25 Years of Fulbright in Ukraine: Ukrainians and Americans Discover Each Other

Marta Kolmayets tells Marta Dyczok about the Successes of the Fulbright Program: 25 Years of Globalizing Ukrainian Scholars and Opening Ukraine for Americans

Show hosts

Marta Dyczok

25 Years of Fulbright in Ukraine: Ukrainians and Americans Discover Each Other
25 Years of Fulbright in Ukraine: Ukrainians and Americans Discover Each Other

Hello and welcome to this week’s Ukraine Calling programme. I’m Tanya Bednarczyk for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv. We’ll have a roundup of the weekly news for you, some culture, and some music. We’re bringing you a feature interview with Marta Kolomayets, who tells us about the 25th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Ukraine. But first, as always, the news.




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Feature Interview: Marta Kolmayets tells Marta Dyczok about the Successes of the Fulbright Program: 25 Years of Globalizing Ukrainian Scholars and Opening Ukraine for Americans

Marta Kolomayets Marian Luniv

Dyczok: Academic exchanges promote research and innovation. This year the Fulbright Program is celebrating 25 years of operating in Ukraine. With us to speak about this is Marta Kolomayets. She is the Ukraine country director for The Institute of International Education which administers all the Fulbright Programs in Ukraine. She is a US citizen who has lived in Ukraine since 1991. Ms. Kolomayets, thank you very much for finding the time to speak to us.

Kolomayets: Thank you very much for inviting me! 

Dyczok: Most of our listeners will have heard of the Fulbright Program but for those who don’t know could you please tell us, briefly, what is the program about? What are its goals? Where does it get funding? What is its main activity? And why is this an important program?

Kolomayets: Sure, thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about the Fulbright Program which is the leading academic exchanges program in the United States, it works with 160 countries throughout the world…

Dyczok: Wow!

Kolomayets: And this year the Fulbright Program in Ukraine is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It is an academic, but not only academic, exchange program. It is also a cultural exchange program. Ukrainians who go the United States to study or do research actually also act as cultural ambassadors. The program itself was established by Senator William Fulbright in 1946, so it is over 70 years old. This was after World War II and he wanted to promote tolerance and mutual understanding. He thought the best way to do this is to do it through exchanges where people from… for example, the first countries that had this academic exchange program were Germany and Japan and later the Soviet Union. That was because these were the fighting sides during World War II, and he thought: “Why engage in war when you can engage in dialogue, conversation and mutual understanding?”

Dyczok: Thank you! The Fulbright Program used to operate with the Soviet Union, and since 1992 it has had a special program in Ukraine. Can you tell us how many scholars have participated in this program? How many Americans have come to Ukraine? And how many Ukrainians have had the opportunity to go to the United States?

Kolomayets: Sure, this is not only a scholars program; it is also program for graduate students as well as researchers and professionals in such fields as journalism, library science, art, music and so on. And since 1992 over 1,000 Ukrainians have taken part in this program studying in the United States and about 700 Americans have come to Ukraine to do research or study, or lecture.

Dyczok: Over a thousand and have many Americans have come to Ukraine, do you know?

Kolomayets: That is 700.

Dyczok: About 700. Sorry, you did say that. You have been director since 2013; how does your office ensure that information about this Fulbright Program reaches all parts of Ukraine?

Kolomayets: Well, I think our number one weapon in all of this is Fulbrighters who have studied in the United States, Ukrainians come back to Ukraine and talk about program to their colleagues, to their friends, people that they come in contact with. As a matter of fact, this year we have a very interesting outreach program. We had gotten an extra grant from the State Department to allow Ukrainian Fulbrighters—scholars and students—to travel to other cities, such as Mariupol, Kramatorsk, or Severodonetsk. All places where people don’t usually travel, and universities don’t have access to Americans or Western information. So, this year we have sent over 65, I think almost 70 Ukrainian scholars who are Fulbrighters to travel to such cities as Mariupol, Kramatorsk, and talk about their subjects of interest as well as promote the Fulbright Program. That’s one way we do things. We also run a lot of different workshops and seminars where we attract Ukrainian students. One of the big problems that I find in attracting people outside of Kyiv, L’viv, Odesa, Kharkiv is the fact that students in Zaporizhzhia, or in Kherson, are not as confident as students who study in larger cities. They don’t think they have a chance, but I like to always tell them: “If you don’t play the lottery, you can’t win.” So, I always try to encourage them to apply, to test their skills and kind of challenge themselves – apply for the program because we try to not only send students and scholars from Kyiv and L’viv, or Kharkiv, but from all around Ukraine.

