By Eden Siskind*

Julie Smolyanksy, an extremely impressive immigrant from Kiev, Ukraine immigrated to the United States through the refugee program with her family when she was a young child. In 1986, her father founded Lifeway foods, which introduced a probiotic beverage similar to yogurt.

Julie Smolyansky was the youngest female CEO of a publicly traded company after her father, the founder of Lifeway Foods, died in 2002. After acquiring her father’s company, she grew Lifeway from $12 million to $109 million in sales.

She has been in the news most recently for being on stage at the Oscars with Lady Gaga. Smolyansky is an avid women’s rights advocate in the Chicago area, and is a victim of sexual violence herself. She stood as one of the survivors of sexual violence on stage with many other survivors at the Oscars. Lady Gaga was performing her nominated song, “Til it Happens to You”, from the “Hunting Ground”, which is a documentary discussing sexual assault and rape on college campuses.

* Eden Siskind is a sophomore at the University of Maryland who interns at HIAS – the nation’s oldest immigration and refugee services agency.

Greg Siskind