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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Inna Pidluska from Kyiv, Ukraine wrote on January 29, 2019 at 6:03 pm:
I first met Nadia in 1992, when I just joined a new Ukrainian NGO, the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research that brought together a bunch of young university graduates who sought to contribute to Ukraine’s emergent democracy. Like in so many other transitions worldwide, NED was the first to support the local self-organized groups in their strife for freedom, human rights and dignity. But Nadia brought with her something beyond her commitment to enabling Ukraine’s democratic transition and her great knowledge of democracy and civil society. A true Ukrainian in her heart, she inspired people to discover their identity and campaigned vigorously for making Ukraine matter on the international agenda. She worked tirelessly to help Ukrainian activists connect and collaborate with their peers in other countries of Eastern Europe, Eurasia and beyond. When a history of civil society and it’s role in the post-Communist transition will be written, Nadia’s contribution will be at the most prominent place. For me Nadia was always a model: brilliant, dedicated, brave, gentle, caring, enthusiastic about meeting people, hearing stories of their pursuits of freedom and positive change. Nadia was a person of great integrity and moral strength but also of great kindness. I could see how people tried to be kinder yet more proactive and committed when they met her. In Washington DC, her wonderful hospitable home hosted hundreds of people - dissidents, emerging leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and activists of all generation and geographies. She opened the world for me and many people she so generously helped to learn from her vision and blessing guidance. Her trust in people was amazingly powerful. She knew everyone who mattered to the democratic transition processes. Every time when she came to Ukraine we would bring together a few friends and colleagues to talk about developments in the state and the civil society but also about other, very human things, sharing dreams and ideas for the future. She cared. It is heart-breaking to know that Nadia will not be coming back to her beloved Ukraine. With her passing an essential place in the circle of champions of democracy and freedom is now so sorely empty but her great spirit and dedication will live forever in our loving memories and hearts. Missing you, Nadia, our dear civil society angel