Ivonka Survilla

Ivonka Survilla (Belarusian: Івонка Сурвілла, born Ivonka Šymaniec, Belarusian: Івонка Шыманец, Polish: Iwonka Szymaniec, April 11, 1936) is the President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, a self-proclaimed Belarusian government in exile.

Ivonka Survilla
Pres. Ivonka Survilla.jpg
Survilla in 2016
President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in exile
Assumed office
30 August 1997
Preceded byJazep Sažyč
Personal details
Івонка Шыманец / Ivonka Szymaniec

(1936-04-11) April 11, 1936 (age 86)
Stołpce, Second Polish Republic
(now Stoŭbcy, Belarus)
SpouseJanka Survilla
ChildrenHanna-Pradslava Survilla, Dr. Maria Paula Survilla
Residence(s)Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alma materSorbonne
AwardsQEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Early lifeEdit

Ivonka Survilla was born in Stoŭbcy, then part of the Second Polish Republic (West Belarus), into the family of Uladzimier Šymaniec, an engineer, and Evelina Šymaniec née Paškievič.

In 1940, after the Soviet annexation of West Belarus, Uladzimier Šymaniec was arrested by the Soviets and sentenced to five years imprisonment in Gulag. He escaped due to the German attack on the USSR.[1]

In 1944 the family fled to the West through East Prussia with the thousands of other refugees and eventually reached Denmark where they lived in a refugee camp for several years. On the way Ivonka's younger sister died.[1]

In 1948 her family moved to France and settled in Paris. Survilla's family members were active participants in the life of the local Belarusian community. Ivonka Šymaniec has studied at École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts and then graduated from a humanities faculty of the Sorbonne.

In 1959 Ivonka Šymaniec married Janka Survilla, a Belarusian economist, activist and radio broadcaster. With him she moved to Madrid where they ran a Belarusian language radio program supported by Francoist Spain.[1]

In CanadaEdit

After closure of the radio station in 1965, Janka and Ivonka Survilla moved to Canada in 1969 where Ivonka started working as translator for the federal government. She eventually became the head of Translation Services at Health Canada.[2]

In Canada Ivonka Survilla became an active member local Belarusian organisations.

In 1989, Ivonka Survilla, with the assistance of her husband Janka Survilla and friends Zinaida Gimpelevitch and Pauline Paszkievicz-Smith, created the Canadian Relief Fund for Chernobyl Victims in Belarus. This charitable organization provides medical aid in various forms, reciprocal medical staff visits between Canada and Belarus, food aid as well as providing health respites for children in various locations within Canada.

As President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic RepublicEdit

Ivonka Survilla was elected president of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1997. She is the first woman president of the Rada and the first president elected after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and creation of an independent Republic of Belarus.

Survilla regularly addresses the Belarusian society on March 25 and other occasions.

She is a founding signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism.[3]

In 2013 she was awarded the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for "her lifelong work in restoring democracy to Belarus".[4][5]

Personal lifeEdit

Ivonka Survilla has two daughters. One of her daughters, Maria Paula Survilla, (1964–2020) was a professor of ethnomusicology at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.[2] Her husband Janka Survilla died in Ottawa in 1997.

Survilla has participated in more than 30 exhibitions as a painter.[2]


  1. ^ a b c The Road from Stoupcy to Copenhagen to Paris to Madrid to Ottawa to Miensk — The Memoirs of Ivonka Survilla (in Belarusian)
  2. ^ a b c Нашчадкі мастака Ўладзімера Шыманца працягваюць беларускія традыцыі і прадстаўляюць беларускую культуру ў заходніх унівэрсытэтах.
  3. ^ "Prague Declaration - Declaration Text". 3 June 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  4. ^ "Рада Беларускай Народнай Рэспублікі - Рада БНР". www.facebook.com. Archived from the original on 2022-02-26. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  5. ^ "Ивонка Сурвилла получила медаль королевы Елизаветы II". Новости Беларуси | euroradio.fm (in Russian). Retrieved 2020-09-03.

External linksEdit