Natalia Dmytruk, a sign-language interpreter for Ukraine’s state-run television, has received the Fern Holland Award at the Vital Voices Global Partnership’s fifth annual ceremony honoring women from around the world who have made a difference. According to Nora Boustany’s Washington Post story:
During the tense days of Ukraine’s presidential elections last year, Dmytruk staged a silent but bold protest, informing deaf Ukrainians that official results from the Nov. 21 runoff were fraudulent…
Election monitors had reported widespread vote rigging immediately after the runoff between Yushchenko and the Russian-backed prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych. With Yanukovych leading by a slim margin, the opposition urged Ukrainians to gather in Independence Square in front of the parliament building to protest the results…
The opposition had no access to the state-run media, but Dmytruk was in a special position as a television interpreter to get their message out.
On Nov. 25, she walked into her studio for the 11 a.m. broadcast. “I was sure I would tell people the truth that day,” she said. “I just felt this was the moment to do it.”
The newscaster read the officially scripted text about the results of the election, and Dmytruk signed along. But then, “I was not listening anymore,” she said.
In her own daring protest, she signed: “I am addressing everybody who is deaf in the Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies. … And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you. Maybe you will see me again,” she concluded, hinting at what fate might await her. She then continued signing the rest of officially scripted news.
Dmytruk’s live silent signal helped spread the news, and more people began spilling into the streets to contest the vote. She returned to work to give the 3 p.m. news, but was not admonished by her superiors. When she finished, she went into the technicians’ studio and told them what she had done. They hugged her all at once. “You are terrific, Natalia,” she said they told her.