphasis on the material immediately rings a bell when we consider Iryna Serheyeva’s training as an archaeologist. It is also a reflection of her practical bent. She came to the field of Judaica well after the first stages of her university education. She did not pretend to a total mastery of Jewish languages or Jewish literatures. Instead, by choosing to focus on the material, she was able to make significant contributions to Jewish studies and even more significantly – to show that this is possible and to encourage others to enter the field of Jewish Studies without insecurity. Thus a history of archives and of museum collections was a natural one for her. There is much that can be learned from the very existence of the fragile paper materials of archives. The contents of an archive may be ‘things’ but the collection of these ‘things’ and the organization of these ‘things’ into an archive is the product of human activity.

The language of the Iryna Serheyeva’s afore-mentioned article “History of the Museum and the Archives of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society after October 1917” says something about the author when considered carefully. In her writing, she was sparing in the use of adjectives. She brought facts, cited sources and generally left it to readers to apply characteristics to the individuals she described and to their deeds. However, there were exceptions and they merit attention. In describing Iosif Lieberberg, who was for several years the head of Department of Jewish Culture in Kyiv, she wrote: “he was a very an ambitious, energetic, capable administrator, he was well versed in the corridors of power and skillfully and successfully obtained funding for the work of the structure he headed.” (see Сергеева И. А. История Музея и Архива Еврейского историко-этнографического общества после октября 1917 г… p. 25) .

Later in the article, she wrote about Iona Khinchin in the following words: “I. M. Khinchin, who, while not a professional archivist, possessed extraordinary administrative skills and a wide variety of experience leading work in various party and Soviet bodies” (p. 27).

In both of these cases, the term ‘skill’ was used in the context of administrative skills and experience in working in structures. As a veteran of such structures, who could appreciate the importance of these skills more than Iryna Serheyeva? At the same time, many of these skills certainly applied to her as well. Through her eyes we can understand how these individuals were able to do what they did – and how the institutions Iryna Serheyeva described were able to survive as long as they did.

Generally, the language of Iryna Serheyeva was restrained. She dealt with an extremely tragic period and few of her protagonists had the privilege of a peaceful death in bed. This was not dismissed but there was not appeal to emotion. However, there was one exception that ‘slipped’ through. Near the end of the article she wrote: “With such a systematization of materials, one can only imagine what happened to the professionally ordered archive of the EIEO (Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society – S.S.) and how the documents were formed into files, inventories and funds. Naturally, during the subsequent in the second half of the 1930–1950s years of fund transfers, the structure of the society’s archive was completely violated (была полностью нарушена), and many documents and documentary collections were dispersed not only in different funds, but also in different archives” (p. 31).

Iryna Serheyeva’s dismay at dispersal of the archives is easy to understand. These were not simply archives but a “professionally ordered archive” that was dispersed. Users of archives gain access to sources through the painstaking work of archivists who build guides and indices and carefully record the contents of each file so that information is easily available to the clients of archives. These users usually are totally unaware of the immense effort that goes into the preparation of all of these research aids. They also often ignore the fact that the richest archival collections are useless unless there are ways to locate needed materials within a reasonable amount of time. All of this work, the hours and hours of deciphering difficult handwriting and the recording of every small detail is done behind the doors of the archival workrooms. However, it does not take a great deal of imagination to understand that years of devoted work needed to build an accessible archive can and sometimes is destroyed in thoughtless scholarly vandalism. To build takes time. To destroy – only an instant is needed.

Iryna Serheyeva was aware of all of this and despite her professional and objective writing style, her commitments and concerns – and understanding, could not be totally hidden away.
The world Iryna Serheyeva grew up in was not an easy world to say the least – even though it was years after the Holocaust and after the worst years of Stalinism. At the same time, it was one that presented constant challenges to the new generation. Her generation did not have the freedoms that we take for granted today to study whatever topic one wants, to read whatever one wants to read and to benefit from international networks of collaboration and support. It was a tough school and one needed to be strong to advance and to survive. When she wrote she was not sentimental and she did not try to display emotion. However, she was deeply concerned and related to the topic – and this she could not hide.

There is much to be learned from the writing of Iryna Serheyeva just as there is much to be learned by the works of many others but for most of us – there is no less significance in her life. She showed all of us that study and change does not end with graduation from a university. Life is a continuous period of education and it is always possible to explore new topics and to master new worlds of knowledge. This is easy to say and easy to read but it is also just as easy to say that it can’t be done. Iryna Serheyeva showed that with effort and commitment – and to be honest, with more than a little talent, it can be done. We should try.

УДК 027.54(477-25)ІРНБУВ:025.171]:94(477=411.16):001.8](092)Сергєєва І.
Штампфер Шауль,
доктор філософії, професор-емерит,
професор радянського і східноєвропейського єврейства (посада імені раббі Едварда Сандрова),
колишній керівник департаменту єврейської історії,
Єврейський університет в Єрусалимі,
Єрусалим, Ізраїль

У своїй останній статті «История Музея и Архива Еврейского историко-этнографического общества после октября 1917 г.» Ірина Сергєєва писала у відкритому й неупередженому стилі, але її особистість і погляди відображені в невеликих деталях. На своєму життєвому шляху вона розуміла важливість збереження колекцій і розвитку бібліотеки, а це вплинуло і на її наукову працю.
Ключові слова: Ірина Сергєєва, життя, відділ фонду юдаїки, архів, музей, історія.