This column is a part of a series of articles about Ukrainian culture and history. Our mission is to be your guide to the language, culture, and history of your Ukrainian ancestors. So follow us and learn more about your roots.
Ukraine gives a lot of talented people to the world. Some of them were born and/or raised in the USA. So who are famous Ukrainian Americans?
Bill Tytla (Володи́мир Ти́тла)
Volodymyr Peter Tytla was born in 1904 in New York in a family of Ukrainian immigrants. His parents came from the town Pidhaitsi, Ternopil region.
Tytla is particularly noted for the animation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Little Audrey.
While the development of artistic animation in Ukraine paused in the 30s, Ukrainian animation talent manifested itself in the diaspora. He was very much a Ukrainian himself since he was a graduate of a Ukrainian scouting organization. He could spend hours listening to Ukrainian folk music and even visited his parents’ town in Ternopil region while on a study tour in Europe.
Steve Ditko (Стів Ді́тко)
Famous cartoonist Steve Ditko, whose parents were from Ukraine, was born in 1927 in Pennsylvania. Ditko’s parents were Ukrainian immigrants, and his father worked in a mill. Steve began drawing and crafting model aeroplanes during junior high.
During his career, he co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and many other notable characters. His work strongly influenced everyone else in the industry and is still widely reprinted. He died at the age of 90 in 2018.
Mike Ditka (Миха́йло Ди́чко)
Michael Keller Ditka is an American former football player, coach, and television commentator. A member of both the College (1986) and the Pro (1988) Football Halls of Fame, he was UPI NFL Rookie of Year in 1961, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and a six-time All-Pro tight end with the National Football League’s Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys.
Mike Ditka was born in Pennsylvania in 1939. His father, a welder, was one of three brothers of a Ukrainian family in the coal mining and steel manufacturing area in Western Pennsylvania. The surname “Dyczko” was difficult to pronounce in his hometown, so the family name was changed to “Ditka.”
Andrei Kushnir (Андрій Кушнір)
Andrei Kushnir is an American fine art painter. He is known for his landscapes, city views, and seascapes, but also has created a genre, portraits and still life works.
He was born in Germany in 1947. His Ukrainian parents immigrated to the United States to escape Soviet communism.
He began painting in oils in 1980 and quickly progressed to painting landscapes on site. Andrei developed his naturalistic realist style and has worked primarily outdoors, in every season and weather.
Jane Lubchenco(Джейн Лю́бченко)
Jane Lubchenko is an American environmental scientist and marine ecologist who teaches and conducts research at Oregon State University. Her research interests include interactions between the environment and human well-being, biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable use of oceans and the planet.
Lubchenco was born in 1947 and grew up in Colorado, the oldest of six sisters. Her father, Michael Lubchenco, was of Ukrainian, French, English, Scottish and Irish descent and her mother, LaMeta Dahl Lubchenco, had Norwegian, French and English ancestry.
Bruce E. Melnick (Брю́с Е́двард Ме́льник)
Melnick was born in 1949 in New York City in a family of Ukrainian ancestry.
Melnick is a retired American astronaut and the United States Coast Guard officer. Following retirement from NASA and the Coast Guard, he entered the aerospace industry.
Commander Melnick was selected for the NASA astronaut program in 1987 and designated the first Coast Guardsman to fly in space. He flew on Discovery in 1990 and Endeavor in 1992.
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper is an American astronaut of Ukrainian origin. Her father was originally from Lviv, her mother was from Germany, which is where they met there after World War II, and then moved to the United States, where Heidemarie was born. Heidemarie became only the eighth woman in the world to enter outer space.
Stefanyshyn-Piper is an American Naval officer and former NASA astronaut. She has achieved the rank of Captain in the United States Navy. She is also a qualified and experienced salvage officer.
Wayne Gretzky (Іван Гре́цький)
Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born in 1961. He is a Canadian and American hockey player of Ukrainian origin, one of the most well-known athletes of the XX century.
From 1978-1988 he played for the club “Edmonton Oilers”, which four times won the Stanley Cup. In the National Hockey League, where Gretzky was nicknamed “the Great One”, he set a record 61 times and won the League individual prizes.
At the beginning of the XX century, Wayne Gretzky’s grandfather Terence Gretzky immigrated to Canada from Grodno region of the Russian Empire (now it is Belarus). There he married a Ukrainian Mary from town Pidhaitsi (today Ternopil, Ukraine). The family spoke Ukrainian to each other.
Borys Gudziak (Бори́с Ґудзя́к)
Gudziak was born in 1960 in Syracuse, New York, US. His parents, both Ukrainian Greek Catholics, had come to New York from western Ukraine in the early 1950s.
He is the current Archeparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Pope Francis had appointed Borys Gudziak as Archeparch of Philadelphia for Ukrainians and Metropolitan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA. Gudziak is the 49th member of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Ulana Suprun (Уля́на Супру́н)
Suprun is a Ukrainian-American physician, activist, and philanthropist who served as the acting Minister of Healthcare from 2016 to 2019. Before her government career, Suprun served as Director of Humanitarian Initiatives for the Ukrainian World Congress. She is an author of a new model of financing the healthcare system in Ukraine.
Suprun was born in 1963 in Detroit, Michigan to parents George Harry and Zenovia Jurkiw, of Ukrainian descent. Suprun attended Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic School in Warren, Michigan. In her youth, Suprun was a member of Plast (the Ukrainian scouting organization). She was raised following Ukrainian traditions. She fluently speaks Ukrainian.
Can you add someone to this list? Who is your favourite Ukrainian American? Share with us in the comments.