By Yana Mokhonchuk.
Novomber 5, 2020
When Victoria Spartz won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives during the U.S. elections on Nov. 3, it was big news for the Republican Party and the state of Indiana, which she represents. But unlike most things that happen in Indiana, Spartz’s victory has resonated in the Ukrainian media. Spartz is an immigrant from Ukraine. Spartz was born on Oct. 1, 1978 in Nosivka, a city of 13,000 people in Chernihiv Oblast, some 100 kilometers northeast of Kyiv. She received bachelor of science and master of business administration degrees in Ukraine and moved to the United States in 2000.
In the U.S., Spartz studied at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis – and was appointed to the Indiana State Senate in 2017 after one member resigned. In the 2020 race, Spartz faced off against Christina Hale, a former state representative who was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2016. During the campaign, the Ukrainian-born politician emphasized her business background and warned of the dangers of socialism, which appealed to the rural and conservative voters in her district.
While votes are still being counted, the race has been called in favor of Spartz. “We did it! We won Indiana 5th Congressional District and I could never have accomplished it without you! I am so honored and humbled by the trust the people of Indiana’s 5th District have placed in me,” Spartz wrote on Facebook. With 89% of protocols counted, Spartz has received over 188,700 votes so far, or 51%.
First Ukrainian in Congress?
Ukrainian media have reported that Spartz is the first Ukrainian to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. That statement is not untrue, but depends on how one defines “Ukrainian.”
Spartz is certainly the first immigrant from modern Ukraine to be elected to the U.S. legislature’s lower chamber, but the United States has previously elected individuals born in Ukraine or of ethnic Ukrainian ancestry to Congress.
David Benior, a Democrat from Michigan, served in the House of Representatives from 1977-2003. He is of Ukrainian and Polish ancestry.
Maurice Hinchey, a Democratic representative from New York in 1993-2013, also had Ukrainian ancestry.
Abraham Toll, a Democrat from Pennsylvania who served in the House of Representatives from 1959 to 1967, was a Jewish immigrant born in Bohuslav, a city that is today in Kyiv Oblast.
Other U.S. politicians — particularly those of Jewish background — also had ancestors who immigrated from what is today Ukraine.