Some Recollections and Reflections Regarding My VOA Ukrainian Service Career (1987-2015)
Adrian Karmazyn recently joined the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation team as a Special Advisor for Strategic Communications and Development. He comes to USUF after a distinguished 27-year career at the Voice of America, where he served as Chief of VOA’s Ukrainian Service from 2005-2015. Adrian Karmazyn retired from federal service on September 30th, 2015. Below he shares some recollections about his career in international broadcasting, including his tenure as the leader of the service for the past decade.
In a very kind and gracious statement published in the Congressional Record, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) wrote the following about my retirement from the Voice of America:
“During his career, Mr. Karmazyn has contributed immensely to keeping the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine, even during some of her darkest hours. He is a freedom fighter. His mindful voice has been an essential component on the arduous path to a more open, democratic society following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the harrowing but steady progress of Ukraine to become part of the European community of nations… His labor has brought the American people and the people of Ukraine closer for decades, with his regular presence and positive influence at VOA for the cause of liberty. His has been a voice of freedom.”
I am truly honored to be so generously recognized by Congresswoman Kaptur, as well as blessed to have served the United States in a capacity that allowed me to combine my passion for Ukrainian studies and journalism.
Below I will provide some highlights from my VOA career, focusing on some of the twists and turns in our ongoing adaptation to the ever-evolving political situation and media environment in Ukraine. Over the past quarter century I have seen VOA interview and cover the pronouncements and activities of thousands of U.S. and Ukrainian officials, experts and activists, and I hope that researchers will someday delve into our archives and study our rich programming content, of which I am extremely proud.
Adrian Karmazyn, VOA Ukrainian Service Chief, with the VOA newsroom in the background. (September 2015).
I was born in 1960 in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, an area of the state that Congresswoman Kaptur now represents. I was part of the tightly-knit Ukrainian-American community there, having attended Ukrainian school on Saturdays, Ukrainian church on Sundays, and Ukrainian scouting on weekends and during the summer. But Ukraine was a very distant place when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s and even stretching into the 1980s. There was no Internet to provide ready access to Ukrainian media and there were very few exchange visitors from Ukraine. Tourist travel to Ukraine was highly constrained; there truly was very little interaction between Americans and Ukrainians.
After completing my M.A. coursework at the University of Michigan in 1987, I headed to Washington in search of a job. Having participated in an internship in Senator Donald Riegle’s (D-MI) office the previous summer, I was hoping to find employment on Capitol Hill, but after sending out my resume to numerous Democratic lawmakers, I had no offers that related in any way to my interest in foreign relations or my degree in Russian and East European Studies. However I did learn about an opportunity in the Ukrainian Service of the Voice of America, which was appealing to me and in line with my formal Ukrainian-language study at university and with the topic of my master’s thesis in which I researched (under the direction of my academic advisor Professor Roman Szporluk) how Soviet language planning policy was reflected in Ukrainian newspaper circulation figures. (I had worked at a radio station, WRUW-FM, while I was a university student and I had been listening to some shortwave radio broadcasts from Ukraine to help improve my knowledge of contemporary Ukrainian—which made VOA an even more intriguing job opportunity).
I came to VOA at a time when the Service was expanding its broadcast hours to serve a significant Ukrainian-speaking audience in the Soviet Far East. I served as an entry-level contract producer for a few months but subsequently took advantage of a fellowship opportunity with Paul Goble, a Soviet nationalities expert at the State Department, who steered me toward writing a review of “A History of the Cities and Villages of the Ukrainian SSR,” an interesting and informative encyclopedic publication which subtly reinforced Ukraine’s distinctiveness within the Soviet Union.
In the early part of 1988 I returned to VOA, formally joining the staff of the Ukrainian Service and was heavily engaged in producing one-to-two hour blocks of radio programming, while simultaneously trying to improve my Ukrainian language proficiency. At the time, I was one of only a few American-born staffers among a team of some 30 people, most of whom were Ukrainian refugees from the World War II period. Of course, I was eager to work as a journalist, and though I had a rather obvious American accent, the feeling was that my presence on the airwaves—an American who essentially learned Ukrainian as a foreign language—demonstrated a huge respect for the Ukrainian language in juxtaposition to the way Soviet authorities were suppressing Ukrainian and discouraging its use.
In my first decade at VOA, I remember volunteering to cover practically any Ukrainian-related events, many of which were held at the St. Sophia Society building in the Northwest section of Washington DC, an important Ukrainian-Catholic-owned venue for diaspora gatherings in the capital. Gorbachev’s glasnost policies created an opening for more Ukrainians to visit the U.S. than ever before and I tried to highlight these new opportunities for U.S.-Ukrainian interaction and collaboration in a weekly series that I hosted called Exchange Bulletin.
