From the Reagan Revolution to the Orange Revolution
Bruce Bartlett, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and frequent columnist in the Washington Times and numerous other publications, recently wrote an article for the January 24, 2005 edition of the Weekly Standard entitled, "Ukraine's Reaganite First Lady: From the Reagan Revolution to the Orange Revolution", in which he offered a fascinating insight into Ukraine's new First Lady, Kateryna Yushchenko, from her days in Washington, when she and Mr. Bartlett worked together on a number of projects. Mr. Bartlett was instrumental in guiding her to several important positions she held in the State Department and White House liason offices before she decided to move to Ukraine in order to find a life for herself there. That is where she met Viktor Yushchenko in 1998, they have since married and have three children.
Here are a few revealing glimpses of Katya Yushchenko from his article:
. . . Although I have neither Ukrainian blood nor any special interest in foreign affairs, I have followed events in that country closely because a dear friend of mine, Katherine Chumachenko, is married to Yushchenko and about to become first lady of Ukraine. Leading up to the election, I was called by Russian "reporters" looking for information on Kathy, or Katya, as she prefers today. I should say that they were looking for dirt, because the Russian press and its counterparts in Ukraine have been telling terrible lies about her for some time, saying that she is a CIA agent and other untruths designed solely to undermine her husband's political support. I know that these things are untrue because I was intimately involved in several of her career moves, which are now portrayed as some sort of nefarious plot to move Kathy into a position of power in Ukraine. If anyone is responsible, I am; not the CIA.
. . . But after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I could see that Kathy was becoming agitated about what might happen in Ukraine. While it seemed clear that most of Eastern Europe would soon free itself from the Soviet yoke, it was not at all certain that Ukraine would also be able to do so, since its position as a Russian vassal long predated the Soviet Union.
. . .Toward the end of 1991, Ukraine declared its independence, and there was no stopping Kathy from being part of it. Although born in Chicago to Ukrainian parents, she was always more Ukrainian in some ways than those born in Ukraine. She had been raised to speak Ukrainian and was thoroughly steeped in that nation's culture and history. And with a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, she knew that she could help her people recover and prosper in a free economy.
Kathy left the JEC and began traveling back and forth to Kiev, where she hoped to establish some sort of business. But the situation was very precarious, even for someone with family there. For example, I recall her telling me that she could not buy a car because auto theft was rampant. But for less than a car payment, she was able to hire a full-time car and driver. She told me that her driver slept in the car to prevent it from being stolen.
. . . Although Ukraine became independent, it took a long time before it was able to shed its Communist legacy. I recall Kathy telling the story of a reception in Kiev, where she struck up a conversation with one of the attendees. To her surprise, he knew all about her. It turned out that he had worked for the Ukrainian KGB and had been assigned to follow her career, since she was one of the more prominent Ukrainians in the United States. Kathy asked him what he was doing now, and he said he was running for the parliament--against one of her cousins, in fact.
. . . I haven't seen Kathy since before her marriage, so I have no personal knowledge of their relationship. But knowing her as I do, I think it says a great deal for the new president of Ukraine that he won her heart.