Vara Farmiga was born on August 6, 1973, in Irvington, New Jersey, the United States. Her parents are Ukrainians: Lubomyra "Luba" (née Spas), a schoolteacher, and Michael Farmiga, a systems analyst-turned-landscaper. She has one older brother, Victor, and five younger siblings: Stephan, Nadia, Alexander, Laryssa (who was born with spina bifida), and Taissa (also a famous actress) Her maternal grandparents, Nadia (née Pletenciw; 1925-2014) and Theodor Spas (1921-1990), met at a displaced persons camp in Karlsfeld during World War II.
Farmiga considers herself to be "100% Ukrainian American". Belonging to a strict Ukrainian Catholic family, she couldn’t speak English till she began kindergarten at the age of six. At the age of 12, the family moved from Irvington to Whitehouse Station. Her childhood was full of folk stories, singing, and dancing. She was a shy, spectacled girl, trained as a folk dancer and classical pianist. As a teenager, she toured with a Ukrainian folk-dancing group, Syzokryli and was also a member of the Ukrainian Girl Scouts group, Plast.
Speaking of her upbringing and education, Farmiga shared, “I went to Ukrainian Girl Scouts, which is called Plast, and Ukrainian Catholic school. I did Ukrainian folk dancing. My piano teacher was Ukrainian. I used to think and dream in Ukrainian. My exposure to the English language mostly came from preschool, Saturday morning cartoons and television - The Little Rascals (1982), Little House on the Prairie(1974), Gilligan's Island (1964).”