In January of 1990 I travelled to Donetsk on a five-week assignment as a guide for a United States Information Agency exhibit titled Design USA. I was one of several Ukrainian-American participants-- the others were Marta Zielyk, Tania Chomiak, Peter Sawchyn, Marta Pereyma, Uliana Bachynsky, Vlad Kunko and Sonia Karmazyn (my wife). We were sent to Donetsk to talk about the exhibit in Ukrainian, as a supplement to the two-dozen or so Russian-speaking guides. At one point during exhibit hours, I was approached by an older man and his son, who inquired with tears in his eyes if I was related to the Adrian Karmazyn whom he had known in the western-Ukrainian town of Pomoriany (Lviv oblast) in the 1930s. It turns out that he had known my father (also named Adrian) and my grandfather, a Greek-Catholic priest in the town, and he showed me pictures of the church and a group picture of the parishioners including my family. The man had been exiled to Siberia by the Soviets and upon returning to Ukraine was restricted from returning to his home town and was forced to settle in Donetsk. He had heard a promotional announcement on VOA, inviting Ukrainians to come to Donetsk for the Design USA exhibit and meet the Ukrainian-speaking guides, including VOA Ukrainian journalist Adrian Karmazyn. That was an important and heartfelt lesson for me about the power, impact and reach of VOA Ukrainian broadcasts. (Here I will mention that my mother’s family hails from Khotynets --today just across the border in Poland--where her grandfather was a Ukrainian Catholic priest at a wooden church built in the early 1600’s and which still stands today).
In the spring of 1991 I embarked on an opportunity with the newly established Washington office of the Ukrainian National Association where I worked on informing lawmakers, officials and the media about Ukrainian issues. I recall that we were highly engaged in responding to President George Bush’s “Chicken Kiev” speech, in which he seemed to be discouraging Ukrainians from pursuing independence. And my first “15-minutes of fame” came when I was asked by a media outlet to comment on the White House decision, as announced by then press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, to drop the “the” when referring to Ukraine, in conjunction with the US recognizing Ukrainian independence. Ukrainian-Americans had long rejected referring to their ancestral homeland as “the Ukraine.”
At the end of 1991 I decided to return to VOA’s Ukrainian Service, taking advantage of the opportunity to work in the new, inspiring era of Ukrainian independence. Over the next year or so, the agency was energetically taking advantage of new opportunities in Ukraine by arranging the rebroadcasting of our radio shows on State Radio in Ukraine and by launching a weekly TV show, Window on America, (recognizing the impact of television as a source of news, depicting life in the U.S. and American society and institutions), hosted by Peter Fedynsky and for which I produced TV stories--including one about a traditional Ukrainian wooden church in Silver Spring, Maryland, featured in the first episode. VOA’s Ukrainian Service also established a correspondent’s post in Kyiv—our staffers were sent there on a rotating basis, and following in the footsteps of my colleagues George Krawciw, Roman Ferencevych and George Sajewych, I served in the Ukrainian capital for three months, March – May 1993, filing daily reports for our radio broadcasts. The correspondent’s post enabled VOA to be more relevant in its broadcasting to Ukrainians and to better engage with the policy and journalistic communities in Ukraine. I recall the weekly briefings by Ukrainian Foreign Ministry press secretary Yuriy Sergeyev, who, as I compile these recollections, is Ukraine’s Representative to the United Nations, dealing particularly with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Other highlights included visiting the museum of the Battle of Poltava, where the rule of hetman Ivan Mazepa was being interpreted in a new and positive way and a trip to Slobodyshche in the Zhytomyr region, where American farmers were sharing their expertise with Ukrainian farmers.
Adrian Karmazyn (L), interviewing MP Les’ Taniuk in the Ukrainian Parliament in the 1990s.
In the latter half of the 1990s I was afforded a three-week fellowship with Ukrainian State Radio and traveled on reporting assignments to Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia. Back in Washington, news coverage remained a programming priority, however, our team of journalists was also producing various feature programs. I co-hosted and co-produced, along with Ouliana Teliouk, a youth-oriented weekly show called University of the Airwaves. Some of the other radio feature programs in the 1990s (and beyond) and their hosts were Washington Is Not Only for Tourists (Natalia Korpal), Ukrainian Diaspora show (Teophil Staruch/Anya Dydyk), Youth Show (Oleksandr Kaganovsky), Economy and Business (Luba Cvikula), Ukrainian History in the West (Israel Kleiner), Pop Music show (Andriy Metil), and Rock Lessons (Yarema Harabatch). Editor Jurij Hiltajczuk launched the Ukrainian Service’s website and led us into the Internet age.
