Biography of Natalie Kononenko

Natalie Kononenko was born in a displaced persons’ camp in Kornberg, Germany in 1946. Her parents, Oleg and Eugenia Kononenko were from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where they had been trained as chemists. The family, along with grandparents Konstantin and Olena Kononenko moved to New York City in 1951 and shortly thereafter relocated to Boonton, New Jersey. Natalie attended the public school system in Boonton and then went to study at Cornell University.

In 1965, she entered Harvard University, and completed her Radcliffe College BA in 1967. At Harvard University she earned an MA in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1969 and a PhD in Slavic and Near Eastern Languages, Literatures, and Folklore in 1976. She did her fieldwork for her doctoral dissertation in Turkey and wrote on the Turkish minstrel tale tradition.

In 1974 Natalie was hired by the University of Virginia and worked there until 2004. During her stay at the University she served as Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and as Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She taught Russian language, Russian literature, and her beloved folklore courses. Her proudest accomplishment is the development of the folklore program which grew to a full series of courses and attracted hundreds of students. The program also produced a number of PhDs who work in academe, in museums, as specialists in digital humanities, in the diplomatic corps, as well as other fields.

Natalie has been active nationally and internationally. She served in various capacities in the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, the Southern Conference on Slavic Studies, the Virginia Folklore Society, among other organizations. She was a founding member of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies and served as its president. She was a founding member of the Slavic and East European Folklore Association and was the editor of and published its journal, Folklorica until 2011.  She also maintained the organization’s web page until 2010.

Natalie began scholarly work in Ukraine in 1987 when she was sponsored by an IREX fellowship. Since then she has been back many times. With Ukrainian independence, her visits became more frequent and she has been going almost annually since 1998. Most of her work has been in Central Ukraine, as documented on this web site.

Natalie’s publications include Ukrainian Minstrels: And the Blind Shall Sing, Slavic Folklore – A Handbook, The Magic Egg and Other Tales from Ukraine, The Turkish Minstrel Tale Tradition, Ukrainian Dumy and articles on ritual, performance and the oral process, the use of digital technologies in folklore, among other topics. The book Ukrainian Minstrels won national and international best book awards. Natalie is currently writing about the rituals of marriage, birth, and death. She wrote most of the text for this web page and was the photographer for many of the images.

Natalie was hired as the Kule Chair in Ukrainian Ethnography by the University of Alberta and moved to Edmonton in 2004. She is married to Peter W. Holloway. They have one son, Gregory William, born 1989.