By Callie Hietala
Janet Demiray, former counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, will speak at the two branches of the Blue Ridge Regional Library next week, delving into the history and details of the current conflict in Ukraine.
The talk, “Understanding the War in Ukraine: Background on the Fight to Preserve a Nation,” will be at the Patrick County branch library on Thursday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m. and at the main Martinsville library Saturday, April 9, at 2:30 p.m.
Due to limited seating, reservations are required for both events and can be made by calling the library.
Leandio Gravely, program coordinator for the library, said the event, like all library programs, is deeply rooted in the library’s mission to “provide free, friendly service and access to timely materials that educate, enrich, and entertain the entire community.”
He said this program “will provide an opportunity for our community to see and meet an individual that has actually worked and lived in Ukraine.”
According to a bio provided by Gravely, Demiray, a Patrick County native who lives in Stuart, spent 35-years with the U.S. State Department, with emphasis on the countries of East and Central Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. Since retiring from the State Department, she has returned to Ukraine many times on educational programs and as an election observer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Gravely said Demiray is a long-time library supporter and approached the branch manager of the Patrick library with the desire to connect with the community and help them understand current events from the perspective of someone who has lived and worked with Ukrainians.
“I think with this program, we’ll connect the dots of the humanity” of the conflict. He said news reports don’t necessarily help people outside of the conflict realize that “these (people) are human beings, just like we are, and (this program) makes the connection that this is a human life” being affected by the Russian invasion.
“You see someone here in Martinsville that has lived there and has met those people who are being impacted by the war, it’s really powerful.”
Gravely said Demiray is donating a book, “The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine” by Serhii Plokhy, which will soon be available for checkout to further help the community understand more about the country.
Reservations for the Patrick County event can be made by calling (276) 694-3352. To reserve a seat at the Martinsville talk, call (276) 403-5430.