Adrian Karmazyn, second from right, and Kharkiv Press Club executive director Lyudmyla Dolia (center), with local journalists. Karmazyn’s VOA travels throughout Ukraine often involved meetings with regional broadcast station representatives and local journalists in such cities as Kharkiv, Odesa, Zaporizhia and Lviv.
In November 1999 I was selected Program Manager, i.e., the deputy director of the Ukrainian Service, under chief Lydia Rudins. I was tasked with hiring a team of stringers—local Ukrainian journalists in Ukraine--to replace our rotating correspondent’s post in the Ukrainian capital. Thus, we were able to replace our single reporter in the capital with an expanded crew of four native Ukrainian reporters and this markedly increased our output and relevance. We also hired stringers in several major cities in Ukraine. Over the years, the following served as our Kyiv stringers-reporters: Viktoriya Syumar, Andriy Shevchenko, Iryna Shust, Ruslan Deynychenko, Oksana Lihostova, Anna Poludenko and Olena Pronicheva. Out in the provinces, Oksana Forostyna reported from Lviv, Natalka Slyusar and Vyacheslav Novikov from Kharkiv, Ihor Stoliarov from Odesa and Hennadiy Sakharov from Dnipropetrovsk. (Subsequently, Andriy Shevchenko was elected to Parliament and appointed Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada; Viktoriya Syumar headed the Institute of Mass Information NGO, co-hosted the political talk show “Chas” on Channel 5, worked as a deputy director of the National Security and Defense Council and was elected to Parliament; Oksana Forostyna became the executive editor of the literary journal “Krytyka”; Ruslan Deynychenko became the executive director of the School of Journalism of the University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.)
L to R: VOA Kyiv stringers Ruslan Deynychenko, Oksana Lihostova and Viktoriya Syumar with Adrian Karmazyn.
VOA’s stringers in Ukraine. L to R. Seated Oksana Lihostova and Ruslan Deynychenko. Standing: Iryna Shust, Oksana Forostyna (Lviv), Adrian Karmazyn, Viktoriya Syumar, Hennadiy Sakharov (Dnipropetrovsk), Ihor Stoliarov (Odesa). Not pictured: Natalka Slyusar (Kharkiv).
The most sorrowful and challenging day of my work career was, undoubtedly, September 11, 2001. I recall my colleague Zorislav Baydyuk serving as the radio program host and myself serving as the producer as we tried to bring the first news of the massive terrorist attacks to our audience, while we ourselves were lacking clear information about whether the attacks had ended and other details about the tragedy. The Pentagon, where one of the hijacked planes had crashed, is just across the Potomac River and less than three miles from VOA headquarters. The terrorist attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the US focus on the growing nuclear threat from Iran and humanitarian crises in Africa, meant that a huge portion of VOA resources were being redirected toward Muslim and African audiences and this created budget pressures that would be felt by the Ukrainian Service for many years.
L to R: Adrian Karmazyn, Viktor Yushchenko and Zorislav Baydyuk, during Yushchenko’s visit to Washington in February 2003.
In the years leading up to the Orange Revolution we launched two 15-minute evening drive-time radio shows that comprehensively covered the political news in Ukraine. We established a number of partnerships with FM stations (many of them commercial entities) throughout the country –in Lviv, Poltava, Lutsk, Ternopil, Zaporizhia and others cities --and most significantly, with Radio Kontynent (an FM station headed by Serhiy Sholokh) in Kyiv. The 2003 and 2004 editions of the Institute of Mass Media’s The Press and the Authorities: Chronicle of Confrontation chronicles the Kuchma government’s campaign of intimidation against the media, including the silencing of Radio Kontynent in March 2004.
Meanwhile, although the management at State Radio disapprovingly questioned why VOA was devoting so much time to covering internal Ukrainian news, somehow the authorities were not bold enough to cancel our contract with State Radio—perhaps State Radio’s audience was considered too small and rural to have much of an impact and perhaps the authorities wanted to maintain the aura of a continuing fruitful US partnership (always mindful of pressure and threats from Russia).
Our big breakthrough as a news provider for the Ukrainian television market came with the Orange Revolution in late 2004. In the spring of that year I was placed in charge of VOA Ukrainian television programming (as USIA’s Worldnet TV was merged with VOA), including a reorganization and enhancement of the existing Window on America television broadcast, which was groundbreaking in 1993 as the first agency foreign-language weekly TV program. We worked with Andriy Shevchenko, Channel 5 editor-in-chief, to bring Window to that network’s audience, and as the fall 2004 presidential election campaign in Ukraine heated up, we started to provide live feeds from Washington for Channel 5 about the US perspective on events in Ukraine, presented by our newly hired TV reporter Myroslava Gongadze. At the height of the Orange Revolution our live reports from Washington, featuring American officials (such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and Senator Richard Lugar) and experts supporting democracy in Ukraine, were being seen on Channel 5 and, simultaneously on jumbotrons (giant TV screens) on the Maidan. (See the Baltimore Sun, December 5, 2004, about the role of Channel 5 during the Orange Revolution). By late December we had launched a new daily news show—Chas-Time--which was incorporated into the Channel 5 program schedule in March of 2005, where it remains to this day.