Dyczok: Has that been successful? Has your outreach to the smaller cities and perhaps even towns had a bit of a result?

Kolomayets: Well, we do the students from Ostrih, it is a college town but it is smaller town, so we have had few applicants from there. We have had applicants from Mariupol. Actually, we have a Fulbright scholar at the University of California, Long Beach this year. And he is actually studying ‘evil’, which I think he does as a philosopher, and he is studying ‘evil’. So, he is from Mariupol…

Dyczok: He is from Mariupol and he is studying ‘evil’. That is interesting.

Kolomayets: Evil in California.

Dyczok: Oh, my goodness! That is interesting. You had mentioned about funding. Could you just tell us where the money for this program comes from because it sounds like a nicely funded program? Who pays for it?

Kolomayets: It is funded by the US Congress. So, every year we lobby, we have a very strong lobby. We have Fulbright alumni in the United States. Many of them, who go talk to their congressmen to their senators and tell them what a great program this is and how we contribute to their professional development. And their understanding of the world. So, we have strong lobby group. We have faced budget cuts recently, but right now—and knock on wood—it looks like our funding may stay at the same levels.    

Dyczok: What are some of the most interesting research project that have come across your desk, and what does the most outlandish ones? Perhaps the ones that did not make it?

Kolomayets: Well, some of the most interesting ones, Americans coming to Ukraine right now is studying the fate of Internally Displaced Persons. We have a great collaboration of an American scholar and a Ukrainian professor working between the regional differences between L’viv and Donetsk, and this is a study that has been going on since 1994 and since then, every few years they…

Dyczok: I’ve heard about this. Can you tell us a little bit about the history and how this is a significant study?

Kolomayets: Well, it’s significant given the situation in Ukraine today. Ukrainians: is there one national idea, are they united by certain forces, or will Donetsk and L’viv never understand each other? That’s actually between these two cities, and we won’t really know what the final results are. They are working on a book which should be released next year and then we will know what the results of monitoring the situation for the last almost 20 years look like, or actually, over 20 years.   

Dyczok: How are they collaborating with Donetsk if Donetsk is not under control of Ukrainian territory right now, is it the same scholars?

Kolomayets: It’s the same scholars but they do it through social surveys that they do every two or three years, and they’re still analyzing. And then they do interview people.

Dyczok: Wow, that’s very interesting.

Kolomayets: This year we also have somebody teaching media literacy, which is also very important given the problems of fake news and information wars, so he is actually an American scholar from Illinois University, and he is teaching people how to read, how to interpret, how to come up with information from what they see, what they watch, what they read, and so on.

Dyczok: Sometimes academics are accused of being esoteric and perhaps even more. What are some of the usual proposals that have come across the whole application process?

Kolomayets: Well, most of those come from students. We’ve had to curb this, but some of them wanted to report what was going on in the war, and the US Embassy and the former program does not allow for American citizens to travel to occupied territories, whether that be Crimea or Donbas. So a lot of those proposals had to be nixed. But, we’ve had somebody wanting to study, and he actually did this: study the history of juggling in Ukraine. So, he spent a lot of time at the circus and when he wasn’t doing his research at the Ukrainian circus, then he was juggling in the streets of Kyiv, so it was pretty interesting.

Dyczok: Supplementing his stipend? There’s a war happening in Ukraine. You mentioned that Americans are not allowed to go into the war zone or in occupied Crimea. Have you noticed there’s been a drop in applications of Americans wanting to come study in Ukraine, or do research in Ukraine since the war began in 2014, or perhaps has there been an increase?

