East meets west in Katya Yushchenko
The Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating profile of Ukraine's new American-born first lady, Kateryna Yushchenko in yesterday's edition. In so many ways her upbringing mirrors my own, from the immigrant parents who were forced labor in Germany during the war to her education in Ukrainian culture, literature, religion and values as a child growing up. Unlike her, however, I could never imagine myself living in Ukraine. America is my home and I am as proud an American patriot as I am a champion of the culture of my ancestors in Ukraine. Growing up with one foot in one culture and one foot in another does present some problems, but in the long run, enriches and enlarges your life. Kateryna will be a great asset to her husband and her new country (if they ever get around to granting her her request for citizenship, that is -- there is more on this in the article). Also be sure to notice the proof of a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting and smearing Yushchenko which was personally ordered by Leonid Kuchma. One can't help but be struck by the similarities in methods with our own home-grown democrat party -- if you can't beat them fair and square -- then -- smear, smear, smear.
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(from yesterday's Wall Street Journal)
. . .Mrs. Yushchenko was raised in suburban Chicago as the daughter of an electrician and seamstress. During World War II, her parents were forced to immigrate to Germany and work as slave labor. They came to the U.S. in 1956 at the invitation of a Ukrainian Orthodox church. She grew up speaking Ukrainian at home, learning the national dances and attending a Ukrainian school and Orthodox church. "My parents felt they had to keep alive the culture and traditions they thought were being suppressed by the Soviet Union," she told me.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s she worked in the human rights office of the U.S. State Department. She also worked for the first President Bush in the Treasury Department. But her dream was always to help Ukraine become independent. So after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 she moved to Kiev. Her business degree from the University of Chicago helped her land a job with KPMG, the U.S. international auditing company, and she prospered training the country's economists in Western practices. She met Viktor Yushchenko when he was part of a delegation of central bankers she brought to Chicago. "He understood free markets, had a firm faith in God and knew what the right path for the country should be," she told me.
The two married in 1998, and they now have three children.
It is the strong bond he has with his wife that has helped Mr. Yushchenko through the tough campaign and it will likely be his relationship with her that will help him have a successful presidency. Perhaps the darkest moment for Mr. Yushchenko came this fall when he was poisoned. At first it seemed to be a case of the flu. His wife recalls him coming home one night during the presidential campaign and saying he felt sick. She noticed a strange metallic taste in his mouth when she kissed him. It turned out to be dioxin, a chemical compound found in Agent Orange and a well known poison.
Mr. Yushchenko has largely recovered, although the poison has left his face disfigured and the government has continued a three-year campaign to discredit him and his wife. After he was poisoned, the state prosecutor opened an investigation into the incident and then tried smearing Mr. Yushchenko by claiming he had a disfiguring case of herpes.
Tape recordings made by a disgruntled bodyguard for President Leonid Kuchma show that the president personally ordered a disinformation campaign against the Yushchenkos. Mr. Yushchenko was portrayed as a fascist puppet of Western bankers and Kateryna as an active CIA agent. She responded by winning a libel judgment against a Russian television station that accused her of disloyalty to Ukraine. But the government has refused to process her application for Ukrainian citizenship.