The Chas-Time team circa 2005, L to R: Adrian Karmazyn, Peter Fedynsky, Ouliana Teliouk, Andriy Hodovanets, Nataliya Leonova, Zorislav Baydyuk, Slavko Nowytski, Nadia Pikas and Myroslava Gongadze.
In the Spring of 2005 I travelled to Ukraine with VOA Director David Jackson and BBG Governor Blanquita Cullum to explore new broadcasting opportunities in Ukraine in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution. We met with existing and potential broadcast partners. During the trip, on June 2, 2005, we met with members of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine. There was certainly a feeling that a new era of media freedom had arrived in Ukraine.
L to R: Enver Safir (IBB marketing, Prague), Blanquita Cullum (BBG Governor), Tom Gilfether (Eurasia Division deputy director), David Jackson (VOA Director) and Adrian Karmazyn (VOA Ukrainian Service) on a trip to Kyiv to explore new opportunities for VOA in Ukraine after the Orange Revolution. During the trip, on June 2, 2005, they met with members of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine.
Over the years, with our nightly presence on the airwaves, VOA became the de facto Washington Bureau for Channel 5 and the entire Ukrainian TV market, as Ukrainian TV stations had a very minimal presence in the USA. Interestingly, after Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in 2010, Channel 5 offered us the best time slot ever--9: 40 PM (prime-time), perhaps to help push back against any attempts by the government to shut the channel down or, perhaps, reflecting the improvements in the quality of our broadcasts as we gained experience in the medium.
In March 2007 Yuliya Tymoshenko traveled to the United States, where she held high-level meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush. L to R: Adrian Karmazyn, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Zorislav Baydyuk.
In December of 2009 the Ukrainian Service celebrated its 60th anniversary with a ceremony and conference (The event was held on December 11th but the actual anniversary is on the 12th). Many of our guests praised the service for its accomplishments, among them: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Co-Chair, Congressional Ukrainian Caucus; VOA Director Dan Austin; BBG Governor Blanquita Cullum; Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oleh Shamshur; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Green Miller; Ukrainian Congress Committee of America leader Michael Sawkiw. A number of U.S. lawmakers recognized the service with statements in the Congressional Record: Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Sander Levin (D-MI), Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Robert Wexler (D-FL). President Viktor Yushchenko and MP Andriy Shevchenko of the Free Speech committee also sent statements of congratulations. Our expert panelists for the conference were: Orest Deychakiwsky, Nadia Diuk, Steven Pifer, David Kramer, Adrian Karatnycky, James Greene and Morgan Williams.
Rep. Macy Kaptur (D-OH) present Adrian Karmazyn with a copy of her Congressional Record statement, marking the 60th anniversary of the VOA Ukrainian Service.
L to R: Orest Deychakiwsky (Helsinki Commission), Nadia Diuk (National Endowment for Democracy) and Adrian Karmazyn at the VOA Ukrainian Service’s 60th anniversary.
A poster for the VOA Ukrainian Service’s 60th anniversary.
At the VOA Ukrainian Service 60th anniversary ceremony, current and past members of the team gather for a photo. Front row, L to R: George Sajewych, Yaro Bihun, Mariya Yunko, Myroslava Gongadze, Stefan Maksymjuk, Viktor Basiuk, Luba Cvikula, Tetiana Vorozhko. Back row, L to R: Adrian Karmazyn, Zorislav Baydyuk, Ruslan Petrychka, Ihor Hulawyj, Ouliana Teliouk, Andriy Hodovanets, Nataliya Korpal and Jurij Hiltajczuk.
As Ukraine struggled with the years of infighting between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko and the resurgence of Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, VOA’s Ukrainian Service continued to adhere to its focus on coverage of U.S. official and expert commentary on the situation in Ukraine and stories about American life. I recall telling Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk during his visit to VOA that sometimes we felt somewhat discouraged regarding our ability to have a significant impact in Ukraine with our brief 15-minute daily presence on the Ukrainian television airwaves. But he reassured us that even that short 15-minute daily Chas-Time broadcast had great meaning and influence in Ukraine.
L to R: Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk (Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church), Myroslava Gongadze and Adrian Karmazyn at VOA.
