Oksana Grytsenko

Kyiv, Ukraine

Kyiv Post

Host: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Grytsenko reports from the Maidan to the front lines in Donetsk

In times of peace, Oksana Grytsenko focused on politics and social issues as a staff writer at the Kyiv Post.

When the revolution started, she headed to the Maidan. After Russia invaded Crimea and fomented an armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine, Grytsenko became one of the main war correspondents at the Post,  Ukraine’s largest  English-language newspaper.

“My country, Ukraine, is now experiencing the biggest challenges in its modern history,” Grytsenko wrote in her fellowship application. “After the change of leadership thanks to the three-month-long pro-European Euromaidan rally, we now deal with both economic turbulence and external intervention from Russia. I realize that in this dangerous time the role of free journalism as crucial as ever.”

Grytsenko, who speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English and French, alsowrites stories for the The Guardian of London.

The Ukrainian earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in 2002 from the National University of Kyiv – Mohyla Academy and completed her master’s program in journalism at the same institution two years later.

Grytsenko, 34, started her journalism career an intern at a prominent Ukrainian magazine more than 10 years ago. She curated short summaries of world stories and developed a passion for international reporting. Grytsenko later took a job with the news agency Ukrainski Novyny and went on to become an editor at Ukrainian TV Channel 5, an intern for The Associated Press and a weekend stringer for Agence France-Presse.

Grytsenko likes to write long feature articles that focus on social issues such as human rights, health care and the daily realities of poor people. She strives to give a voice to those who are mostly unheard in the society, from people with HIV and former prisoners to sex workers and drug addicts.

In the summer of 2014, she investigated the spread of tuberculosis in a region controlled by separatists fighting Ukrainian soldiers. She interviewed prisoners, former convicts and patients of a tuberculosis clinic in Donetsk who had to flee from the fighting. “It is always hard to interview the refugees, but when you talk to the refugees with deadly disease it is twice as hard,” Grytsenko said.

Grytsenko is also proud of her reporting on the Crimean Tatars as they prepared for the Russian annexation of their homeland, the Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russian-backed separatists and Russian soldiers, and the people living in desperate conditions amid the fighting over eastern Ukraine.

During her fellowship, the Ukrainian journalist will be based at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she hopes to polish her writing skills, improve her research and investigative reporting skills and learn about new media tools and digital trends. She is the second Ukrainian fellow to participate in the Alfred Friendly program.

“I think it would be also extremely useful for me to communicate with the American journalists, witness how they work, how they carry out interviews, how they communicate with officials and public, which problems they face and how they deal with these challenges,” Grytsenko wrote. “It will also help me to see the strong and weak sides of my own Kyiv Post newsroom and advise my Ukrainian colleagues, when I come back, on how to improve ourselves.”

Kyiv Post editor Brian Bonner believes the six-month experience in the United States will help Grytsenko grow professionally. “[Oksana] has been one of our main revolution and war correspondents,” he wrote. “We think she needs this experience at this stage in her career to keep advancing as a journalist, especially in her writing.”

Grytsenko looks forward to exploring the U.S. and learning about the American society as well as politics, business and environmental issues. She is also excited about meeting new people, making new friends and learning from their journalistic experience.

 —Tatiana Darie