Marie Yovanovitch’s family fled the Soviet Union before she was born. She has never been married, and does not have a husband or children. Her parents, Nadia and Michel Yovanovitch, were Ukrainian. They moved to Canada to escape the Soviet Union, then eventually moved again to Connecticut, where Yovanovitch was raised.
When Yovanovitch was confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in 2016, Yovanovitch said of her parents, “My parents’ lives were changed forever by the Communist and Nazi regimes. They survived poverty, war, displacement and finally arrived in the United States with me in tow, in search of freedom, opportunity, dignity and accountability.”
During Yovanovitch’s November 2019 testimony, Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes made reference to Yovanovitch’s family saying that the former ambassador’s family had “fled communism and Nazism, [and] served this country beautifully for 33 years.”
Yovanovitch also has a brother, Andre Yovanovitch, 52, per congressional records.
Yovanovitch’s parents met in Montreal. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Yovanovitch’s Mother Died Less Than a Month Before Her Impeachment Inquiry Testimony
Marie Yovanovitch’s mother, Nadia, died on October 24, according to an online obituary. At the time of her death, Nadia Yovanovitch had been living in Virginia. She was 91 years old. Yovanovitch’s brother, Andre, paid tribute to his mother in a Facebook post that read, “Sadly, my mother passed earlier this week after 91 wonderful years of life. We miss her dearly, but feel comfort that she was surrounded by family in the end as she had wanted and is now in a better place with our father.”
According to The New York Times, Yovanovitch was born in Canada and moved to the United States when she was three years old. She and her parents lived in Connecticut, and she attended a private school in the area called The Kent School, where her parents worked as language teachers.
On Nadia Yovanovitch’s obituary page, one commenter paid tribute saying, “Nadia was a very special person. She was my German teacher at Kent School in Connecticut. Her husband was my French teacher and advisor. The Yovanovitchs were a second family to me while at boarding school. Nadia greatly influenced my life for the better. I think of her often. Her and her husbands kindness constantly are with me. I profoundly miss her.”
Yovanovitch was extremely close with her mother. At 88 years old, Nadia accompanied Yovanovitch to her confirmation. Michel had already died by that point, but Yovanovitch said that if her father had been there, “[he] would have been so moved.”
Nadia and Yovanovitch actually lived together for a period of time in 2017, while she was serving as ambassador to Ukraine. She told The News Times, “My mom is doing well – she’s 88 — and this is the first time she’s been with me like this. So we are starting on this new adventure.”
Yovanovitch became a naturalized United States citizen when she was 18 years old. She grew up speaking Russian as her first language, and attended Princeton University as an undergraduate. Per her State Department bio, she majored in History and Russian Studies during her time at Princeton. Shortly after she graduated from college, she joined the State Department, specializing in Eurasia.
Yovanovitch has often described her parents’ experience as that of being “stateless,” prior to arriving in Canada.
2. Yovanovitch Doesn’t Have a Husband; She Never Married or Had Children
Yovanovitch doesn’t have a husband or children. She has served the U.S. government for four presidential administrations, two Democratic ones and three Republican ones.
Yovanovitch has traveled all over the world during her time in the foreign service. She has served as the ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, the ambassador to Armenia, and has also worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, leading her to travel all over.
During her opening statement at the impeachment hearing on November 14, Yovanovitch talked about the lived experience of such a unique professional path. She said, “It has not always been easy. I have moved 13 times and served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts.”
She also defended her fellow colleagues, saying, “We are people who repeatedly uproot our lives, who risk— and sometimes give—our lives for this country.”
3. Yovanovitch’s Brother Wrote That He Was ‘So Proud’ of His Sister Prior to Her Testimony
Yovanovitch’s brother, Andre, posted the above photo of him with his sister on October 11. Andre wrote in the caption, “I have no words, so proud.” Photos on Andre Yovanovitch show that he visited Ukraine in October 2017, while Marie Yovanovitch was the ambassador.
According to his LinkedIn page, Andre Yovanovitch is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a graduate of Vanderbilt University. At the time of writing, Yovanovitch is a vice president at The Pacific Financial Group.
4. Yovanovitch’s Mother Grew Up in Nazi Germany
Yovanovitch has spoken candidly in the past about what her parents went through prior to arriving in Canada. Her father, Michel, fled the Soviet Union, and her mother grew up in Nazi Germany.
During her opening remarks at the impeachment hearing, Yovanovitch said:
My service is an expression of gratitude for all that this country has given my family and me. My late parents did not have the good fortune to come of age in a free society. My father fled the Soviets before ultimately finding refuge in the United States. My mother’s family escaped the USSR after the Bolshevik revolution, and she grew up stateless in Nazi Germany, before eventually making her way to the United States. Their personal histories—my personal history—gave me both deep gratitude towards the United States and great empathy for others—like the Ukrainian people—who want to be free.
5. Colleagues, Friends, & Family Know Yovanovitch as ‘Masha’
Many colleagues and friends will talk about Yovanovitch by using their nickname for her: Masha.
“Masha Yovanovitch is known as a straight arrow, disciplined, professional,” said Daniel Fried, a former ambassador and 40-year State Department official, to The New York Times. He added, “If you take out Masha Yovanovitch, you send the message to every ambassador that we will not have your back.”
Another person, former ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, said to the publication, “Masha is someone who is always very attentive to propriety and to instructions, and by nature, cautious. She is uniformly held in high regard.”
Since being ousted from her role as ambassador, Yovanovitch has since found another position in academia, posting up as the Diplomat in Residence at Georgetown University.
Per Yovanovitch’s bio for Georgetown, this isn’t her first time working in academia. She has also served as the Dean of Foreign Language Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, and the Deputy Commandant at the Eisenhower School at the National Defense University.