Poems & Stories by the Cheburashka Collective

A reading of original works by a collective of writers from countries once part of the Eastern bloc


Organizing Institutions

Slought, Cheburashka Collective


Julia Dasbach, Alina Pleskova


Programs in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory; Jewish Studies; and Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce Poems & Stories by the Cheburashka Collective, on Thursday, March 24, 2022 from 6-8pm. The event will take place in the Slought galleries and will feature a reading of original works by a growing collective of women & nonbinary writers who are emigres/refugees/first-generation from countries that were once a part of the Eastern bloc. The poets, translators, and writers featured in this event—including Katya Bratt-Pfotenhauer, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Anna Fridlis, Anna Halberstadt, Hilah Kohen, Olga Livshin, Neon Mashurov, Gala Mukomolova, Luisa Muradyan, Alina Pleskova, Bela Shayevich, Larissa Shmailo, and Lana Spendl—will each share a piece of their work, followed by a moderated conversation with the audience. Please note that masks and proof of vaccination are required to attend this event.

While this event was organized before the most recent invasion of Ukraine and readers will share work across a range of themes, not necessarily responding to the current crisis, its devastation now casts a long shadow over this gathering of voices. As such, this evening of literature, poetry, and art can become an opportunity to think about the devastation that is not only taking place but has taken place over a much longer period of time, and not only in Ukraine. The recent events bring our awareness to the long histories of dispossession and displacement that have resulted from the ambitions of global capitalism, the projects of colonialism and imperialism, the violence of different forms of liberalism, and the forces of fascism that are presently growing around the globe. In the face of these devastating histories, literature, poetry, and art are perhaps our most enduring resource for processing, coping, and surviving trauma. Join us in choosing, in daring, albeit briefly, to be in this lyric moment of hope—a hope that reflection might help us find ways to combat these forces of dispossession and displacement in the name of a different future.

The Cheburashka Collective is named for the iconic Soviet-era cartoon character, Cheburashka, an unusual creature of unknown origin who arrives as a stowaway in a crate of oranges. Cheburashka is rejected by the zoo, which doesn't know how to categorize them, and goes searching for where, and with whom, they belong. For members of the collective and many immigrants/refugees from the former Soviet Union, Cheburashka symbolizes displacement, curiosity, otherness, and complicated assertions of selfhood and identity. Members of the collective write from, about, through, and sometimes even away from their unique identities.

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Participating readers include:

Victoria Juharyan is a professor of Slavic literatures and world philosophy at UC Davis. She is also a poet, writer, and former journalist in Russia.

Julia Kolchinksy Dasbach emigrated from Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She is the author of three poetry collections, including The Many Names for Mother.

Alina Pleskova is a poet, editor, and Russian immigrant turned Philadelphian. Her first full-length poetry collection, Toska, will be published by Deep Vellum.

Luisa Muradyan is originally from Ukraine and is the author of American Radiance.

Eugenia Ulanova grew up in and around Philadelphia after immigrating from Moscow in 1993. She writes fiction and is completing her PhD at Penn.

Lana Spendl is originally from Sarajevo, and is the author of the chapbook of flash fiction We Cradled Each Other in the Air.

Olga Livshin was raised first in Odessa, and is the author of A Life Replaced: Poems with Translations from Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Gandelsman.

Gala Mukomolova is a Moscow-born, Brooklyn-raised, poet and essayist. Her book, Without Protection, is available through Coffee House Press.

Kathryn Bratt-Pfotenhauer's work has previously been published in Cherry Tree, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Meridian, and others.

Anna Fridlis writes in the memoir and poetry genres in Jersey City, NJ, though originally from Astrakhan, Russia. She serves as a Contributing Editor at The Seventh Wave Magazine.

Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, and translator. Her most recent novel is Sly Bang and her most recent poetry collection is Medusa's Country.

Neon Mashurov (NM Esc) is a writer from Brooklyn and the post-Soviet diaspora. They are the author of chapbooks SERVICE.

Bela Shayevich is a Soviet-American writer translator and visual artist, and is in the MFA program in Nonfiction Writing at the University of Iowa.

Hilah Kohen is a translator working primarily in Russian, English, and the Kavkazi Jewish language Juhuri. Her work can also be found in Gulf Coast and the "Russophonia" issue of Words Without Borders.

Anna Halberstadt is a poet and translator and the author of "Vilnius Diary," a collection of poetry.

"Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, 'enriched' by it all."

— Paul Celan