Roma Zoria Franko grew up in the small town of Canora, Saskatchewan. Her parents, Roman and Sonia Stratychuk, were unwavering in their commitment to education, and they made sure that she became an avid reader of Ukrainian and English literature from an early age. Upon completing Grade Twelve in 1954, Roma was awarded the Legion Gold Medal and an Entrance Scholarship to the University of Saskatchewan. Over the years, she earned four degrees at this university: a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction (1959), a Bachelor of Education with Distinction (1961), High Honours in Slavic Studies (1965), and a Master of Arts in Slavic Studies (1971). In 1990, she received her Ph.D. in Ukrainian Literature from the University of Toronto. Her studies at the University of Toronto were supported by a number of scholarships including the Connaught Fellowship and a Canada Council Doctoral Scholarship.
Roma taught in Saskatchewan schools from 1956-66. In 1967 she was appointed to the Department of Slavic Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. She served as Head of that department from 1981-89, and later was Head of the Department of Modern Languages from 1994 until her early retirement in 1996. During her tenure at the university, Roma served on numerous College and University committees, and chaired the University of Saskatchewan’s Chernivtsi Exchange Committee (1982-1986) and the Committee for the Annual Shevchenko Lecture Tour from Ukraine (1981-1989).
While at the university, Roma taught Ukrainian and Russian languages courses at the undergraduate level, and Ukrainian literature courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Along with her colleagues in the Department of Slavic Studies, she devoted herself to developing innovative programs and introducing many new courses, including Ukrainian literature in English translation. In 1995, she received a Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union. Roma also taught Ukrainian Methods Courses in the Colleges of Education at the Universities of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, conducted 35 two-week seminars in Ukrainian by the Audio-Visual Method for teachers of Ukrainian in the Prairie Provinces and Ontario, and presented numerous papers at Teachers’ Conferences and keynote addresses at Annual Conventions of provincial and national associations of Second Language Teachers.
Roma was a founding member of the Saskatchewan Teachers of Ukrainian in 1967, its president in 1970-71, and co-editor of its journal, TEMA, for four years. She also served as a representative from the University of Saskatchewan on the Ukrainian Curriculum Committee of the Department of Education from its inception in 1967 to her early retirement in 1996. During her teaching career, in conjunction with her colleagues she prepared a wide variety of Ukrainian language teaching materials, and in 1994 she published an innovative instructional program Ukrainian for Speakers of English, intended for university and high school students and adults in a home study situation.
Earlier in her teaching career, Roma taught in Ukrainian Parish Schools, served on the local, provincial, and national executives of the Ukrainian Educational Council of Canada, spearheaded the establishment of the Total Immersion Ukrainian Summer School Program at Mohyla Institute in 1971, and co-chaired the committee that initiated the Ukrainian Arts Program in Saskatchewan in 1974. In addition, she served on the Board of Governors of the National Film Board of Canada from 1972 to 1980, and was elected as Vice-Chairman of the Board for five of those eight years. In 1990-1991, Roma was a founding member and President of the Saskatchewan Council of the Friends of RUKH, the Popular Movement of Ukraine in Support of Restructuring.
After taking early retirement in 1996, Roma embarked on a second rewarding career: translating Ukrainian literature into English and making it accessible to a wide reading audience. Her sister, Professor Sonia Morris, served as editor, and when she passed away, her son, Paul Cipywnyk, took over. So far 23 books of translations have been published and disseminated gratis to universities, public libraries and Ukrainian institutions and organizations across North America. At the present time, two more books are ready for the printers.
In 1998, Roma was awarded the Shevchenko Medal and was one of the first members to be inducted into the “Kobzar Society” of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko. In 1999, she received the Nation Builder’s Award from the Ukrainian Canadian Committee, Saskatchewan Provincial Council. In 2009, she was awarded the George S. N. Luckyj Translation Prize by the Canadian Foundation of Ukrainian Studies.
Roma has been married for 60 years to Stefan Franko, a graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, and they have two sons and five grandchildren.