Kolomayets: No, just the opposite – there has been an increase. A lot of our scholar students wanted to go to Russia in the past, in the beginning of the 21st century, or in the past few years. But Ukraine is much friendlier and much more open to different scholars, and I’ve seen a lot of scholars change. They may have wanted to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg and now they want to do research in Ukraine. I think Ukraine is just a country waiting to be discovered, and I think The Revolution of Dignity [Euromaidan] peaked their curiosity, and while many may have known this part of the world through the prism of Russia. Right now, I think they are looking at things through Ukraine.

Marta Kolmayets Courtesy of Tania Mychajlyshyn- D'Avignon

Dyczok: If we were to stand back and take a perspective: what do you think the impact of the Fulbright Program has been program has been, both for Ukraine and the United States?

Kolomayets: Well first of all I think Americans and Ukrainians have discovered each other, have discovered this sort of mutual understanding and tolerance towards the rest of the world; that’s number one. Number two, there’s been a lot of collaborative efforts done and not only by individual Fullbright scholars. This is very much an individual program but a lot of scholars that have come by have tried to interest their own universities in collaborating with the universities that they’ve been hosted by while in Ukraine. So that’s for the Americans. For the Ukrainians it just kind of opens up their worldview of Western civilization and of the American education system and of the openness emphasis. And it’s great because a lot of things they try to imitate once they return to Ukraine. Sometimes they are met with resistance, because even though Ukraine has progressed a lot over the last 25 years, there are still dinosaurs in educational system and at various universities. So very often Ukrainian Fullbrighters who come back to Ukraine full of ideas and inspiration are met with resistance by the powers that be.

But I see all of that changing and our young generation of Fullbrighters who go to the United States to study for two years for a Master’s Degree then come back want to change things. And ever since the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine has been a much more active civil society and a lot more youth are involved because they believe that they can change things in Ukraine. So I think all of this has given Ukraine Fullbrighters who go to the States a new perspective on what can be done in Ukraine. If only they were allowed to do this I think Ukraine would progress a lot quicker and become part of a European community of nations.

Dyczok: Well perhaps they’re having an impact that will be visible in the future. Marta you speak with such enthusiasm about your work, what is the most fun part of your job? What do you like the most about being the director of the Fullbright program in Ukraine?

Kolomayets: Well first of all I have had the privilege of meeting so many interesting people and I really like matching people together and finding things that work, so I think that’s been the most rewarding part of my experience as a Fullbright director. I like listening to the Ukrainians and to the Americans on what they think they can do and what can be done. This 25th anniversary has shown that that there’s been a lot done in 25 years with these 1,000 Ukrainians who have seen the world from the American perspective. One of our 25th anniversary celebrations is an exhibit of photographs: its Ukraine and the U.S. through the eyes of Fullbrighters. So it’s just a random collection of photographs of various Fullbrighters who have photography as a hobby, or are professional photographers, and how they captured the United States or Ukraine. And together it forms such a beautiful collage of interesting meetings, interesting people, interesting places. So I think the most rewarding is actually getting to know the people that apply. And some of them do not make it as a Fullbrighter the first time, they apply a few times, and some of them will never have the opportunity to go to the United States on a Fullbright but just even engaging in dialogue with them I think changes them.

Dyczok: That sounds very exciting. I hope you’ll send us some pictures from the photo exhibit. What are some of the other events that are planned that you have organized for the 25th celebration of Fullbright in Ukraine? For those of us who cannot be there tell us what is happening.

Kolomayets: Last night [Monday October 9] we had a wonderful jazz concert by two Ukrainians. This is actually an interesting story as well. Two Ukrainians that went to the United States to study, one at William Patterson University in New Jersey, and the other at the Philadelphia University of Arts in Philadelphia. They met in the United States and they did a jazz tour. One is a jazz saxophonist one is a jazz pianist and they did a tour in the United States and then they came back and for the 25th anniversary of Fullbright they performed together for the first time in Ukraine. That was yesterday. Today we have the premiere of a film that has already premiered in North America by Orest Sushko who is dedicated to studying the history of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus and it will be premiering tonight in Ukraine for the first time!

Dyczok: Tonight is when; can you give us the date?

