Gloria Chomiak Atamanenko

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Gloria Chomiak Atamanenko
A young white woman, smiling, with long loose dark wavy hair; in profile
Gloria Chomiak, from a 1950 publication of the US Department of the Interior
Gloria Katherine Chomiak

April 28, 1932
Fort Vermillion, Alberta
DiedOctober 12, 2017
Williams Lake, British Columbia
Occupation(s)Social worker, writer, translator, editor

Gloria Katherine Chomiak Atamanenko (April 28, 1932 – October 12, 2017) was a Canadian social worker, writer, editor, and translator. As a teenager in the United States, she made headlines as the winner of a national essay contest on the theme "I Speak for Democracy".

Early life and education[edit]

Gloria Chomiak was born in Fort Vermilion, Alberta, the daughter of Peter Chomiak and Nellie Pikulik Chomiak. Her parents were farmers, both Ukrainian-born immigrants to Canada, and her first language was Ukrainian.[1][2] She was educated at home and through correspondence courses until age 15, when she attended a high school in Wilmington, Delaware, and lived with her uncle there.[3][4]

In 1950, Chomiak won a $500 scholarship as one of four national finalists in an "I Speak for Democracy" essay contest, selected from over a million entries.[1][5][6] Her essay, which began "I speak for democracy, because two generations back my ancestors could not", was read into the Congressional Record by Senator John J. Williams,[7] who commented that "This essay should be read not only by every student but more important, it should be read by every adult in this country."[8] Her essay was reprinted in newspapers across the United States,[9] and she met Harry S. Truman, Alben W. Barkley and Senator J. Allen Frear Jr.[10][11] The Voice of America invited her to read a translation of her essay in Ukrainian, for a special broadcast.[12] An episode of the radio program Cavalcade of America dramatized her story, with Peggy Ann Garner originally cast as Chomiak.[13][14][15] Susan Douglas played the role instead,[16] and Chomiak read her essay aloud during the national live broadcast.[17] She also read the essay at a Daughters of the American Revolution conference, and at church events.[18][19]

Chomiak graduated from Swarthmore College in 1955.[20][21] She earned a master's degree in counseling and psychology from the University of Victoria in 1980,[22] with a thesis titled "Family Relationships and Creativity-related Personality Factors: Perspectives from Three Literatures" (1980).[23]


Atamanenko was a psychiatric social worker in Williams Lake, British Columbia, Edmonton, and Vancouver.[24] In 1998 she was honored by the Learning Disabilities Association of British Columbia, for her work for disabled children and adults.[22] She was also a writer and translator; she wrote essays for Lived Experience, a Canadian literary annual, and translated Mykhailo Mikolajovich Ivanychuk's Fourteen Months on Franz Joseph Land (1934) from Russian and Ukrainian into English.[2][25][26] She co-edited a collection of biographical essays, Gumption Grit: Women of the Cariboo Chilcotin (2009, with Karen Thompson, Pam Mahon, and Sage Birchwater).[27] She also helped compile a collection of local elders' writings, as Looking Back, Looking Forward: Cariboo Seniors' Stories and Poems (2002).[28] She was active in adult education[29] and in NDP politics in the Cariboo-Chilcotin constituency.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Gloria Chomiak married George Atamanenko in 1953. They had two sons, Boris and Peter.[31] She survived a stroke in 2006 and used a wheelchair in her later years.[25] She died in 2017, aged 85 years, in Williams Lake.[20]


  1. ^ a b "High U.S. Officials Honor Young Essayists". Wireless Bulletin: 10. February 23, 1950.
  2. ^ a b Birchwater, Sage (2004-05-25). "Hidden Book Unlocks Secrets". The Tribune. p. 11. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  3. ^ Straley, George H. (1949-12-19). "Fort Vermilion Girl Wins Honors in U.S." Edmonton Journal. p. 25. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  4. ^ "District Girl Wins Honors". Edmonton Journal. 1950-07-08. p. 23. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  5. ^ Ellison, Lucile (June–July 1950). "Youth Demonstrates 'Loyal Citizens in Action'". The Child. 14: 196–197.
  6. ^ "Victorious Voices of Democracy". School Life. 32: 81–82. 1950 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ "Williams Honors Gloria Chomiak". The Morning News. 1950-01-19. p. 3. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  8. ^ United States Congress (1950). Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the ... Congress. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. A399.
  9. ^ Peck, George (1950-08-24). "The American Way: Glorious Gloria". The Gunnison Valley News. p. 4. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  10. ^ King, Julia (February 22, 1950). "Democratic Youth Organizations: Senator Frear and Vice President Barkley with Gloria Chomiak, the winner of the "Voice of Democracy" contest". University of Delaware Library, via Artstor. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  11. ^ Power, Mary Elizabeth (1950-02-22). "Top U.S. Officials Pause to Greet Gloria, 3 Others". The News Journal. p. 20. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  12. ^ "Gloria Chomiak to Speak to Ukraine in Broadcast". The Morning News. 1950-02-23. pp. 1, 4. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  13. ^ "Show No. 662: 'I Speak for Democracy' after broadcast" (1950) photograph in the collection of the Hagley Museum and Library
  14. ^ "Gloria Chomiak Story is Cast for 'Cavalcade of America'". The News Journal. 1950-05-23. pp. 1, 4. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  15. ^ "Gloria Chomiak story on air". The News Journal. 1950-06-22. p. 27. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  16. ^ "Principals in Broadcast". The News Journal. 1950-06-28. p. 3. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  17. ^ "Gloria Chomiak Reads Essay on Nationwide Broadcast". The Morning News. 1950-06-28. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  18. ^ "Gloria Chomiak Reads Essay at State Colonists Assembly". The News Journal. 1950-03-20. p. 16. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  19. ^ "Church Honors Local Girl Who Won Speaking Contest". The Morning News. 1950-01-23. p. 20. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  20. ^ a b "Gloria Katherine Atamanenko (nee Chomiak) Obituary". Williams Lake Tribune. 2017-10-12. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  21. ^ "Their Light Lives On". Swarthmore College Bulletin. Spring 2019. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  22. ^ a b "Gloria Atamanenko Honored". The Tribune. 1998-08-20. p. 19. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  23. ^ Atamanenko, Gloria Katherine (1980). Family Relationships and Creativity-related Personality Factors: Perspectives from Three Literatures. University of Victoria (B.C.).
  24. ^ Lamb-Yorski, Monica (2012-09-19). "They Call the Cariboo Home: George and Gloria Atamanenko share everlasting love". Williams Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  25. ^ a b Andruss, Van (2018-02-01). "Remembering Gloria Atamanenko (April 28, 1932 – October 12, 2017)". The Green Gazette Magazine. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  26. ^ Ivanychuk, Mykhailo (2004). 14 Months on Franz Josef Land. Ethnic Enterprises. ISBN 978-0-9732428-1-2.
  27. ^ Gumption & grit : women of the Cariboo Chilcotin. Sage Birchwater, Women's Contact Society. Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press. 2009. ISBN 978-1-894759-37-3. OCLC 401155021.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  28. ^ Farrar, Gaeil (2002-12-03). "Dinner Talk Leads to History Book". The Tribune. p. 23. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  29. ^ Birchwater, Sage (2002-03-07). "Skills Centre Closes its Doors". The Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  30. ^ Farrar, Gaeil (2002-12-12). "Seeking a Voice in Victoria". The Tribune. p. 7. Retrieved 2022-03-05 – via
  31. ^ "Peter Theodore William Atamanenko Obituary". Williams Lake Tribune. 2022-01-05. Retrieved 2022-03-05.