A REMARKABLE ELECTION TOOK PLACE in Ukraine on December 26. After the ruling party stole the November 21 presidential vote, massive street protests forced a new runoff, in which the rightful winner, Viktor Yushchenko, finally prevailed.
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.
When I first met Kathy in 1987, she was working for the State Department in the human rights bureau. We met at a Heritage Foundation event where John Podhoretz, now a columnist for the New York Post and a Weekly Standard contributing editor, was speaking. Shortly thereafter, I went to work in the White House in the Office of Policy Development, headed by Gary Bauer. The Office of Public Liaison (OPL) was headed by Rebecca Range (née Gernhardt), whom I had known since my first days on Capitol Hill, when she was working for the late John Ashbrook, the conservative congressman from Ohio. (She is now married to Rep. Christopher Cox, whom she met when he was working in the White House counsel's office for President Reagan.)
Public Liaison is the White House's outreach office, which maintains contacts with groups and organizations viewed as politically important. In the Reagan White House, one of these groups was the Eastern Europeans, whose homelands still suffered under Communist tyranny and Soviet control. The Ukrainians were a key member of this coalition.
Shortly after I got to the White House, a position in OPL opened up for someone to work with the "captive nations," as they were called. I pushed hard with my friend Becky to hire Kathy for the position and I think it helped. She was hired and we were able to work together for a year or so. Although Kathy's main interest was Ukraine, she was equally supportive of people from the Baltic States, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and other enslaved countries. They all understood that they would sink or swim together.
Toward the end of the Reagan administration, I moved over to the Treasury Department, where I was deputy assistant secretary for economic policy. The executive secretary--a job that involved managing the department's official correspondence and the paper flow in and out of the secretary's office--was a woman named Emily Walker, who hired Kathy as her deputy. So, once again, Kathy and I were able to work together. 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.
Kathy was also too smart to be content in what was essentially a bureaucratic position, and she looked to move on. Again, I was able to help. A friend of mine, David Malpass, had just become head of the Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, where I had previously been executive director, and was looking for someone to work on issues relating to what were called transitional economies. I recommended Kathy and she was hired. (David is now chief global economist for the investment bank Bear, Stearns & Co. in New York.)
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.