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Mariya Lesiv was born in Horodenka, Ivano-Frankivs'k region, Ukraine. Her father is a TV journalist, and her mother is a visual artist who teaches at an art college in Ivano-Frankivs'k. Mariya did her undergraduate studies at the Lviv National Academy of Arts, and graduated with a specialist degree in Fine, Applied and Decorative Arts in 2001. In 2001-2003, she did her post-graduate studies in History and Theory of Art, at the Lviv National Academy of Arts.
Mariya came to the University of Alberta to study Ukrainian folklore in 2003 where she received her MA (2005) and PhD (2011). Her doctoral dissertation is devoted to Ukrainian Paganism, a new religious and political movement that strives to revive old rural folklore while creating an alternative vision of a present-day Ukrainian nation in both Ukraine and the diaspora.
Mariya worked for the Kule Centre for Ukrainian and Canadian Folklore, University of Alberta, where she taught and was actively engaged in fieldwork and publication projects dealing with various aspects of Ukrainian diaspora culture. She married Brian Anthony Cherwick in 2008.
Mariya received a job as an assistant professor of folklore at the Memorial University, Newfoundland in 2011, and moved to St. John's with her family. Her research interests include diaspora studies; folklore and national/ethnic identity building; material culture; folk religion; new religious movements; ritual, belief, and spiritual culture; as well as modern Paganisms (Western and East European). Her first book The Return of Ancestral Gods: Modern Ukrainian Paganism As an Alernative Vision for a Nation was published by McGill-Queen's University Press in 2013.
Mariya's new research project focuses on new diaspora communities established by recent immigrants to Newfoundland from the former Socialist block.