Mariya Blyznyuk was born in the city of Fergana, Uzbekistan. At the age of 10, she moved with her parents to Ukraine, where she actively started drawing and painting, visiting Art studios and graduated from the School of Arts in the city of Kremenchug, Ukraine. In 1992, she graduated from the National Pedagogical University in Kharkov, Ukraine with a Bachelor’s degree in arts and graphics. She worked as an Arts teacher in the Kremenchug School of Arts and had organized the Arts Studio in the House of Arts for Kids.
In 1997, Mariya graduated from the National Academy of Government Managerial Staff of Culture and Arts in Kiev, Ukraine, with the Degree in Management and Marketing. In 2007, Mariya came to Ontario, Canada. She organized The Green Lion Arts Studio for children and adults. Her favorite art techniques are painting in oils using a palette knife and drawing with pen and ink. Mariya’s artwork covers a wide range of subject matters, from landscapes to seascapes, buildings, boats, wildlife, and flowers. She is a member of the Richmond Hill Group of Artists; Newmarket Group of Artists; King City Group of Artists; Barrie Art Club and Muskoka Art. She is also a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, and Toronto Artists (FCA Toronto).
September 2022, Alina Hromko, arrived in Orillia from Ukraine with her five-year old son and three-year old daughter. With two small children in tow, she was only able to carry one suitcase of clothing and her camera equipment. The camera equipment was paramount as that was how she planned to make her living in Canada.
Alina became interested in photography in 2012. Four years later, photography became her full-time job and primary source of income in Ukraine. Her attention to detail, high-quality photographs and exceptional client service helped her establish a thriving business before the war started.
Alina specializes in family photography, with a focus on newborns, but also embraces other genres, e.g., portraits, product marketing and photographs for print media. She is committed to ensuring her customers are fully satisfied with the results. Now, Alina is working on establishing herself in Orillia and the surrounding area. She admits that it is a struggle trying to launch her business while being the sole caregiver for her two small children, but she believes her work ethic and commitment will make it possible. Where other people see problems, Alina only sees possibilities.
Olga Levkivska was born in the city of Kaniv, Cherkasy region, Ukraine. Both parents, now retired, were teachers. Olga’s mother taught Ukrainian and her dad, geography. In 1998, at the age of 10, Olga visited Canada under the program Children of Chernobyl, staying with host Irena Lawrenson near Orillia, Ontario.
After graduating from high school, she did a four-year college program to qualify as an organizer of Cultural and Theatrical Events, followed by a five-year Bachelor’s degree at the State Academy in Ecology and Environmental Protection. She had already begun a Master’s degree in Psychology at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences in 2022, with completion expected in February 2024. She also joined the Territorial Defense for Kyiv Region volunteer militia and was trained in defense tactics and how to use a gun.
In May 2023, Olga was granted the Canadian-Ukrainian Emergency Program work visa and accepted an invitation to return to Canada from Irena Lawrenson. After revisiting the family and places she remembers from her childhood stay in Simcoe County, she is now living with a host in Dundas, Ontario. Olga is pursuing full-time studies in English as a Second Language while working part-time at a local restaurant.