By the summer of 2013 the lead topic of our programming had become Ukraine’s preparations for the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and the impact of the politically motivated imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on that process. Of course, President Yanukovych did not sign the Association Agreement in November 2013, sparking the Euromaidan Revolution of Dignity, with its million-strong protests. The main way that we responded to the Euromaidan crisis and the Ukrainian government crackdown was to devote 90-95% of our programming to the crisis, analysis of the situation, the U.S. response and the visits to Ukraine of U.S. officials (like Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy). At the end of 2013, due to budget constraints, the size of our team had shrunk to 10 people in Washington and in a meeting with the VOA Director, we were told that due to continuing financial pressures we would have to make due with our small team.
A meeting about the VOA Ukrainian Service coverage of the Euromaidan. L to R: Oleksiy Kuzmenko, Ihor Hulawyj, Ruslan Petrychka, Adrian Karmazyn, Nataliya Leonova, VOA Director David Ensor, Tatiana Vorozhko, Myroslava Gongadze, Zorislav Baydyuk and VOA Eurasia Division Director Elez Biberaj.
But with February’s violence on the Maidan (resulting in the killing of over 100 civilians), and with Yanukovych fleeing the country and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, we obtained authorization to increase the number of staffers to 13 and to hire 4 contractors in Washington. This additional staffing allowed us to increase the number of interactives (live remote feeds from Washington) with big commercial networks in Ukraine such as 1+1 and ICTV. We also launched our first ever Ukrainian Service Russian-language broadcast for Ukraine, the daily news segment Studio Washington. I had always wholeheartedly supported the long-standing VOA Ukrainian Service tradition of broadcasting strictly in Ukrainian and translating any Russian-language bites (comments) into Ukrainian, such that our programs were perhaps the only TV news shows seen or heard in Ukraine that were 100% in their entirety in Ukrainian. But with Ukrainians consumed by an existential crisis, it made sense for us to create U.S./Ukraine-centric Russian-language programs for Ukraine. We believed that the VOA Russian Service simply would not be able to report to an audience in Ukraine with the same emphasis, sensibilities and nuances about U.S.-Ukrainian relations, that we could, based on our deep expertise regarding the needs and interests of the audience. Studio Washington is seen daily on Channel 24 and we regularly do interactives and special reports for ICTV and First National TV.
Our approach to Ukraine, in terms of strategy and content was highly successful, as our weekly audience reach grew to over 18%. In other words, nearly one in five Ukrainians were reporting that they had seen a VOA broadcast in a given week. (It’s worth noting that for a number of years, Ukraine has been in the top 10 of VOA’s largest audiences in the world).
In June 2014 I travelled to Ukraine with VOA Director David Ensor. I arrived on June 7th, inauguration day for the new Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko. Our delegation met with Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia and Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky to discuss the role of VOA in countering Russian propaganda. MP Andriy Shevchenko recalled the bloody crackdowns carried out by the authorities on the Maidan. We visited Channel 5, First National TV, ICTV and Channel 24. We also met with a new generation of strategic communications experts – Nataliya Popovych, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Yevhen Hlibovytsky—who shared their insights about Ukraine’s communication challenges. David Ensor also lectured to Ruslan Deynychenko’s journalism students at Kyiv Mohyla University and, of course, visited the Maidan, with most of the barricades and memorials still in place. Deynychenko described how he and his family were harassed by law enforcement authorities after his coverage of the automaidan protest aimed at Yanukovych’s residence at Mezhyhiria.
The VOA delegation at Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, L to R: Adam Gartner, Olha Chornomaz, Adrian Karmazyn, David Ensor, Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia and Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky.
A visit to ICTV to discuss expansion of cooperation (June 2014). L to R: Adrian Karmazyn (VOA Ukrainian Service Chief), Adam Gartner(IBB Prague), Oleksandr Bohutskyy (ICTV General Director), David Ensor (VOA Director), Olha Chornomaz (IBB Kyiv) , Olena Froljak (host and editor-in-chief of the Fakty news shows at ICTV).
L to R: Nataliya Popovych and Vasyl Myroshnychenko (Ukrainian Crisis Media Center), Yevhen Hlibovytsky (ProMova), David Ensor (VOA Director) and Ruslan Deynychenko (VOA Kyiv correspondent). June 2014.
L to R: Adrian Karmazyn (VOA Ukrainian Service Chief), Andriy Shevchenko (Member of Parliament), David Ensor (VOA Director), Adam Gartner (IBB Prague), Olha Chornomaz (IBB Kyiv) and Michael Mihalisko (RFE/RL). (June 2014) Andriy Shevchenko recounted the events of the Euromaidan.
Adrian Karmazyn on the Maidan in June 2014.
