Prisma Ukraïna

Olha Labur

Women’s initiatives in the sphere of oncology in wartime

Previous Fellowships: 2022/ 2023

Olha Labur is a historian from Kyiv who researches women’s experiences in the 20th century. She works as an associate professor in the Department of History of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. Since 2017, she teaches the post-graduate course “The Gender History of Ukraine”. She is a member of the Ukrainian Association of Women’s History Researchers and of the Gender Center at Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. In the spring of 2022, she received a scholarship from the Free University in Berlin. Previously, Olha was on the organizing committee and a participant of the fifth and sixth International Scientific and Practical Conferences, “Women in Science and in Education: The Past, the Present, the Future” (2010 and 2011). She also taught the online course “The History of Ukraine, 1917”. Of the ten lectures, one of the topics was “Interesting Women” during the revolutionary year 1917. In 2016, as a part of the screening of the film The Right to a Woman (1930), directed by Oleksiy Kapler, Olha gave the lecture “The Right to a Woman – The Right to a Burqa” in cooperation with Maryna Voronina. Since 2022, Olha Labur has been a member of the Prisma Ukraïna War, Migration, Memory research group. In 2024-25, she is a fellow of the Gerda Henkel Foundation at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin.


Women’s initiatives in the sphere of oncology in wartime

Olha Labur’s research into the militarization of oncology during the war has illuminated a profound transformation within the oncology system, spanning both medical and societal dimensions. This metamorphosis has been notably influenced by diverse patient communities and organizations. Among them, Athena, Women Against Cancer, Family of Inspiration, Tabletochki, and the #WorthLiving Foundation stand out. These entities have not only established fresh social networks within Ukraine but have also forged connections with EU-based cancer organizations. Her assertion posits that these groups have actively assumed roles as agents of change, countering the marginalization of individuals with diagnoses and amplifying cancer awareness. This becomes especially crucial in light of medical professionals' predictions of heightened cancer incidence rates in the post-war era.

To explore the multifaceted roles of these women-led organizations, she will draw upon a spectrum of disciplines including the history of social activism, women's engagement, public discourse, medical anthropology, and emotional dynamics. Building upon her prior research in women's history, she aims to interweave personal narratives with the life stories of fellow women and volunteers. The research will hinge upon a rich source foundation comprised of interviews with organization representatives, encompassing electronic publications, social media content, and recorded presentations of diverse events and initiatives.

Beyond the collection of testimonies and life narratives, her objectives encompass the identification of common thematic frameworks, poignant experiential facets, unexpected fluctuations, and underlying meanings. To achieve this, she will undertake an in-depth analysis of communication rhetoric present within social networks. This entails dissecting core messages, prevailing ideas, and the ensuing responses within the cancer community. Consequently, her study focal point rests upon public endeavors, behavioral nuances, experiential intricacies, and life practices, both amidst and subsequent to the wartime context.


‘The Other War’ or Prospects of Survival: The Stories of Women Refugees with Cancer in the Russo-Ukrainian War

Olha Labur’s project is focused on documenting the life stories of Ukrainian women who are cancer patients and who, in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War, ended up in Germany. Using oral history tools, she plans to conduct ‘living interviews’ with women who decided to leave the warzone and seek treatment abroad. Olha considers their experiences exceptional, as this a high-risk step for people with a terminal disease. They did not know what lies ahead, such as whether they will be able to find treatment, understanding with foreign doctors, or normal living conditions and food. Some of these women arrived with small children, which makes their situation even harder. Olha intends to document ‘women’s voices’ in this transformational period of their lives to understand how they made decisions, what caused them to go abroad, and what support they received from their relatives, friends, volunteer communities, the hosting party, and other cancer patients. The project also seeks to understand how the process was organized on the level of the state, international institutions, local communities, certain medical institutions, and the self-organizing cancer patient community. The research will consider whether  fleeing the war turned into a personal ‘second war’ for these women or whether their prospects of survival improved. Ultimately, the project will identify and describe the new survival practices of one of the most vulnerable social groups of the war.