Ukraine's new first lady a breath of fresh air

Ukraine's new first lady a breath of fresh air

KIEV - With her natural elegance and confident charm, Ukraine's new first lady Marina Poroshenko looks set to usher in a new age, dispensing with the stuffy arrogance long associated with the country's political elite.

"She incarnates the women of Ukraine with her boundless benevolence and extreme beauty," Oleksiy Goncharenko, an influential blogger, wrote of the slim 52-year-old mother of four, a cardiologist by training.

"A country with women like that is invincible!"

Goncharenko, also a legislator from the southern city of Odessa, argued that the "Marina factor" helped spur millions of Ukrainians to vote for her husband, Petro Poroshenko, who garnered 54.7 per cent of the votes in presidential elections late last month.

A change in style

As she was sitting in parliament this weekend for her husband's inauguration, an event televised around the globe, Marina Poroshenko seemed to signal that the new leadership in Kiev will mark not just a change in politics but also a change in style.

Instead of the ostentatious beehive hairstyles of past first ladies, she tied her hair in a simple bun, and she wore an understated but perfectly fitting blue suit. Her compatriots seemed to like what they saw.

"She looks very much like a European woman," said Kiev resident Galina Pogranychna, reflecting the sense that for followers of the Poroshenko camp, "European" denotes all that is modern and sophisticated.

"The Ukrainians really need a first lady," she added. "A lot depends on women, and Marina Poroshenko must help the president."

Marina and Petro Poroshenko have been married 30 years in what by all accounts has been a solid and happy relationship.

"I haven't regretted a single day," said Petro Poroshenko, three years Marina's junior.

She stands in particularly stark contrast with Lyudmyla Yanukovych, the wife of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who was, if possible, even less popular than her husband.

The main source of the rancour was a sole public appearance, a decade ago during the Orange Revolution, when Lyudmyla Yanukovych accused her husband's pro-Western adversaries of having consumed "drug-laced oranges".

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