In December of 2014 we celebrated the 65th anniversary of the VOA Ukrainian Service. President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk sent greeting letters. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) recognized the accomplishments of the Ukrainian Service in the Congressional Record. Ambassadors William Taylor and Oleksandr Motsyk spoke, as did Ukraine experts Nadia Diuk and David Kramer, as well as Michael Sawkiw of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
Adrian Karmazyn (R) receiving a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the VOA Ukrainian Service from VOA Director David Ensor at the service’s 65th anniversary celebration on December 11, 2014
The Ukrainian Weekly reported on the Service’s 65th anniversary.
Adrian Karmazyn (L) with Acting Surgeon General of the U.S. Boris Lushniak (one of the highest-ranking U.S. government officials of Ukrainian heritage) at the VOA Ukrainian Service 65th anniversary celebration on December 11, 2014.
65th Anniversary Greetings from President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk:
In September of 2015, I took my final official trip to Ukraine in my capacity as Service Chief to announce the launch of a new weekly newsmaker interview show, a joint production between VOA and First National TV. I also had the privilege of attending my first ever Yalta European Strategy conference (which after the Russian annexation of Crimea are now held in Kyiv). At that forum, it was a thrill to discuss Ukraine’s reform efforts with Ukrainian Minister of Finance Natalie Jaresko and Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture Oleskiy Pavlenko, who we had interviewed during their visits to Washington, as well as US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who we often quoted regarding the situation in Ukraine.
L to R: VOA’s Adrian Karmazyn and Myroslava Gongadze with Zurab Alasaniya (National TV Company of Ukraine) announcing the launch of a new jointly produced interview show. (September 2015).
VOA Ukrainian Service Chief Adrian Karmazyn (L) with Ukrainian Minister of Finance Natalie Jaresko at the YES conference in Kyiv in September 2015. Both were born in the U.S. and grew up in Ukrainian diaspora communities in Cleveland and Chicago, respectively. (US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt is in the background).
L to R: Oleksiy Pavlenko (Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture), Andriy Shevchenko (former MP and newly appointed Ambassador to Canada) and Adrian Karmazyn (Chief, VOA Ukrainian Service) at the Yalta European Strategy conference in Kyiv, September 2015.
On September 30th, 2015, on my last day at VOA, I was a guest on the Chas-Time program, attempting to emphasize what a privilege it was to be so deeply engaged in building bridges between the US and Ukraine for more than a quarter century. My colleague, Ruslan Petrychka, who was hosting the show that day, asked me about whether VOA is engaged in propaganda. In that short interview I doubt that I was able to convey how truly free we were to let our conscience be our guide in serving our audience for all these years. We were always aware that Ukrainians had many media options to turn to but they consistently tuned in to VOA because of our credibility as a balanced, authoritative and accurate source of news and information. And because we were surrounded by and were consumers of high quality, independent, professional American journalism, we quite naturally reflected those sensibilities and adhered to those best practices in our work.
Adrian Karmazyn (L) being interview by Ruslan Petrychka on the set of VOA’s Chas-Time, September 30, 2015.
I believe we truly reflected the free and credible American news media environment that we worked in and that we just could not even imagine not trying our hardest to be balanced in our coverage of events. Credibility was always our key asset, and Ukrainians increasingly have more sources to turn to if we don’t continue to offer them authoritative programming. Of course, as laid out in our VOA Charter, it is fundamentally our responsibility to explain U.S. policy, institutions and society to an international audience.
Our overarching approach for Chas-Time (and Studio Washington, Window on America and our special reports and live interactives for various networks) was to focus on three themes--US and international news; foreign policy analysis, especially US-Ukrainian relations; and American life and society, including the Ukrainian diaspora. We often featured visitors from Ukraine (politicians and people from the NGO sector) as our studio guests for live interviews. I believe it is fair to say that we essentially became the Washington Bureau for the Ukrainian TV market, with a regular presence on Channel 5, First National TV, Channel 24 and ICTV.
This essay of recollections would not be complete without mentioning our internship program, the focus groups we conducted and our marketing and media training efforts.
Throughout the years we hosted a number of interns (particularly Muskie or Fulbright Fellows who were studying in the US), including Olha Kryzhanovska (who later went on to serve as the editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian-language edition of National Geographic), Liliya Sereda, Olha Kulish, Nataliya Dmytrochenko, Ruslan Deynychenko, Yuriy Melnyk, Myroslava Petsa, Tetyana Poladko, Alexander Kleymenov, Alex Kirilkin, Nataliya Habor, Ivanna Bilych, Anastasia Babenko, Olesia Oleshko, Iryna Pavlova, Yulya Yarmolenko, Olesya Kravchuk, Evgeniya Yemshenetska, Andrii Telizhenko and many others.
