Kateryna Yushchenko, wife of the President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko, is dedicated to promoting Ukraine internationally, working in community service, and raising her family. Following the completion of a higher education and successful career as an economist and manager in both the United States and Ukraine, Mrs. Yushchenko is now involved in numerous charitable projects.
As First Lady of Ukraine, Kateryna Yushchenko is active in charitable, historical and cultural activities. One of her main priorities is to address the difficult social issues currently troubling Ukraine, particularly health care for children, homeless, orphaned and exploited children, and integrating the disabled into society. Her Foundation, Ukraine 3000, will work largely through local non-governmental organizations to encourage the development of a tradition of charity in Ukraine.
Another of Kateryna Yushchenko’s priorities is to promote Ukraine’s culture, art and history in Ukraine and abroad. Currently the Foundation supports projects associated with folklore, archeology, museums, theaters, music, book publishing, and film. Ukraine 3000 will continue its work on the Ukrainian Famine Genocide of 1932-33 by organizing a massive collection of witness testimonies and supporting the government’s efforts to create a famine museum and a monument. On the 75th Anniversary, it plans to organize an international conference to commemorate the people who perished, and publish a book that will go to every household in Ukraine.
Ukraine 3000 has also funded stipends for the families of journalists who have died in the line of duty, quarterly competitions for regional journalists, and a rehabilitation center and residence for homeless children. The Foundation has responded to thousands of requests from individuals in dire need of medical care and other assistance.
Kateryna Yushchenko was born in Chicago, Illinois on 1 September 1961to a family of Ukrainian immigrants.
Her father, Mykhailo Chumachenko, was born in the village of Zaitsivka, Kharkiv Oblast, in 1917. He was one of only a few members of his large family to survive the Ukrainian Genocide Famine of 1932-33. Mr. Chumachenko studied electrical engineering in Lisichansk, Luhansk Oblast. He served in the Soviet Army, was captured by Nazi forces and taken to Germany in 1942. Mrs. Yushchenko’s mother, Sofia Chumachenko, was born in Litky, Kyiv Oblast, in 1927. Along with many girls in her village, Sofia Chumachenko was taken to Germany at the age of 14 to serve as a slave laborer. Kateryna Yushchenko’s parents met in Germany, married, and gave birth to her sister Lydia in 1945. Mykhailo Chumachenko became seriously ill with tuberculosis in 1945 and spent eight years in a tuberculosis sanatorium. In 1956, the Chumachenko family immigrated to the United States on an invitation from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Chicago. Mykhailo Chumachenko worked as an electrician in Chicago until his retirement in 1984. The Chumachenkos moved to Florida in 1987. Mr. Chumachenko visited his native Ukraine three times, in 1991, 1994 and 1995. His dream was to return to his small village and start a small farm. He died in 1998 and is buried in Kyiv.
Mrs. Yushchenko met her husband in Kyiv in 1993. They married in a small church ceremony in January 1998 and have three children: Sophia, 6, Chrystyna, 4, and Taras, 1. Kateryna Yushchenko is also stepmother to Victor Yushchenko’s two older children: Lina 25 and Andriy 19.
Her upbringing and religious faith ensured that Kateryna Yushchenko is strongly committed to serving her community. In high school and college, she was a volunteer in many community organizations; she regularly played sports with children with Downs Syndrome, led tours at a local historical library and was active in organizations that sought the release of Ukrainian human rights activists. Mrs. Yushchenko participated in school and college clubs such as the Russian Club, Spanish Club, and newspapers. She also participated in church sponsored projects as well as many Ukrainian diaspora organizations, such as Soyuz Ukrayinskoyi Molodiy (Union of Ukrainian Youth.)
Kateryna Yushchenko was an active member of the Charity Group of the International Women’s Club in Kyiv from 1993 to 1996. In 1995, she co-founded the Ukraine chapter of “Help Us Help the Children,” an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of orphans in Ukraine. Help Us Help the Children distributes humanitarian assistance to 200 orphanages throughout Ukraine, organizes yearly camps for teenagers in the Carpathian Mountains, and provides stipends to orphans studying at universities. Help Us Help the Children actively raises funds in Ukraine, Canada and the U.S. Mrs. Yushchenko is an honorary member of Soyuz Ukrayinok, (Union of Ukrainian Women.)
As evidenced by her commitment to community and church organizations, Mrs. Yushchenko strongly believes every individual should fulfill his or her commitment to God and society by becoming involved in community service. She often stresses on public addresses and interviews: “When someone sees a person in need, the first reaction should not be, ‘why doesn’t the government do something about this problem?’ but rather, ‘what can I do?’ From this first question can come miraculous individual, community and church initiatives.
Though born and raised in the U.S., Mrs. Yushchenko has always been dedicated to Ukrainian history, culture and politics. In her youth she attended Ukrainian studies classes, Ukrainian churches and youth groups, and studied Ukrainian national dance. She was active in supporting the Ukrainian human rights movement and bringing attention to the issues of Ukraine’s struggle for independence, the famine genocide of 1932-33, Chornobyl, and the Millennium of Christianity of Kyiv Rus’. After university Mrs. Yushchenko became the director of the Ukrainian National Information Service, the Washington bureau of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, where she worked to inform the U.S. government, media and non-governmental organizations about Ukraine. She attended a summer school program on Ukrainian history and literature. In her work at the United States Department of State she helped to write the reports on human rights violations in the USSR, prepare lists of prisoners of conscience and refuseniks, and researched such issues as religious repression in the Soviet Union. At the White House, she organized events for all East European communities in the U.S. In 1991, she co-founded the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, which translated laws and texts for Ukrainian parliament and government, and organized study tours. She made Ukraine her home in 1991 and became of citizen of Ukraine in 2005.
Education and Career
Kateryna Yushchenko received her Bachelors’ of Science in International Economics degree (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1982. She attended the Harvard University Ukrainian Summer Program in 1985. In 1986, she received an MBA with a concentration in International Finance and Public Non-Profit Management from the University of Chicago.
Mrs. Yushchenko has been in the workforce since the age of 15. During high school, she worked up to 40 hours per week as a waitress in order to save money for her college education. In university, she held many jobs, including office assistant and nanny.
From 1983 to 1984, Kateryna Yushchenko was the Director of the Ukrainian National Information Service. In 1984, she also did a two month internship in management at the U.S. Customs Service. During her education at the University of Chicago, Mrs. Yushchenko worked part-time as an editor at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, and did an internship at the Illinois Department of Commerce. From September 1986 to March 1988 she served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. From April 1988 to January 1989 she served as Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison at the White House. From January to November 1989 Mrs. Yushchenko worked in the Secretariat of the Treasury Department, then served as an Economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress from November 1989 to May 1991.
From 1991 to 1993, Kateryna Yushchenko served as co-founder and Vice President of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, and Director of its Pylyp Orlyk Institute. In 1993, she joined KPMG Peat Marwick/Barents Group as a consultant in its Bank Training Program and Country Manager. She left her job in August 2000, when she was expecting her second child.
Kateryna Yushchenko loves to read all types of literature and is proud of the library she has been compiling since her childhood. She is an ardent collector of Ukrainian art and crafts. She also collects both religious and secular images of mother with child. She is a fan of interior design and architecture. She particularly enjoys cooking and entertaining using recipes from various parts of the world. Most importantly, Mrs. Yushchenko focuses upon her family and tries to spend quality time with her five children and two step-grandchildren.