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Russian scholar’s passion brings her to Wheaton College

Olga Lukmanova, recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, will spend a six-month period at Wheaton College, working on research as she makes contributions to the learning of those at Wheaton. Of 175 applicants, Lukmanova was one of 22 chosen to receive the scholarship that has brought her to the Wade Center.
According to its website, “From its inception, the Fulbright Program has fostered bilateral relationships in which citizens and governments of other countries work with the U.S. to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs.” This scholarship enables U.S. citizens to travel to other countries for their advanced degrees. Under the Fulbright, scholars from other countries are also accepted into the U.S. to complete their work.
Lukmanova, a professor specializing in English language and literature at Dobrolubov State Linguistics University in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, applied for a three to six month internship working at the Wade Center with the writing of George MacDonald, an area in which she specializes. However, according to Lukmanova, applicants can request internships, masters or doctoral work, spending as long as two years in another country. Marjorie Mead, associate director of the Marion E. Wade Center, worked as the faculty associate to bring Lukmanova to Wheaton.
“To my knowledge, Olga is the only Fulbright scholar to come to Wheaton,” Mead stated, although she mentioned that Wheaton has sent Fulbright scholars to other locations. “It is a great honor,” Mead said.
Lukmanova is scheduled to deliver three lectures during her time at Wheaton, beginning in September with a lecture on George MacDonald, who is currently the center of her translation work. She also lectured on adaptions of “War and Peace” and will conclude by sharing about J.R.R. Tolkien.
Reading “The Great Divorce” initially sparked Lukmanova’s love for MacDonald, because it inspired her to seek out Lewis’ mentor-figure.
“Lewis had a similar effect on me that Macdonald had on him,” she said. She added that it was incredibly surprising to find MacDonald’s works in her university library in English.
She reflected on the fact she stumbled across MacDonald’s work during what was, “spiritually, a very tough period.” She stated that, “His work was such a relief.” It prompted her to think, “If God is at least this good, he’s very good. If this is true, we’re alright. And (the phrase) ‘too good to be true’ is a contradiction.”
“He has this quality of just cleansing your heart and mind and spirit,” Lukmonova commented on her work with MacDonald.
Lukmanova’s publisher became interested in her passion for MacDonald as she began giving her friends books of his quotations. “‘Let’s do a novel!’ he said,” she laughed. It was then that she began her work translated MacDonald into Russian, the same work that brings her to the U.S. It was not long until they were discussing plans for six more MacDonald novels.
Lukmanova said that a highlight of her time at Wheaton has been the “wealth of resources. I don’t think (the students here) can appreciate it.” She stated that she values the scholarship, opportunities and ability to give something back, highlighting the experience of holding one of MacDonald’s books with notes from C.S. Lewis.
“Reading at this point can be countercultural,” Lukmanova said in encouragement to students. “Our seven (Wade Center) authors have a lot to teach us of how to approach reading, perceive art and just let the story work on you.” She added that for her, reading them has been akin to “spiritual weightlifting.”
In the same way that Lewis learned from MacDonald, she stated, “Carefully choose your masters: Choose someone who is worthy,” and then quoted associate professor and director of Wheaton Evangelism Initiative Jerry Root to make the point that these masters can then lead you to their masters, just as Lewis led Lukmanova to MacDonald.
Lukmanova will remain in Wheaton until February and will deliver at least one more lecture during the remainder of her time.

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