For a period of time VOA conducted focus groups in Ukraine to discuss and analyze our programs in a group setting and help us better understand and respond to the interests of our audience. The focus groups were conducted in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa and other cities and gave us many interesting insights into what appealed to our existing and potential listeners and viewers. We found that the audience consistently looked to VOA for our credible news reporting and coverage of US-Ukrainian relations, American (including diaspora life) and analysis of the situation in Ukraine.
I participated in many radio and TV marketing trips, mostly to Kyiv, some of which had a training component for the managers of local commercial stations around the country. But since the time of the Orange Revolution the focus has shifted to building and strengthening partnerships with such national TV networks as Channel 5, First National TV, ICTV, 1+1, Tonis, Channel 24 and others. Over the years many stations were interested in taking reports and feeds from VOA but we only had sufficient resources to produce Chas-Time and Window on America, and this was very frustrating. This changed with the Euromaidan, the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Russian-backed conflict in eastern Ukraine, when we got additional resources and could regularly provide new programming for ICTV, Channel 24 and First National TV.
Adrian Karmazyn with Vitaliy Klychko, who shakes hands with a security guard during his visit to VOA. Of all the Ukrainian guests that came to VOA, Klychko was the most widely recognized among the various employees of VOA, because of his international celebrity status as a boxing champion.
In this essay, I have described some of the key moments in the Voice of America’s relationship with Ukraine. Certainly it is just an overview of our approaches within the context of some significant events in Ukraine’s recent history. Of course, for the journalists at VOA, what is ultimately most important is the huge body of work, both creative and compelling, that was produced for our audience in Ukraine over the years—thousands of news and feature (human interest) stories and interviews; an extensive chronicle of US-Ukrainian relations. A vast online archive of our stories and interviews can be found at http://ukrainian.voanews.com/
And yet, many materials, particularly from the pre-Internet age were not archived. Personally, I wish I had been able to preserve copies of my interview with former dissident Viacheslav Chornovil, conducted at the Democratic National Convention in 1996 in Chicago, and my interview with a then new Member of Parliament, Yuliya Tymoshenko, on what I believe was her first trip to the US in the 1990s.
I also reflect on the multitude of recent reporting that captures VOA’s special role and mission. With this in mind I mention the following projects:
Our colleague Bohdan Tsioupine has been providing live reports for First National TV’s newscasts, focusing on Ukraine-related US news. This is an example of how we have become a Washington bureau for the Ukrainian TV market.
VOA’s Bohdan Tsioupine reporting from Washington for First National TV.
In September of 2013, our colleague Ruslan Petrychka profiled Peter Yarrow, a famous American folk singer (from the trio Peter, Paul and Mary) who came to the US capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic, civil rights March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” and where Yarrow had performed. Yarrow visited VOA after the commemorative concert and talked about the socially conscious songs his group had recorded and performed over the years. He talked about his teaching tolerance project, which he had brought to Ukraine and which involved a musical collaboration with popular Ukrainian singer Mariya Burmaka. Peter Yarrow’s parents had immigrated to the US from Ukraine and our Kyiv correspondents Oksana Lihostova (who did many proviles over the years of Americans in Ukraine, including Peace Corps volunteers) and Anna Poludenko had earlier profiled his work in Ukraine. Coverage of the “Yarrow experience” is one of the best examples of the way VOA’s Ukrainian Service was able to tell unique, compelling and heartwarming stories that involveda Ukrainian-American connection. involveda Ukrainian-American connection.
American folk singer Peter Yarrow at VOA.
American folk singer Peter Yarrow in Ukraine
In addition to profiles and human interest reporting, we also excelled in producing stories about the American experience that could be useful and perhaps serve as an inspiring model for Ukraine’s reform efforts. Thus, in the spring of 2015, our colleague Iuliia Iarmolenko traveled to Pittsburgh, to tell the story of how this once mighty steel manufacturing center had recovered from a severe economic decline and had now become a vibrant center of education, innovation, entrepreneurship, culture and even Ukrainian life. It seems that Pittsburgh has some important lessons for Ukraine’s declining industrial cities as they try to overcome their Soviet legacy by developing new economic strategies.
VOA’s Iuliia Iarmolenko reporting from Pittsburgh.
While television was our main focus in the past decade, our colleague Oleksiy Kuzmenko was the driving force behind many of our online and social media initiatives. He compiled and curated our Facebook engagement efforts and synopses of various Twitter feed newsmaker comments, growing the service’s social media impact.
Retweets of Western officials commenting on the Holodomor on the VOA Ukrainian website.
