Olga Wirsta Award in Communications, Journalism and Media Studies Recipients

2011Olena Decock, graduate of the Master of Arts Communications program at the University of Ottawa.

In recognition of her short film entitled Tracing Shadows: A glimpse into the voices of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada which was part of her Master’s Thesis entitled Filming the in-between: Studying the Representation of cultural identities of immigrant families in Canada and Québec Cinema.
2008Alexandra Stadnyk, graduate of the Master of Arts in Journalism Program at the University of Western Ontario.

In recognition of her body of journalistic work on Ukrainian themes while enrolled in the Journalism Program. She profiled Ukrainian-American filmmaker Damian Kolody, the Ukrainian Holodomor survivor Mykola Latyshko, and the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus, and wrote articles about freedom of the press in Ukraine as well as the country’s economy and business affairs. Ms Stadnyk also prepared a radio report about the initiative of the Help Us Help the Children project of the Children of Chornobyl Canadian Fund to raise public awareness about the scourge of human trafficking.

2011 | Olena Decock

2008 | Alexandra Stadnyk

A profile of Alexandra Stadnyk, the 2007 winner of the Olga Wirsta Award in Communications, Journalsim,
and Media Studies

CFUS Award allowed Alexandra Stadnyk to complete her studies

With Ukrainian grandfathers on both sides, Alexandra grew up steeped in the culture of Toronto’s Ukrainian Canadian community. Her Ukrainian education began early, with attendance at a Saturday School and elementary schools that offered Ukrainian language classes. She was also a member of the Ukrainian Youth Association and attended summer camps, both as a camper and later as a counselor.

“As a child, I was fully immersed in the Ukrainian Canadian experience,” she says.CFUS-Wirsta-Award-2008-Alexandra-Stadnyk-and-Olya-Kuplowska

Alexandra’s interest in journalism developed while she was studying for her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. She wrote about events taking place in Ukraine for the mass media in Waterloo.

She also wrote an article for The Cord, the uni­ver­sity’s student newspaper, about the Holodo­mor, the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine. “I developed an interest in journalism during the time of Viktor Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution that swept through Ukraine.”

Alexandra’s Holodomor article sparked much debate on the campus among both students and professors. To support her position that the famine was genocide and should be recognized as such, she researched period documents and past writings as well as interviewed survivor Mykola Latyshko.

After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier, Alexandra went on to earn her Masters in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. As part of her studies, she completed an internship with the Brussels office of Associated Press. She returned to Canada from Brussels with mounting debt, her Master’s degree still incomplete and her future uncertain.

Her timely receipt of the CFUS’s 2007 Olga Wistra Award in Communications, Journalism, and Media Studies, together with the 2007 Stephania Bubniuk Award in Journalism Studies, was welcome news. She credits the award with allowing her to complete her studies. “When I received the award, I breathed a huge sigh of relief!”

As important as the financing was to her studies, it was more than just money for Alexandra. It gave her confidence. She describes it as a lifeline to the Ukrainian Canadian community and a reassurance that it was thriving.

She speaks passionately about the need to continue researching Ukrainian events. She believes that so much was hidden in Soviet archives, and for so long, that researchers have only begun to uncover the truth. There is still a considerable amount of work to be done, and grants like this can help make it happen.

Today, Alexandra runs her own communications company, Bearwood Consulting, and acts as an independent communications consultant to the energy and electricity sector.

She also maintains her interest in journalism as well as Ukrainian and Ukrainian Canadian culture and history. She continues to discuss her ideas for articles with the editor of the Kyiv Post, where she worked upon graduating from Western. She published a story in the Globe & Mail about her grandfather, Stefan Yakubiw. Her grandfather and his generation are also the inspiration for an article she is currently writing on Ukrainian identity.

And she continues to be an active member of the Ukrainian Canadian Holodomor Awareness Committee.