To millions of Americans, Cora-Ann Mihalik is the blonde anchorwoman who delivers Fox Television's nightly news briefs. To New Yorkers, she is the co-anchor for WNYW's "Ten O'Clock News." But for Carpatho-Rusyns, Cora-Ann Mihalik is a symbol of ethnic identity.
Mihalik readily admits that she is proud of her heritage which can be traced back to Poland and Czechoslovakia. Her father Walter's family emigrated to America from Poland (Cora-Ann does not know the exact locale), and her mother Ann Harvilla's clan came from the Carpatho-Rusyn village of Vysny Orlik in the Presov Region of northeastern Czechoslovakia.
"Ever since I can remember, I was very much aware of my roots," says the affable, energetic Mihalik. "I have to laugh that ethnic is now a trendy thing because to me ethnic has always been 'in.' I have always admired people who value their background and upbringing."
For Mihalik, 34, that upbringing included a traditional blend of Slavic foods and customs. Raised as a Roman Catholic in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, Mihalik has fond memories of holidays like Easter and Christmas. "I'll never forget the pyrohy, babka, and stuffed cabbage," she recalls. "And the soups were incredible - borshch, chicken and mushroom! But most of all, I loved the pastries. They're still a weakness of mine."
The qualities that she values most, however, are the pride and work ethic that were instilled in her. "We're proud people, there's no doubt about it," she explains. "And no one can take that away from us. I remember hearing about how hard my grandparents worked out in the fields and on the railroads. They worked for everything they got. They didn't expect anything to be given to them."
Mihalik admits that this attitude helped her climb up the television news ladder. "This is a crazy, insecure business," she says. "If you're not secure you can be led astray, you can doubt yourself. My upbringing has helped me keep my feet on the ground."
She says that as a youngster she never dreamed of becoming a television newscaster. "I attended William Paterson College in New Jersey with the goal of majoring in Spanish and becoming an interpreter at the United Nations," she explains. "But during my junior year a professor persuaded me that I had a real chance to succeed in journalism."
Upon graduating with a B.A. in Communication Arts, Mihalik's career gradually escalated. She served as the first female anchor/reporter at WGGB-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts. She also anchored for WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; for WJKW-TV in Cleveland, Ohio; for WTCN- TV in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she was also the first female anchor; and for WLS-TV in Chicago. Prior to joining permanently Fox TV in 1987, Mihalik was a reporter and fill-in anchor for that network's "A Current Affair," a nightly news magazine program.
Mihalik is surprised that none of her employers have requested that she change her obviously ethnic name to a more "all-American" one. "l'm very proud of my name and happy that a lot of people all over the country get to see it. In fact, because of it, I regularly get calls from viewers who want to know if l'm related to other Mihaliks they know. It's too bad that my grandparents are not still alive to see my name on the screen. They would have been so proud."
Since Mihalik has such a high-profile career, she is often honored by ethnically-affiliated groups. "I get a real kick out of that," she says, "especially when little kids and older people come up to me to talk. I feel very fortunate to be in the position l'm in, and I think it's only fair of me to give back whatever I can to the community."
Mihalik, in fact, does give back by participating in a mammoth share of charity work. As a board member of the New York Leukemia Society, Mihalik co-hosted the first nationally televised "Leukemia Televent" in 1987, and for the past seven years, she has co-hosted the "Jerry Lewis Telethon For Muscular Dystrophy" at various stations around the country.
Mihalik, who lives on Manhattan's upper east side, is in no hurry to abandon her single lifestyle. "l'm married to my work," she laughs. "My career and charity work take up most of my life, but l'm not complaining. l'm having too much fun to settle down now."
Mary Huzinec New York, New York
Copyright ©1989, Carpatho-Rusyn American Vol. XII, No. 2
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