The Ukrainian-American community and the world of scholarship suffered a grievous loss with the death of Zenovia (Zenia) Sochor Parry on February 9, 1998, after a valiant year-long struggle with cancer. A distinguished teacher, researcher, and author of numerous scholarly studies, Zenovia Sochor was professor of government and international relations at Clark University in Worcester, MA, research associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute as well as at the Davis Center for Russian Studies of Harvard University, and member of numerous academic organizations. Over the past decade she gained prominence as a leading expert on Ukrainian politics, a recognized authority on contemporary Ukraine in academic and government circles, in the United States and in Ukraine.
Zenia (or Zena to her American friends), as she was always affectionately known, was born on October 23, 1943, at Brody in war-torn Ukraine, the daughter of Joseph and Maria Sochor. As an infant she shared in her family's tribulations as refugees whose wanderings through Europe ultimately brought them to Austria toward the end of World War II. In 1948 the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where Zenia spent her childhood and early youth. Here she completed her schooling, graduating with highest honors from St. Basil's Academy, attended the "Ridna Shkola," was active in Plast and other organizations. From this early period dates her lifelong love of Ukrainian culture and involvement in the Ukrainian-American community.
In 1965 Zenia received her B.A. degree (cum laude) from the University of Pennsylvania, and a year later a Master of Science in Economics degree from the London School of Economics, where she was Thouron Scholar to Great Britain, the first woman honored with this prestigious award. In 1977 she received her Ph.D. from Columbia University where her professors included such eminent scholars as Dankwart Rustow and Roman Kolkowicz, and Seweryn Bialer and Zbigniew Brzezinski served as her dissertation sponsors.
After teaching briefly at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, and then at Columbia, in 1980 Zenia joined the faculty of Clark University, where in 1986 she received her tenure. Deeply devoted to the teaching profession and to her students, she was twice nominated for Outstanding Teacher at Clark, and in 1990 was voted Outstanding Academic Advisor at her university, a distinction that in 1991 was broadened to the Northeast Region of the US.
Much loved by students, Zenia was also highly respected by her colleagues and active in her profession. She served on numerous faculty committees at Clark, and in the last year before illness struck became chair of the Government Department. A member of the American Political Science Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and the Association for the Study of Nationalities, she frequently organized panels and presented scholarly papers at their professional meetings. She was elected to a variety of offices of the New England Slavic Association, and in the years 1987-89 served as its president. But it was in her research, writing, and public lectures that Zenia made her original contribution to scholarship. During the decade of the 1980s this concentrated on the early Soviet period, especially the debates over cultural policy in the 1920s. On this subject she published a number of articles, and the book, much praised by reviewers as a major contribution to the field, Revolution and Culture: The Bogdanov-Lenin Controversy (Cornell University Press, 1988).
It was Ukraine, however, that was constantly a major focus of Zenia's interests. From 1982 she was uninterruptedly a research associate of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. She delivered lectures and served as critic and discussant in the Seminar in Ukrainian Studies, participated in conferences, organized workshops, advised students, and joined in consultations for government officials and journalists on Ukrainian issues. Concurrently an associate at the Russian Research Center (now the Davis Center for Russian Studies), Zenia strengthened the Ukrainian presence and provided a Ukrainian perspective at the Center's Soviet-oriented and comparative programs.
With the decline of the USSR and the growing importance of Ukraine as a factor in Soviet politics, and ultimately as an independent state, Zenia's work increasingly concentrated on Ukraine. In 1988, when the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute introduced for the first time a course on Ukrainian politics, Zenia was invited to become the first instructor at Harvard in this field. Following the resounding success of this course, Zenia was invited again to teach the politics of now independent Ukraine in 1993. Just as she wished to introduce Western students to the study of contemporary Ukraine, Zenia had a strong desire to bring the study of political science as a discipline to students in Ukraine as scholarship there began to emancipate itself from Marxist-Leninist ideology. This she was able to accomplish in 1994, through a Fulbright grant, as senior lecturer at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In this and many other ways, Zenia worked indefatigably to promote Ukrainian-American scholarly contacts and to aid institutions of higher learning in Ukraine, especially the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Much of her effort was also devoted to such organizations as the American Association for Ukrainian Studies (in which she held numerous positions, including treasurer/secretary in 1994-96) and the International Association for Ukrainian Studies (elected to its Program Committee for 1993-96 and to a renewed term in 1996 as the International Secretary for the US and Western Europe).
Zenia's research also reflected this burgeoning preoccupation with Ukraine. Her articles on democratization, the Communist Party, the elections of 1994, ethnic politics, and crafting a political consensus in Ukraine appeared with growing frequency. All these studies, as was emphasized by Roman Szporluk, the Director of the Ukrainian Research Institute, "were building blocks toward a major work, a study of the emergence of an independent Ukrainian state. Professor Sochor was approaching this important project with unique qualifications. Few scholars have the training which she was bringing to this subject. Professor Sochor was trained in economics and philosophy, in politics and history, and she had a rare feel for cultural and spiritual dimensions of social and political life."
It was while working on this ambitious project that Zenia was diagnosed one year ago with liver cancer. Still, in the midst of pain, debilitating treatments, and waning strength, Zenia continued with this undertaking, pushing herself to the limits though knowing it could not be completed as she had originally envisioned it. It is the intention of her colleagues and the Ukrainian Research Institute to make this legacy accessible to the scholarly community as Zenia's final and lasting contribution to the field she loved so much. To honor her life and work, Zenia's family and friends are also working with the Ukrainian Research Institute to establish an annual Zenovia Sochor Parry Memorial Lecture in Ukrainian Politics. The organizers hope to raise an endowment fund of sufficient size to allow the Memorial Lectures and the resultant publications to continue in perpetuity to mark Zenia's memory and continue the development of the field to which she made such an outstanding contribution.
Zenovia Sochor will be remembered not only for her scholarly achievements. To a remarkable degree she was able to combine her professional work with a full and rich family life. To her husband David Parry, an architect and city planner, and to her daughter Katrusia, now eleven, she was a very loving wife and mother, and was devoted to her father (who predeceased her), mother, and sister Lesia Sochor Graham. By her many friends, colleagues, and students she will be remembered also for her unfailing grace and charm, her dignity allied to genuine unpretentiousness, and irrepressible sense of humor. And those who witnessed her last difficult year will always marvel at her spiritual faith, strength of will, and unflagging courage.