NED mourns the passing of dear friend and colleague Nadia Diuk

Nadia DiukIt was with deep sadness the Board and staff of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) learned of the passing of our long-time colleague and friend Nadia Diuk.  Nadia, who had served the Endowment for 32 years, most recently as Senior Advisor and previously as Vice President for Programs, died at home on January 23, 2019 after a long illness.

National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman spoke for all who knew and worked with Nadia, saying, “Nadia blessed us with her work, her dedication, her brilliance, and her friendship.  We loved her deeply, and she will be missed by us all. May her soul rest in peace.”

The daughter of Ukrainian refugees who fled to Great Britain during World War II, Nadia dedicated her life and work to the advancement of freedom and democracy not just in Ukraine, but throughout the entire region that had been dominated by, and later liberated from, the Soviet Union.

Nadia came to NED as a program officer in 1987, three years after the Endowment’s founding, and went on to lead the NED’s grant making in Europe and Eurasia, providing crucial support to countless civil-society groups throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  Later in her career, she added Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa programs to her NED portfolio.

On January 22, 2019, a day before her passing, Nadia received The Order of Princess Olga (III degree), one of Ukraine’s highest state honors, from the President of Ukraine in recognition of her life’s work in furthering democracy and supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Marc Plattner, the co-editor of NED’s Journal of Democracy and first Director of Programs, and who worked closely with Nadia throughout her tenure at NED, reflected that “Nadia was deeply committed to her Ukrainian heritage, but she was no less committed to freedom and democracy–not only for the people of Ukraine, but for peoples everywhere. She will be sorely missed by all who witnessed her unrelenting labors in support of democracy in the former Soviet bloc and around the world.”

A historian by training, Nadia’s work was informed by her deep knowledge and research about the diverse peoples of the Soviet Union and the “Captive Nations.”  She co-authored two books, the Hidden Nations (1990), and New Nations Rising (1992), detailing the struggles of these populations for freedom and self-determination.  In 2012, she authored a third book, The Next Generation in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan.

Barbara Haig, NED’s Deputy to the President for Policy and Strategy, who worked hand in hand with Nadia for decades, said, “Nadia’s contribution to NED, Ukraine, and the democracy world writ large cannot be measured.  With her calm grace she fought the good fight, finding and nurturing younger generations of democratic activists throughout Eurasia, and helping them to define and find constructive ways to work toward achieving their dreams.” On a personal note, Barbara added that Nadia “loved to walk the side streets of cities in Eastern Europe, tracking down the best historical maps of Ukraine and the borderlands in small dusty shops, and was a dedicated member of the choir at her church and at NED Holiday parties.  She demonstrated so much courage these last two years of struggle — she uplifted and inspired us all. We loved her and will miss her.”

Read NED President Carl Gershman’s eulogy delivered at Nadia Diuk’s memorial service.

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Bill Leonard from Washington, DC wrote on January 27, 2019 at 4:43 pm:
As a student of history, Nadia knew first hand that, as Shakespeare wrote “What is past is prologue.” What it was about Nadia that struck me the most when I first met her was her keen and insightful understanding of the past, not necessarily about the Soviet Union, but rather about the intricate current of interpersonal relationships which flowed through the decades of NED’s existence prior to my arrival – as well as her willingness to share that understanding with me in order to further my success. As with anyone who first comes into a well-established organization, especially one like NED where so many individuals had been there for 20 years or more, and where, just like “Lake Wobegon”, everyone was above average, there exists at NED a bountiful past of which I was oblivious when I first arrived but which would prove to be of immeasurable value to me in learning the culture of NED if only I could understand it. Nadia made it her mission to ensure that I did. It was Nadia’s initial eagerness to share which impressed me the most about her when I first came to NED. As I came to know her better and came to increasingly rely upon her wisdom and counsel, there was so much more that I came to admire and respect. She never failed to radiate warmth and compassion. She was always co-operative, patient and kind in her communication with me and others. I always found Nadia to rely more on friendly persuasion than power or authority. She never failed to express her opinions in anything other than a thoughtful and deliberate manner. At the same time, Nadia exhibited a firm minded and analytical approach in meeting challenges head-on. She was also a strong visionary. It was always obvious that her views and opinions were a reflection of who she was as a person and that they came from deep within and from the heart of her core values. For nine years, to include the years she was on extended sick leave, I never ceased to rely on Nadia’s counsel. In a world rent by destruction and despair in the face of authoritarian attacks on basic, universal human rights, Nadia never lost hope – she never ceased to remain positive that humanity’s better attributes will eventually prevail. While I always admired that aspect of Nadia’s nature, it was over the last two years that I came to know and admire it in an even deeper context. Nadia never failed to amaze me that in the face of all the health challenges she confronted, as with her professional career, she never lost her determination to focus on that which was in her power to control and not succumb to the fear or hopelessness of that which was beyond her control. It wasn’t that she was blind or oblivious to the challenges – rather, she recognized that all the good in the world comes about by focusing on the possible rather than the impediments to real change. To the very end, Nadia lived the life of the activist that she was.