Kolomayets: Tuesday October 10. It’s really a movie that you feel the love and his commitment to telling the Ukrainian Bandurist story, and how the Soviets used them. And their place in Displaced Persons camps in Germany in the 1940s and later on after World War Two. And then how they came to America and have been performing now since the early 1940s. And then we have a lecture by one of our U.S. Fullbright students from last year. He traced the history of Jewish communities in small Ukrainian towns, so he’ll be presenting those results tomorrow [Wednesday October 11] at a lecture. And actually our partner in that is the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter organization based in Toronto so he’ll be speaking about that. Thursday [October 12] we have an education forum for the presidents of universities in Ukraine. We have brought about 100 presidents of Ukrainian universities coming to talk with the Ministry of Education, with the President of the Institute for International Education, Allan Goodman who is in town for all of the celebrations. And then we have a gala-cocktail party in the evening for our Fullbrighters. I think everyone is looking forward to that because it’s kind of like a homecoming, it’s a little reunion for all of them. And there we will have a few Americans, American professors who have hosted our Ukrainians Fullbrighters or have been on a Fullbright to Ukraine as well as our Ukrainian scholars and students.

Dyczok: I wish I could come to the gala. But I also remember you have a number of prominent alumni; people who have really had an impact on Ukraine, and you mentioned the Minister of Education. There is a former Minister of Education who has been on a Fulbright and he is going on another Fulbright. Who are some of the stars of the program?

Kolomayets: One of them is Serhiy Kvit that you mentioned, the former Minister of Education and also a former President of University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. One of our other Fulbrighters is Viacheslav Briukhovetsky, who made the rebirth of University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy possible in 1991. We have such prominent Ukrainian writers as Yuri Andrukhovych, Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukrainian philosophers, lecturers, and historians such as Mykola Riabchuk, Yaroslav Hrytsak… I’m hesitant to name anymore because I will forget somebody. Quite a few people have done Fulbright in the United States. Also, Oleksandr Irvanets the poet. We have everybody from biochemists to artists, philosophers, and various musicians. We have a wide variety of people who have been on Fulbrights studying in their discipline.

Dyczok: A nice mix of academic superstars as well as up and coming researchers who will be changing Ukraine and hopefully the United States. Is there anything you would like to add that I have not asked you?

Kolomayets: I would like to add that the rest of the week includes a lecture on academic integrity, which is a very important topic to discuss in the place that tries to shed its Soviet past. We also have a roundtable on the history of the women’s movement and gender issues in Ukraine. Allan Goodman will be talking about academic integrity as well as challenges that education and humanities have to face in the 21st century. That will be very interesting and will be on Thursday. We have a few more exhibits and a few more lectures are going on in light of our 25th anniversary but we actually try to promote many different topics throughout the year. Even though this is jam-packed week of jubilee events, we try to host art exhibits, lectures, and book presentations on a regular basis in our office and we travel to other cities in Ukraine to promote the program and to encourage people to look at Fulbright.

Dyczok: Thank you very much. That sounds like not only a very exciting week but also a very exciting program. I wish lots of people can attend—I wish I could be there. And academic integrity, I think that the note that we should end up because it is what it’s all about; it’s about research, integrity, creativity and innovation. Thank you very much for speaking to us. This is Marta Dyczok for Hromadske Radio. We have been speaking to Marta Kolomayets, Director of Fulbright Program in Ukraine. Thank you for listening.

Kolomayets: Thank you very much.

Verkhovna Rada on the day the Healthcare Reform was passed Hromadske Radio


Healthcare Reform Bill Finally Passed

On October 19, 2017 the Ukrainian Rada passed the long awaited bill on Healthcare No. 6327. The adopted bill moves medical services closer to a western-style model of healthcare. Financing will follow patients Covered by state medical insurance, who will now choose their primary care doctors. Doctors that provide services to more patients will receive more payments. Until now the system was inefficiently funded and patients often had to meet payments themselves. The Healthcare Bill was finally passed after months of fierce opposition from anti-reform politicians. To hear Dr. Suprun explain, here’s a previous episode of Ukraine Calling.

Demonstrations outside the Parliament

Thousands of protesters gathered this week outside the Ukrainian parliament to call for more political reform. A group of 9 political parties and some 6 NGOs organized a rally and protests that have now lasted for three days, since the 17th of October. The participants in the protest cover a whole spectrum from anti-corruption activists to nationalists to LGBT activists. Their most important key demands are that Ukrainian MPs be stripped of their parliamentary immunity, that an anti-corruption court be created, and for changes to the electoral law. The transition would be to a proportional representation election system based on open party lists. An advisory group of MPs met and tried to push the Parliament on voting on the protestor’s demands. Their efforts were so far unsuccessful. Kyiv police estimated the crowd of protestors to be at around 6,000.

