FLEX alumni assisted the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) to observe the May Presidential election in Ukraine. The OSCE deployed over 100 long-term observers and 900 short-term observers from participating States to assess the election process in terms of its compliance with OSCE standards for democratic elections and national legislation.
Over 20 FLEX alumni worked as interpreters for the OSCE Election Observation Mission. FLEX alumni Hlib Pronskikh ’07 (Kirovohrad, Ukraine) and Oleksandra Makushenko ’13 (Kyiv, Ukraine) worked as Senior and Junior Operations Expert Assistants, respectively, under Operations Expert for the OSCE/ODIHR Mission in Ukraine Ruslan Ovezdurdyyev ’96 (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan).
When sharing his experience developing his team in Ukraine, Ruslan said, “During the Mission in Ukraine I discovered that a number of my staff members were the FLEX alumni including some of my assistants (Pronskikh and Makushenko) and for that I had a very warm feeling, knowing that the program (FLEX) does work, does unite young people, and for many it opens the doors for their future.
Below are comments and stories from FLEX alumni who interpreted and, in many cases, voted for the first time in Ukraine.
Kateryna Zhupanova ’09 (Kyiv, Ukraine)
“I worked as an interpreter in Cherkasy, Ukraine for an observer from Moldova . He represented the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and was a deputy from the Moldova Communist party. Despite having opposite political views, we got along great and had interesting conversations. In Cherkasy, we successfully opened a remote polling station, visited another one, and then went to a SIZO pre-trial detention center and an actual prison!
We made it to Kyiv in time for me to vote, which I will always be grateful for, got caught under a rain shower and lightning storm, and closed a polling station. On the way to and from Cherkasy the observer from Moldova, who speaks perfect Russian, was able to learn basic Ukrainian grammar and vocabulary, and I am truly proud to have been his tutor! The turnout was phenomenal everywhere we went. People, young and old, were united in this one (election), proving once again that we are a nation that takes responsibility for its future and will not stand aside during challenging times.”
Yelyzaveta Hlybchenko ’13 (Zhytomyr, Ukraine)
“I worked as an interpreter for two OSCE election observers from Canada and Cyprus in the Zhytomyr Region, Novohrad-Volynsky District. We visited fifteen Precinct Election Commissions on election day and observed the voting process. We were, in fact, very happy to find the members of all the election commissions very professional and collaborative. There were no incidents and no rules broken. We also observed the counting, which was conducted according to the procedures and without any delays. My OSCE team was proud to be a part of the fair elections. And so am I! I am extremely happy to have seen the proof that our president was elected justly! Fair elections for a better Ukraine! Our country has a fabulous future!”
Evelina Ibrayimova ’11 (Yalta, Ukraine)
“I worked as an interpreter for the OSCE observer mission. This was my second time working for the OSCE. The first time, I worked at the Ministerial Meeting in Kyiv. It was an absolutely outstanding experience! I had a great team. I interpreted for Nataliya from Poland, Chris from the U.S., and a Ukrainian driver, Artem. The four of us were assigned to part of the Podol District. From May 23-27, we drove around and observed the preparation, voting and counting process.
This experience was important to me, because I had a chance to practice my interpreting skills, establish new international connections, and learn more about election procedure. The most important part for me was to make sure MYSELF that this election was fair. It was so good to see how much this election meant to the members of election commissions and regular voters. The whole point of this job for me was to help prove to the whole world the Ukrainian nation is mature enough now and ready for a fresh start.”
Some of the attached pictures are from Evelina’s election observation experience.
Kateryna Kharenko ’09 (Doslidnytske, Ukraine)
“I worked as an interpreter for OSCE short-term observers from Luxembourg and the U.S. It was quite an interesting job, as it allowed me to see the election process from the inside. Moreover, I was impressed to see that the turnout was really high in Kyiv. People were standing in lines for hours to get their ballots and vote. I was also very happy to see many people wearing vyshyvankas (traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts). It made me really proud of my country! Overall, I enjoyed being involved in the election observing process, I am happy I have made a little contribution to building democracy in Ukraine.”
Yana Yarosh ’13 (Chernihiv, Ukraine)
“OSCE was my first serious, and as I can now say, successful work experience. I feel that it was a perfect place and time for me to work with such a powerful international organization. The Interpreters were required to be proficient in English and have deep interpersonal skills. FLEX alumni are a perfect choice for that!
Working for the OSCE was a great opportunity for me to gain various unique skills and important connections. Practicing business English and working with people who have diplomatic experience was the biggest treasure for my future potential. Moreover, watching the Ukrainian election preparation and the presidential election process was a once in a lifetime experience. It meant a lot for me to deliver the complete information and clear picture of what is really happening from Ukrainian to the English-speaking world.
Thanks to Mitchell Polman of the OSCE, I had the opportunity to work with wonderful partners: Patrick Vaillant from France and Karen McKenney from Seattle, USA. Our team worked in the Chernihiv Region. Surprisingly, I had never visited some of the small communities before. I never knew the nature of our region was so marvelously beautiful and the people were so friendly. Everywhere our team went, local residents showed the whole spectrum of Ukrainian hospitality, which our foreign colleagues appreciated a lot.
I am 18 and this was the first chance that I ever had to vote in the presidential election. It was wonderful that my first election was so special to Ukrainian history. Researching the whole package of information about each candidate I gladly made my choice, wishing for peace and prosperity come to our dear Motherland.”
Artem Sukhorukov ’03 (Novgorod-Volynskiy, Ukraine)
“I worked for days in the Chernihiv Region. It was a great experience!”