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Norman Student Wins Award to Document Ukrainian Refugees in Ireland

Elizaveta “Lisa” Maslovskaya moved to Norman from Russia in 2017 amid the crisis in Crimea, and now she has been selected as one of 12 college students in the world to receive a scholarship which she will use to document the stories of Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.

Maslovskaya is a creative media production major at the University of Oklahoma, and she will be welcomed in the George J. Mitchell Scholars Class of 2025 by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance.

Her major falls within the Gaylord College of Journalism.

“My major is about creative production. It addresses all aspects of video production,” Maslovskaya said. “I’m focusing more on documentary production right now, but it encompasses everything from producing, directing, writing, cinematography, editing, and how to sell the product afterwards.”

According to Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, the island nation has accepted over 100,000 refugees.

“I am very proud that we as a country have welcomed 100,000 Ukrainians to Ireland and I want to say very clearly that Ukrainians who are fleeing the war in Ukraine will remain welcome in Ireland,” Varadkar said.

Maslovskaya said Ireland’s generosity is impressive considering it was not obligated to accept refugees by the European Union.

“They didn’t have an obligation to accept Ukrainian refugees and open the borders for them,” she said. “They now have the largest percentage of refugees compared to the country’s population size. It is fascinating why they did that.”

Inspired by the country’s generosity, she decided to make a documentary that will highlight the voices of those displaced by war.

The student was selected, in part, because of her work documenting Ukrainian refugees in the U.S. This summer, she traveled to Florida, New York, Illinois, California and North Carolina to interview refugees for an upcoming documentary, tentatively titled “Still Ukrainian.”

Her work addresses how the cultural identity of refugees has changed since the war, what their future plans are, and whether or not they want to remain where they are, rather than return to Ukraine.

“I was actually studying abroad in Paris when the war in Ukraine started,” she said. “I was in Europe filming documentaries when I first met refugees coming to France. My first instinct as a journalist was to start filming them and telling their stories.”

She said her act of filming also served as a mechanism to protest the war.

Maslovskaya, who speaks Russian, French and some Ukrainian, said she finds herself in a unique position as a trained filmmaker.

“A lot of these refugees speak Russian because the regions most attacked by Russia are areas where Russians immigrated to Ukraine amid the time of the Soviet Union,” she said. “I understand Ukrainian, though I don’t speak it fluently, but I use it in my interviews with Ukrainians.”

She said her ability to speak allows her to be able to connect with the refugees and translate her interviews with them.

“A lot of people ask me, how does it feel being a Russian talking to Ukrainian refugees?” she said. “I tell them that refugees just want to be heard and appreciated. We are brother nations. We were always together. A lot of my close friends are Ukrainians.”

She said as a girl, her parents would frequently tell stories about Ukraine, as well as other Soviet-occupied territories.

“For me, the war was a disaster. I couldn’t just keep silent,” she said.

OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. congratulated Maslovskaya for her accomplishment and work.

“We are incredibly proud of Lisa Maslovskaya, whose extraordinary scholarly achievements, leadership qualities and commitment to advocacy make her an outstanding recipient of the Mitchell Scholarship,” Harroz said. “This prestigious award recognizes promising leaders like Lisa, whose motivation is centered on the betterment of others, epitomizing our university’s life-changing purpose. I eagerly anticipate Lisa’s future accomplishments as a Mitchell Scholar and beyond.”

Maslovskaya has won eight awards for her documentaries, including two from the Broadcast Education Association.

Previously, she filmed a documentary amid the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

She will report to Ireland in September 2024 at Dublin City University where she will study documentary practice. The Mitchell Scholarship Program will provide tuition, housing and a monthly living stipend while she studies and does her work.

Maslovskaya graduated from Norman High School in 2020.

Source : Transcript