An Edmonton woman who volunteered to oversee the election in Ukraine says it was an unforgettable experience.
Ruby Swanson was one of 500 election observers sent from Canada last month to help monitor the recent election.
Swanson served a similar role when she first travelled to the country during the Orange Revolution in 2004 – but said this second trip was a very different experience.
“The time there was intense. It was interesting, it was exciting and it was scary,” she said.
“There was violence [in Kiev] and there was violence around the country. Part of our orientation with the election observer mission was evacuation procedures so it was very, very serious.”
Her two-day orientation session focused on security procedures, she added.
Swanson spent 12 days visiting 30 different polling stations in villages scattered around Lviv in northwest Ukraine before moving to the capital city of Kyiv.
While the rural polling stations were relatively quiet, Swanson said evidence of earlier violence was obvious in concentrated regions of Kyiv, especially in the Maidan, the city's central square.
“This is a burnt-out building,” said Swanson, pointing to a photo she took while in the square.
“These little pink dots here are the spots where snipers killed civilians – so it's very emotional. There are memorials, there are candles, there are vigils set up."
Swanson said homemade shields and helmets used as protection also remained scattered about as evidence of previous skirmishes.
Now back home, Swanson said she is grateful for the experience, and remains optimistic for the country’s future.
“I am struck by how hard the people in that country are working to make a better life for themselves and for their families."