When Štěpanka Korytová had to leave her home in Czechoslovakia for political reasons, she had no expectation that she would ever be able to return. The displacement of forced exile is something she knew at first hand, and it became the theme of her scholarly life.
Contact with a distant cousin from Nebraska prompted Korytová’s first book, which traces Czech immigration to the farmlands west of the Mississippi. In the early Czech settlers to the U.S., she found a familiar ethos of displacement—“loneliness, isolation, homesickness, and pride in being Czech.” As these settlers became more successful in their farms and businesses, their ties to the U.S. became stronger, but still “they cherished their language and preserved it through cultural activities.”
In recent years, Korytová has turned her attention to the displacement caused by human trafficking. As a visiting scholar-in-residence at the IU Center for the Study of Global Change, she started a multi-disciplinary faculty study group, The Many Faces of Trafficking. The function of the group has been to get beyond the sensational tabloid material of forced migration for work or sex, to the long-term effects and emotional damage that forced separation from family and country produces.
For her “innovative scholarship and current research agenda that promises to make an important intervention on Slavic Women’s studies,” Korytová was awarded the Zirin Prize by the Association of Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS). The AWSS particularly acknowledged Korytová’s complex view of the impact of immigration both on the immigrants and on those with whom they came in contact, and hoped that the award would encourage and support her study of sex trafficking in Central and Eastern Europe.