Kyiv, Ukraine | Reporter, Kyiv Post

Alfred Friendly Fellow | Hosts: Missourian, Chicago Tribune

By Veengas Yasmeen |

Yuliana Romanyshyn had a comfortable job at an information technology company in a city near Ukraine’s western border when the war with Russian-backed separatists started on the other side of the country.

People quit their jobs and  to join Ukraine’s military forces, members of the diaspora returned home to volunteer and other citizens were finding ways to pitch in.

“The war broke out and the Army was not prepared,” Romanyshyn said. “People were dying every day. I wanted to do more for my country.”

She was a part-time journalist in high school and college and had experience writing news articles in English. She also was an activist during the Maidan Revolution that ended with the ouster of their president, and she was upset about the propaganda posing as news that was spread by Russia’s state media.  

“I decided I could contribute by writing news stories,” Romanyshyn said. She took a job at the Kyiv Post, the country’s sole English-language news outlet, which is well known for its editorial independence and a primary source of information for westerners.  “I decided it is a perfect place for me.” She moved from Lviv to the capital and joined the staff in January 2015.

She was assigned to the lifestyle department, doing stories about tourist attractions, cultural events and other topics that showed the country was still operating normally for the most part and worthy of investment.

But in her first week at the Post, in January 2015, separatists fired a missile into a bus in Eastern Ukraine, killing 12 passengers and wounding 18.

“I still remember that feeling I had when I saw the exploded bus on a cover of our newspaper,” Romanyshyn said. “That is how real world of journalism started for me.”

She started writing about how regular people were affected by the war and its consequences, such as the downturn in the economy. Romanyshyn wrote about political prisoners in Russia, including those outside the limelight.

“These are the kinds of stories I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.

During the fellowship, Romanyshyn will expand her knowledge of reporting and writing and specialized skills such as data journalism.

“With the set of skills in data journalism I’ll gain in the United States, I will be able to do comprehensive data stories and apply Western practices to the development of journalism in Ukraine,” she said. “The Alfred Friendly Press Partners program, like no other, can help me reach the next level of knowledge, skills and the global perspective required to reach my career ambitions.”

A crowdfunding initiated by her editor in Ukraine, Brian Bonner, made her fellowship possible. The campaign raised $7,560 to cover part of the expenses of bringing Romanyshyn to the United States for six months.

Nearly 100 people contributed to the campaign so that the 25-year old journalist could study at the Missouri School of Journalism and work in American newsrooms. Romanyshyn was assigned to the staff of the Columbia Missourian for the first half of the fellowship program and at the Chicago Tribune for the second half.

This is the fourth year that Kyiv Post journalists have taken part in the Alfred Friendly program

We were treated to our first baseball game in the U.S.