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From the Executive Director: Where are they now? 1994 group from Ukraine

February 11, 2010

A great friend of IRIS, Beth Dalbey contacted me the other day to ask if we had any information on some participants who visited Iowa in the summer of 1994 under one of our Independent Media Development programs. This particular group included five journalists from Lviv in Western Ukraine.

IRIS has had more than 1,100 participants pass through our doors over the years and while many have stayed in contact with us, we had not heard from anyone in this group for quite some time.

It had me wondering, “Where are they now?”

Keep in mind that in 1994, none of these participants or many of us for that matter had email addresses. We only had some 15-year-old information from our program notebooks to start the search, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up. Happily though, after some serious search engine time, we did manage to locate a couple of the participants, and they led us to the others in the group. Below is what we found out.

Ihor Bacun

Ihor Bachun was a correspondent reporter for Ukrinform, the National News Agency of Ukraine. He studied journalism at Lviv State University, and at the time, he and his wife Donna had two children, ages 19 and 15.

While in Iowa, Ihor interned at the Quad City Times in Davenport. He didn’t know what to expect when he came to Iowa, but he fondly tells us that for him, Iowa’s greatest treasure is its friendly, open-hearted, kind people.

In 1994, the Rock Island Arsenal was welcoming its new commander, Colonel John Storm. Ihor had a chance to meet the new colonel, and they discovered that they had both been in Germany during a particularly momentous occasion – the fall of the Berlin Wall. Colonel Storm was stationed as a battalion commander in West Germany, and Ihor rode 800 miles from Ukraine to Berlin with three friends to experience this moment in history firsthand.

Today, Ihor is the Department Chief for that same Ukrinform News Agency.  He and his family still live in Lviv, and he stays in touch with many of those fellow journalists who made the trek to Iowa back in 1994.

Halyna Vdovychenko

Halyna Vdovychenko was making her first trip abroad in 1994. During this trip, she left behind her husband, Sergei and two young children, ages 12 and 5.

What first struck her about life in the United States was the respect Americans seemed to have for their children and how they treat them more as equals.

Back in her hometown of Lviv, Halyna worked as the editor of the Cultural Department of a regional newspaper called Vysokyi Zamok, which translated means “High Castle.” High Castle is named after a famous castle on a hill overlooking the town of Lviv. The castle was a main defensive fort for the city from the 13th century to the late 19th century.

While in Iowa, Halyna (pronounced Galina) interned at the Sigourney News-Review in Sigourney. She loved experiencing an Iowa summer in a small town.

Today, Halyna is Deputy Editor in Chief of Vysokyi Zamok and keeps busy with her very active family and writing novels. Halyna recently published her first fiction novel called Half an Apple. The novel won second place in fiction division of the 2009 Ukrainian book contest.

Nadia Derkach

Nadia Derkach was a political writer and editor for the national newspaper A Vilnu Ukrainu (For a Free Ukraine), when she was chosen to travel to the United States. Her husband is also a journalist, and they had one son who was 11 at the time.

During her stay, Nadia spent four weeks in Clinton, Iowa interning at the Clinton Herald newspaper. While there, she wrote an Opinion page article on Ukraine’s President Leonid Kravchuk, whom she had interviewed back home. The article discussed the importance of Ukraine and its leadership to maintain its efforts to stay a nuclear-free country. She remembers fondly the wonderful people she met in Clinton and her brief stay on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Today, Nadia has a regular program on the national TV in Ukraine, UK1.

Olga Yaremiychuk

While in Iowa, Olga did her internship in the public relations department of Maytag Company in Newton, Iowa.

One of her life-long goals before coming to Iowa was to meet fellow Ukrainian and Hollywood star, Jack Palance. While she wasn’t able to achieve that goal in Iowa, she did manage to travel to Los Angeles on another occasion and meet the actor before his death in 2006.

Today, Olga still lives in Lviv, but her path in life has lead her to her other passion…. dancing. Since 2001, she has performed as a ballet dancer at the Lviv National Opera House.

While her dancing career continues to consume her days, it hasn’t taken her completely away from the media business. Just this past summer, she was featured in a CNN i-Report during a tribute feature to the late pop star Michael Jackson. Olga reminisced about the two times she was privileged to meet the pop icon when he performed in Ukraine in both 1993 and 1996.

Borys Potyatynyk

Dr. Borys Potyatynyk was an associate professor and chair of the Foreign Press at Lviv University. His wife, Uliana taught English at the same university. They had one son, who was 9 years old in 1994.

While in Iowa, he completed his internship at the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

In 1999, Borys returned to Iowa for a year as a Fulbright Fellow in the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism.

Today, Borys is a Professor of Journalism at Lviv Ivan Franko National University in Ukraine and was the Dean of the Journalism Department in 1996. He is the Director of the Media Ecology Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Media Criticism Journal.

Borys is the author of Totalitarian Journalism, Pathogenic Text, Ecology of Noosphere and Media: Keys to Understanding. In 2006, he moderated an online chat entitled “Pedagogical Issues in Work with Hearing Impaired Children.” Educators, employees of nonprofit organizations working with hearing impaired children, and disabled people participated in the discussion.


When IRIS brings an international group to Iowa, we are never sure what impact we will have on their lives or the communities they return to after the program. We always hope the skills and knowledge they acquire here touch the lives of others for the better.

This group of five Ukrainians have not only gone on to do great work for their community and their country of Ukraine, but continue to carry fond memories of Iowa and their time in America. Those of us in Iowa were delighted to host them and hope that someday our paths will cross again!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2010 9:31 PM

    I look forward to future news of IRIS alums!

    Dan Clark
    Muscatine, Iowa

  2. Beth permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:06 PM

    Thank you! This is plenty to go on to seek e-mail addresses for these friends who had such a profound impact on my life.
    Beth Dalbey
    Des Moines, Iowa

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