RFE/RL has a long-standing tradition of political satire and social commentary. In recent years several language services have begun adding editorial cartoons to their repertoire of devices to present complex and controversial issues while adding a universally understood dimension of humor to their reporting. Zhenya Oliynyk is a freelance cartoonist for the Ukrainian Service, outlining her country’s recent political turmoil and coloring it in with her unique wit.
RFE/RL: How did you go from journalism student to cartoonist?
Oliynyk: What I was actually hoping to do was to write. Yes, I could draw, but I had never tried my hand at political cartoons. [A colleague] insisted I give it a go, and I liked it! So did the editors. In the course of my work experience at the Kyiv bureau, I sort of fell into it.
RFE/RL: What is the editorial process for producing a cartoon? Who decides which topic or issue deserves treatment in a cartoon?
Oliynyk: It depends. Sometimes it's my idea--I come up with something, the editors like it, and I just draw it. Sometimes there are long discussions, debates, or even harsh arguments among colleagues before we come to a decision.
RFE/RL: How long does it take for you to draw a cartoon?
Oliynyk: It varies; about an hour or so. Initially, I used to draw by hand, but then we decided to do it all on the computer.
RFE/RL: What's your favorite subject?
Oliynyk: I mainly cover culture. Politics is not something that I'm particularly interested in, but Ukrainian politics is so funny, that caricaturing it is quite fun. My favorite cartoon shows how Ukrainian domestic politics, and the fate of its political prisoners, actually influences Ukraine's relationship with Europe.
RFE/RL: You are also the author of a weekly in-depth cultural program, "Kulturama." What do you like better -- drawing or writing?
Oliynyk: I don't have to choose. I like writing better, of course, but drawing is something I can do pretty well.