As I wrapped up my VOA career in September of 2015, the Ukrainian team consisted of:
Ihor Hulawyj, Anna Dydyk, Adrian Karmazyn, Ouliana Teliouk, Zorislav Baydyuk, Myroslava Gongadze, Ruslan Peterychka, Tatiana Vorozhko, Nataliya Leonova, Oleksiy Kuzmenko, Oleksandr Yanevskyy, Bogdan Tsioupine, Iuliia Iarmolenko, Iryna Matviichuk, Tetiana Kharchenko, Oksana Tsisyk, Dmitriy (Dmytro) Savchuk, Ruslan Deynychenko (Kyiv), Oksana Lihostova (Kyiv).
Adrian Karmazyn’s VOA farewell party. Sitting (L to R): Alen Mlatisuma, Anya Dydyk, Nataliya Leonova, Adrian Karmazyn, Julia Parabaniuk. Standing (L to R): Zorislav Baydyuk, Bohdan Tsioupine, Myroslava Gongadze, Iuliia Iarmolenko, Ouliana Teliouk, Tetiana Vorozhko, Elez Biberaj, Oleksiy Kuzmenko, Vivian Chakarian.
Other journalists who recently worked for VOA’s Ukrainian Service were Andriy Hodovanets, Mariya Yunko, Slavko Nowytski and George Sajewych.
In my earlier years at VOA, some staffers that worked at VOA but are not mentioned elsewhere in this article were: Ada Kulyk, Oleksandr Voronin, Olha Onishchenko, Pavlo Odarchenko, Jaroslaw Sztendera, Christine Demidenko, Nadia Pikas, Denis Boyko, Victor Cooley, Valeriy Ostapenko, Vasyl Kolosiuk, Stepan Oliynyk, Volodymyr Zvihlyanich and Olia Onyshko.
The following is a list of VOA Ukrainian Service Chiefs:
Nykyfor Hryhoriyiv (1949-53), Yevheniya Zalevska (1953-55), Volodymyr Kedrovskyy (1955-63), Dmytro Korbutiak (1963-64), Michael Terpak (1964-77), Oksana Dragan (1977-88), Mykola Francuzhenko (1988-91), Wolodymyr Bilajiw (1991-98), Lydia Rudins (1999-2005), Adrian Karmazyn (November 2005 – September 2015), Myroslava Gongadze (October 2015- ).
It has been an incredible honor and a privilege to work in the Ukrainian Service of the Voice of America. My VOA career has been an extraordinary and memorable one—from serving as a reporter at the Republican and Democratic party conventions in Houston and Chicago to producing a series on Ukrainian studies at Harvard to U.S. election-night coverage spanning several election cycles to Yushchenko’s triumphant visit to Washington in April of 2005 to the dramatic struggle of the Euromaidan to leading and coordinating the work of our talented team. The list of captivating stories and interviews that we produced is endless. Many thanks to all my VOA colleagues for all our programming collaborations and successes and to our audience in Ukraine for your interest, support and inspiration over the years!
With warmest regards,
BBG – Broadcasting Board of Governors
BBG Governor – a position equivalent to a director in a board of directors
IBB – International Broadcasting Bureau (an administrative unit of the BBG)
VOA – Voice of America
Interviews with Adrian Karmazyn about VOA
Interview with Den’ newspaper, published July 22, 2013:
Interview with Ivano-Frankivsk newspaper Halychyna, published February 9, 2010:
FOOTNOTES (web links):
Karmazyn brief bio:
Kaptur on Karmazyn retirement:
Design USA exhibit:
NYT on “the” Ukraine:
New opportunities in Ukraine with Independence:
Baltimore Sun on Ch. 5 and Orange Revolution:
VOA Ukrainian 60th anniversary (December 11, 2009 event) web links:
English language 60th anniversary event brief wrap and a brief video history of the Service:
Remarks delivered by Governor Blanquita Cullum, US Broadcasting Board of Governors:
VOA Director Dan Austin:
Amb. Oleh Shamshur:
Amb. William Miller
Sen. Ben Cardin:
VOA Ukrainian 65th anniversary (December 2014):
Complete synopsis—official greetings, CR texts, videos of speeches, greetings:
Video of Ceremony:
Video greeting from Rep. Marcy Kaptur:
Sen. Ben Cardin
Rep. Chris Van Hollen
Peter Yarrow TV stories:
Peter Yarrow at VOA on 50th anniversary of MLK speech in DC – Sept 2013
Peter Yarrow visits a school in Zhytomyr oblast (Dec 2010 story) as part of his teaching tolerance initiative, including his collaboration in Ukraine with Mariya Burmaka:
Yarrow returns to Ukraine in Dec 2012
Pittsburgh’s Revival (featuring Mayor Bill Peduto)
Pittsburgh Start-ups and Encouraging Innovation
“Robots Save Pittsburgh” (Robot Development at Carnegie Mellon University)
University of Pittsburgh – Cathedral of Learning – Ukrainian Nationality Room