Spring tidings (and good news!)

You may have read recent reports about the rising number of attacks on writers, artists, and journalists around the world. But here in Ithaca, spring has brought some good news, too.

ICOA’s current resident, the Russian dissident writer Dmitry Bykov, arrived here with his wife, Katya, and young son in early 2022, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. Dmitry had been poisoned, harassed, and banned from teaching or appearing on TV or radio in Russia. He came to us with a fellowship from the Open Society University Network; we have contributed to his rent and provided practical and social support. During his time here, he has served as a visiting critic at Cornell’s Einaudi Center, written a biography of Volodymir Zelensky, taught online classes, and traveled the world giving lectures.

We are pleased to announce that Dmitry has accepted a teaching position at the University of Rochester and that he and his family will be moving there this fall.

We also have exciting news from our previous resident, Pedro X. Molina. Pedro, his wife, and their two sons arrived here in December 2018 from Nicaragua, where Pedro provided political cartoons to a newspaper opposed to the dictatorship. With ICOA’s support, he secured a two-year residency at Ithaca College, then spent a year as an Artist Protection Fund fellow at the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at Cornell. Since then, he has continued to send home daily cartoons, give talks and workshops, produce instructional videos, win international awards, and publish in major news outlets around the globe. Last fall, his wife got a job teaching Spanish in the Ithaca City School District and the family decided to put down roots here. This month, they’re making a down payment on a house. To top it all off, Pedro has just joined the ICOA advisory board. (So have Philip Lorenz and Jason Freitag — welcome all!)

Dmitry, Pedro, and our fellow advisory board member Raza Rumi (ICOA resident from 2015 to 2017, now director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College) continue a two-decade tradition of ICOA guests not just finding temporary refuge in Ithaca, but making real progress in their personal, professional, and creative lives. Crucially, they have all remained active in the cultural and political life of their home countries. We are delighted for them and proud of the role that we, as a community, have played in their success.

The good news doesn’t stop there. This month, with help from a grant from Cornell’s Migrations Global Grand Challenge, we launched a national effort to provide basic career development guidance for writers, artists, journalists, scholars, and human rights defenders living in exile across the United States. ICOA advisory board member Jonathan Miller is the project coordinator.

All over the world, people of conscience are being persecuted for speaking their minds. We in Ithaca can be proud of what we have done over the last 22 years to make sure that at least some of their voices are not silenced.

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