Both Ukraine and Jamala Find New Positions in the UN

The United Nations General Assembly has elected Ukraine to the UN Human Rights Council. Ukraine and Slovakia were both elected to the Eastern European regional term, set to end in 2020. Upon election, President Poroshenko noted the position to be a “powerful platform for defending national interests” particularly in the Crimea and the Donbas. Eurovision 2016 winner Jamala will also undertake a new position as UN Goodwill Ambassador of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). She will chiefly be acting in combatting human trafficking.

Tymoshenko Confirmed To Run for President in 2019

Former Prime Minister and controversial political figure Yulia Tymoshenko confirmed on October 13th that she will run for the office of President in 2019. The announcement was expected by many, as it will be her third time running for the presidential office after losing to President Poroshenko in 2014, and former President Yanukovych in 2010.

Saakashvili Increases Support

Ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been increasing action and demonstrations across Ukraine. Saakashvili recently held a rally on October 15th in Kharkiv where he and nearly 800 protestors criticized President Poroshenko’s reforms. This was followed by protests in Kyiv on October 17th that Saakashvili’s party—Movement of New Forces—helped mobilize. Saakashvili had had his citizenship revoked in July, and had managed to enter Ukraine in September against the authorities wishes.

The War

Over the last week the situation on the frontline has remained tense. Pro-Russian forces reportedly used all kinds of small arms, together with grenade launchers and mortars. On October 16 Ukrainian military intelligence reported that pro-Russian forces continued killing civilians on the territories under their control. That same day pro-Russian forces reportedly shelled the township of Zalizne, Donetsk region. One civilian was wounded. As a result of military clashes over the last week, 4 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action, 12 wounded.


А film released on the 13th October Storozhova Zastava, which is The Stronghold in English, has set new box office records for Ukrainian feature films so far. It’s an adventure fantasy about a boy, who finds a mysterious portal that takes him back a thousand years to the times of Kyivan Rus. He enters a world of danger, black magic, mythical creatures and becomes a heroic warrior himself. With its many innovative special effects, it has been described by critics as definitely raising the bar for Ukrainian-produced fantasy. More: https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/news/28800284.html

There’s a charity ball in Kyiv’s City Hall on Friday 20 October, called “The Defender’s Ball.” It will be raising money for a museum to those who have been defending Ukraine, hoping to open in the town of Uman. Soldiers and volunteers who have been on active duty or worked in the war zone are admitted free, others will need to purchase tickets at 100 hryvia. It’s organized by a group of volunteers with the support of Kyiv City Council and the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff. We’ll try to get photos for you for next week’s show.


If there’s a song you’d like to hear on the show, please send it to us on [email protected]. Or to the Hromadske Radio weekly music show, Pora Roku, on [email protected]. For now, here’s something for you. It’s a piece called Viter, which means Wind. By Andriy Laptev from Mykolaiv. Enjoy!


Next week marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik October Revolution. We’ll bring you a feature interview about how the Ukrainian dimension of the Revolution has been highlighted by the Ukrainian Institute in London, England with it’s Director Marina Pesenti and Project Manager Larysa Iarovenko.

Next week we’ll be back with even more news, culture and music, so tune in again for a new edition of Ukraine Calling. We would be happy to receive any feedback from you. Write to us at: [email protected]. This is Tanya Bednarczyk in Kyiv. Thanks so much for listening.

Interview transcribed by Caroline Gawlik, Larysa Iarovernko, Nykole King, and Ilona Sviezhantseva. News by Oksana Smerechuk and Caroline Gawlik. War by Max Sviezhentsev. Culture by Oksana Smerechuk and Marta Dyczok. Music by Sound engineers Andriy Izdryk and Adam Courts. Web support Kyrylo Loukerenko. E-mail distribution by Ilona Sviezhantseva. Special thanks to CHRW Western Student Radio and Richard Raycraft.