The post-soviet economic transformation and the rise of a new Ukrainian nationalism are interconnected gendered processes producing both a new structural reality which has decreased the employment opportunities for women in Ukraine and a new discursive terrain including a contested moral order and a reification of mothers as the symbol of a still fragile Ukrainian national identity. It is in this context that Post-Soviet Ukraine has become the site of mass emigration.
This dissertation is a cross-national comparison of two patterns of Ukrainian emigration: the exile of older women to Italy and the exodus of entire families, lead predominantly by older women, to California. Italy and California are the largest and most politically significant destinations for post-Soviet Ukrainian migrants where they provide cleaning and caring labor to the elderly. The sending site, Ukraine, as well as key characteristics of the migrants are held constant. Therefore the migration literature argues that variation between the discourses and practices of migrants in Rome and San Francisco must be due to the "context of reception." However, by following these migration streams back to Ukraine, I discovered that while variations in the contexts of reception are important, the sending site also has significant effects. In fact, I show that there is a classic "interaction effect" between sending and receiving sites constructing different subjectivities and practices for those in exile to Italy and those in exodus to California. Individual migrants in exile maintain a forced and painful connection to Ukraine, not only through their families left behind, but to Ukraine's future position in the global hierarchy of nations. In contrast, families in exodus, are able to choose the extent to which they are engaged with Ukrainian nation-building. If carework is a sit of Ukraine's Europeanization project in exile, it is instead a vehicle for integration in exodus.
In addition to 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this study also relies on 158 interviews conducted in Russian with migrant careworkers in Rome and San Francisco and with family members left behind in L'viv, Ukraine. Through this comparative approach I elaborate on the theoretical debates about gender and migration and bring together empirical work on sending and receiving countries while drawing connections to national and global level processes.