Should Have Listened to My Mother Podcast

HOST JACKIE TANTILLO -The Iron Will Of Ukrainian Women with Guest Anya Tomko

Episode Summary

"My mother is my rock" shares Anya Tomko, my guest on this special episode of SHLTMM. Anya is Ukrainian American and both of her parents fled western Ukraine during WWII. Both parents spent time in US supported displaced person camps in Germany and both mom and dad arrived in the United States in 1949, one month apart, at 7 and 11 years old respectively. They didn't meet until they were in graduate school and the rest as they say is history.

Episode Notes

The details of the 2022 Ukraine/Russia conflict change minute by minute and hour by hour.  What's difficult for  my guest and her 80 year old mother,  Mariyka, to understand is how shocking this event is. Here we are in the 21st century, and Ukraine is under attack.  Certainly not plausible, but clearly possible. What makes this all the more difficult is the fact that Anya and her mom have many relatives still in the Ukraine today.  They've set up group chats on their phones to make sure that they can all stay in touch with updates regarding their safety and where-a-bouts.

The rich Ukrainian culture has played a significant role in my guest's life.  She attended the Ukrainian Cultural Center of NJ in Whippany, as a child growing up. She and her sibling, studied the language, traditions, history, etc. Anya also raised her own children  with the same ideation that their Ukrainian culture was very important and they too had to learn and understand the significance  of these traditions.  

In 1949, Mariyka's  family was sponsored by a German family and they were able to move to the US. However,  they moved to Wisconsin.  They often felt isolated. There was no family close by, yet they held on to their values, language and traditions. It was vital that they remember all that they had been through and because of their beliefs and strength they survived.

On the contrary, Anya's father, as a child moved directly to the lower east side of Manhattan with his family and were immersed in a rich Ukrainian culture 24/7. They had full support from their neighbors and community which helped them overcome their longing for their homeland.

The same patriotism  still exists today as it did long ago, when both mom and dad arrived in the United States and held utmost respect and longing for Ukraine. That's why Anya says of her relatives still in Ukraine today, "they are scared but there is not a single doubt in their minds that they need to stay. They love their country and they will fight to defend it."  They large family photo is from a 2011 trip to Ukraine with her mother and children to visit part of their immediate family still living there.

After working decades in Corporate America, at JP Morgan, Anya now works at a benchmarking organization helping businesses grow at The Learning Forum. Currently, she is on the Board of Directors for the Ukrainian Cultural Center as well  as fulfilling her role as Administrative Director at the School of Ukrainian Studies.

The Ukrainian American Cultural Center just outside Morristown, NJ  (

is accepting donations for their humanitarian drive to send much needed supplies to Ukraine. You can find the full list of goods, including nonperishable food, clothing, blankets, warm clothing, etc at the link above.

 Anya ended this episode with a phrase that Ukrainian's are repeatedly using "Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes."

Thank you for listening and thank you for contributing to aid the Ukrainians.