August 21, 2020

Friends reflect on the passing of Marta Kolomayets


The following comments appeared in a Radio Svoboda report about Marta Kolomayets that was compiled by Iryna Shtohryn. There were translated for The Ukrainian Weekly from the original Ukrainian by Irena Chalupa.


Ivan Malkovich, poet, publisher, Marta’s friend and neighbor:

Marta Kolomayets/Facebook

Marta Kolomayets

God has called Marta Kolomayets to him – Marta, one of the best people I have ever known, a person with a great, big heart. We are blessed with such friends infrequently, and when they leave us so suddenly, you feel an immense emptiness. Marta was a real friend to whom you could entrust that which you treasure most.

As a prominent public figure who did so much for Ukraine and had so many grand and ambitious plans, Marta was simultaneously endowed with an infinite gift of connecting people from different continents, all the while enveloping them with her compassionate attention. I don’t think any of us were ever able to repay her for that in any commensurate way.

All we have left now is prayer. The kingdom of heaven awaits you, dear Martusia. Your memory is all light and gratitude. My condolences to your family


Irena Chalupa, Marta’s friend, former director, Ukrainian service, Radio Liberty:

I am profoundly sad. Marta and I weren’t just friends, we were very close in spirit. Our lives are similar, we were both born into Ukrainian families, lived in the U.S., but were always connected to Ukraine.

Marta always managed to collect fabulous Ukrainian company around her. I just can’t imagine Kyiv without her.

Marta loved her father immensely. He’s from eastern Ukraine, Poltavshchyna, her mother is from western Ukraine. Marta was a true Ukrainian hybrid, a product of east and west. For her, Ukraine was always one, single, unitary; she loved all of Ukraine and never divided it into east and west.

Marta was the first Western journalist to go to Ukraine. She met and became friends with scores of Ukrainian dissidents who began to be released in what was then Gorbachev’s USSR. …

Marta’s professional life was all about Ukraine.

I don’t remember the exact year, but it was an important Holodomor anniversary. Marta recorded many Holodomor survivors at that time, people who survived that hungry horror and through the kindness of fate ended up in the U.S. and Canada. These testimonies were published in volumes that are today in the Library of Congress. These testimonies were used as a resource by American legislators in their work as they introduced and passed resolutions commemorating the Holodomor.

Marta always supported and helped Ukrainian dissidents; many of them became her friends. I saw this often, she was very close with the Horyn brothers, during one of my last trips to Ukraine we visited Raisa Rudenko, it was her birthday and we went to greet her. It was a lovely afternoon.

For me, Marta was more than just a sister, she was a person whose soul was so close to mine. She loved beauty and wherever she was she created a beautiful space. There were always flowers, beautiful paintings, gorgeous vases, elegant glasses. Marta was a great aesthete, really gifted in that regard.

That’s why she was always pursuing these wonderful projects, especially during her tenure as director of the Ukraine Fulbright office and program. She was working on organizing a gala concert in Carnegie Hall to celebrate the 120th anniversary of “Shchedryk,” Leontovych’s signature composition, “Carol of the Bells,” so people would know who wrote this melody and what country produced a talent that could capture the spirit of Yuletide in such unforgettable notes. I hope that we can see this dream of Marta’s become reality so we can honor her memory in this way.


Archbishop-Metropolitan Borys Gudziak, Ukrainian Catholic Church, Philadelphia Archeparchy:

There are people in all the continents who are devastated by the death of Marta Kolomayets. All of us who grew up in the Ukrainian Youth Association (SUM) and Plast are bearing a bitter loss because Marta was a part of our lives. A part that always emanated love.

Marta loved people, and she loved Ukraine. This love was consistent and supremely effective, generating ideas, projects and good deeds, and something new in each one of us. Everything Marta did gave hope to specific people and to Ukraine.

At this difficult time, we all realize that very often Marta was a donor in good works for all of us, we were all receivers of her wonderful bright energy, and for this wonderful vitality, we are supremely grateful to Marta.

Today we embrace with prayer Marta’s husband, Danylo, Marta’s 91-year old mother, Luba, and their families. In this time of pandemic they can’t come together physically and can’t say good-bye to Marta in the way that they want to.

But we know that in this sorrow all those who knew Marta Kolomayets are soulfully united in spirit, the way Marta united us during her earthly life. We are facing this heavy loss at a special time, a time of pandemic when the world is so politically divided, a time of much hostility and aggression. And in this time of anxiety all of Marta’s achievements, the hard work of her life and all she did for others become particularly clear. Let Marta be an example for us, so we are not confused but rather know exactly what to do and how to do it.

Contemplating Marta’s life, we understand that we must try to do what we can with love towards people. And this will surely yield results.


Markian Bilynsky, vice-president, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation:

We are in shock. We knew Marta was ill, but we could not even imagine that it was this serious. Marta was one of those people who was always working, she was always full of ideas and plans.

We worked with Marta very well. When she was working on a project on local communities it was so clear how much respect mayors of Ukrainian towns had for her. Marta was always very respected by those who had the fortune to know her and work with her.


Olha Herasymiuk, chair, Ukrainian Radio and Television National Council:

What I am categorically not ready for is the news that Marta has gone. I have no words right now, only an all-encompassing, bitter longing that binds me…

From that moment when she arrived in the land of her forebears, the land that was just starting on its independence path, Marta selflessly began to help, and has continued to do that ever since. All of Ukrainian life is connected with her, and countless people can speak of how she helped…

And my life is tightly connected with Marta, from our youth until now, and without her there is a great chasm…

I don’t remember that she ever complained about something, or let people see her sadness.

I want to think that she was happy. I will miss her.


Larysa Mudrak, media consultant

Oh, Marta, you were one of a kind. I was amazed how in the early 1990s Marta organized the first leadership forums for women. This was mutual support – the full 100 percent. She fascinated and amazed others, knowing Ukrainian traditions better than people who were born and raised here in Ukraine, such as me. She was dedicated to people in a way that they write about in poems and novels. In a way that you almost never see in real life…


Svitlana Yeremenko, acting director, Pylyp Orlyk Democracy Institute:

…Marta had a very special quality, she saw people for what they were, she felt who they were and she always surrounded herself with real people.

Marta knew how to appreciate the efforts and achievements of others. She had many friends but each one of them felt special because of Marta. An encouraging word, a pleasant smile, support for those who needed it, you could always find this in Marta. …

Marta came to Ukraine as a journalist before independence. She really devoted her life to Ukraine. I say this without any hyperbole, because it is true!

She wrote articles, supported reformist democratic politicians, educated young leaders, encouraged and taught women entrepreneurs. She was part of the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity.

When Russia’s war against Ukraine began, I asked Marta if she would now return to the U.S. Marta answered very calmly “No, I will stay with Ukraine and Ukrainians to the end….”