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Meet Alexander Vindman — War Hero, Emigre, Family Man, Impeachment Witness

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was the latest figure to testify in the House of Representatives’ impeachment investigation on Tuesday. He recounted to congressional investigators that he had been troubled by President Trump’s conduct in connection to Ukraine policy. Here’s what you need to know about him:

He’s a Ukrainian Jewish refugee:

Alexander and his twin brother Yevgeny came to America from Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) when they were three years old, in 1979, along with their older brother, father and grandmother after the death of their mother. Vindman said in his prepared testimony that his father worked multiple jobs while learning English at night.

“I think their father felt they would do better in the United States as Jews,” Carol Kitman, a photographer who befriended the family when they arrived in America, told The New York Times..

This isn’t his first time in front of the cameras:

The Vindman twins were even featured as children in a 1985 Ken Burns documentary about immigrants and the Statue of Liberty.

“We came from Kyiv,” Alexander told the camera. “And then our mother died, so we went to Italy. Then we came here.”

And Kitman has photographed the Vindman family for decades, featuring her work on their website. As children, they were used as models for her children’s book “One Mezuzah: A Jewish Counting Book.” Kitman also took photos of Alexander Vindman’s wedding, during which he and his wife Rachel were wrapped in a tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl.

He’s a decorated military veteran:

Both Vindmans are active-duty lieutenant colonels in the United States Army. Alexander Vidman served as an infantry officer in Germany and South Korea, before being deployed to Iraq, where he was wounded by a roadside bomb and received the Purple Heart. CNN reported that he still carries shrapnel in his body from the attack.

Work is a family affair:

Vindman continued to rise up the ranks, joining the National Security Council in 2018 as the director of European affairs. Yevgeny also works for the NSC, as a lawyer handling ethics issues. Their offices are right next to each other in the West Wing of the White House. Alexander Vindman brought his brother along to meet with top NSC lawyer John Eisenberg and share his concerns about Trump’s conduct.

He was concerned about President Trump’s approach to Ukraine:

Alexander Vindman was one of the people who listened to Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Biden family.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen,” he wrote in his prepared testimony, “and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.” He added that he believed it was a quid pro quo tied to Trump’s holdup of congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine and informed others on the National Security Council of his concerns.

Some Republicans have tried to use his past against him:

Conservatives on Fox News and CNN have cast aspersions on Vindman, claiming that his Ukrainian heritage meant that he could have been more interested in helping Ukraine than the United States.

“We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from,” former Republican Rep. Sean Duffy told CNN, adding, “He has an affinity, I think, for the Ukraine. He speaks Ukrainian. He came from the country and he wants to make sure they’re safe and free.” When asked by CNN host John Berman if he thought Vindman was looking out for America first, Duffy refused to say yes.

Vindman seemed to have anticipated this possibility.

“I sit here, as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant,” he wrote. “I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics.”

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink





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