VanArts News Article

Media Stories: Scholarships for Ukrainian Refugees

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BMO Graduation Ceremony

Our Ukrainian Graduates! VanArts Graduation Ceremony at the BMO Theatre, March 29th 2023

VanArts’ students from Ukraine that started in March 2022 on full scholarships are now graduates, embarking on the next stage of their careers. Our staff and faculty are proud of their achievements and it has been an honor to have them as part of the VanArts community.

Their stories are being covered in several media outlets, and VanArts is looking to raise funds for a second round of scholarships for students fleeing the war in Ukraine. Scholarships for 25% of tuition are available now for programs starting September 5, 2023, with potential for more as additional funds are raised.

Watch here a story from Global News, reported by Jay Durant of This is BC.

…and by Dana Gee of the Vancouver Sun, the following story has been shared in the Sun, Province, MSN, and Prince George Post.

VanArts gives Ukrainian refugees a chance at careers with help of scholarship fund

Arts school looking to raise funds for a second round of financial support for students fleeing war in Ukraine.

Author: Dana Gee
Published Mar 23, 2023

Images & Article courtesy of the Vancouver Sun.

Anna Sitalova - Vanarts

Anna Sitalova is one of 25 Ukrainian refugees who received a scholarship from VanArts and recently graduated from the school’s year-long program

A year ago Anna Sitalova was in Poland scrolling her Facebook feed when she noticed something interesting. The 24-year-old saw a post that VanArts, a longtime Vancouver media arts school, was offering 25 full tuition scholarships (worth about $40,000) for Ukrainians.

Sitalova had fled Kyiv a month after the Russians invaded in late February 2022. Before leaving she had been studying biology and was taking some graphics courses with an eye on maybe pursuing a career in 3D scientific animation. When she saw the post, she quickly pulled together her portfolio and applied.

“It was amazing. I didn’t believe that I would be accepted. I didn’t believe I would be successful with my visa. I was really surprised it was possible,” said Sitalova, who came to Vancouver last April.

Now Sitalova is a graduate of VanArts and is working for a local VFX company as a junior 3D tracking artist on TV/film projects.

Of course, while Sitalova is here working she worries about family back in eastern Ukraine, including her 55-year-old father who hasn’t yet been called up to fight.

“It’s very frustrating. It is part of my life I literally cannot control unfortunately,” said Sitalova, adding that her family is very supportive of her move to Canada where she hopes to remain.

Another of the Ukrainian scholarship recipients (17 completed the program) who will graduate officially on March 29 in a ceremony at the BMO Theatre is Mara Balyuk.

Mara Balyuk - Vanarts

Photographer and Ukrainian refugee Mara Balyuk felt she had nothing to lose when she applied for a scholarship to attend VanArts.

The 23-year-old photographer is from Kharkiv. She left there not long after the war started and went to Bulgaria with her mother and brother. From there they went to Germany. Like Sitalova, Balyuk’s dad, who is 53, is still in Ukraine but not yet fighting.

While in Germany last spring Balyuk was looking through Instagram and saw a post about scholarships that were available in Canada.

“I was in a state of mind of nothing to lose. I didn’t know what was the future so I decided to take a risk and I got all my portfolio together and I applied for the scholarship,” said Balyuk, who has shot photos for fashion outlets and sporting events. “I was thinking photography is a thing that makes me happy. If I will not try I will not know. When I got the letter of acceptance, I think I was the happiest person in the world.”

The students travelled here on Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) visas. Once here, their scholarships could be applied to one of the 12-month diploma programs being offered. Those courses are: 2D or 3D Character Animation, Acting for Film & TV, Game Art & Design, Professional Photography, Visual Effects for Film & TV, and Web Development & Digital Design.

“It has been incredibly inspiring to see our Ukrainian students on our campus. They are full of promise and confidence,” said Alan Phillips, president of VanArts in an email. “It’s our hope that $1 million can now be raised to fund full tuition scholarships for another 25 Ukrainian refugee students to study and prepare for creative careers in our digital media and entertainment industry.”

The school solely funded the first round of scholarships but this time they’re looking for help from the business community and anyone else who wants to donate. If you’re interested, you can contact Phillips directly at 604-220-0971 or

More media stories here >>