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Sophia Johnson ’03
Fulbright Scholar, Kyiv, Ukraine

Sophia Johnson in Ukraine, 2004

The year after she graduated from Smith with a sociology degree focusing on Russian civilization, Johnson returned to Ukraine, where she has visited many times, this time as an Election Observer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international coalition of 56 nations.

While there, she observed Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, an uprising of protest in response to allegations of corruption and electoral fraud during the country's 2004 presidential election.

As a Fulbright scholar this fall, Johnson will return to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, for her research project “Examining the Catalyst for the Orange Revolution.”

Johnson, who is of Ukrainian descent, first visited the country in 1990, when it was part of the Soviet Union, and has been back several times since. “I have been able to observe social change as it has occurred over time,” she says. “It has been remarkable to witness the evolution of political and economic infrastructure over the course of 15 years. Kyiv, for example, has morphed from a dreary city plagued by constant shortages to a modern eastern European capital.”

Johnson with OSCE

Since graduating from Smith, Johnson has also worked as a legal assistant in Boston and, most recently, in New York City, representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay. She plans to enter law school upon her return from Ukraine in 2007.

Wherever her path leads, part of her heart will always remain in Ukraine, Johnson says. “I was raised with romantic stories of the old country. Although my heritage initially drew me to the country, Ukraine’s political and economic history is very different from other Soviet bloc republics and understanding these subtle distinctions became my focus.”


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