The eyes of the world and many Ukrainian-Edmontonians around the city were once again focused on Ukraine on Sunday, as the embattled country held its presidential elections.
Exit polls suggested candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko was elected president with almost 60 per cent of the vote in the first round of balloting in the bitterly divided country. The man, known as the “chocolate king” vowed “to bring peace to the Ukrainian land.”
The candy tycoon may have made his fortune in chocolate, but he's no stranger to Ukrainian politics, having served in cabinet under both pro-Western and pro-Russian governments.
In Edmonton, many have been watching the election very closely and are hoping the newly elected president brings change to a country in turmoil.
Gene Zwozdesky, the speaker of the Legislative Assembly here in Alberta, has a personal connection to the conflict.
“The Ukraine’s still on fragile legs as we all know, going back to its independence in 1991,” he said. “I still have some blood relatives there and I’m concerned for their safety. But I’m also concerned for the larger picture of the nation of Ukraine and what its future holds.”
Maxine Zakordonski has been monitoring the situation in Ukraine since the beginning. While she is hopeful, she still worries about the future.
“My biggest fear is once the new assembly comes in, Putin will start to infiltrate again and call it his own and make it corrupt,” she said.
Others, meanwhile, are more optimistic saying 48-year-old Poroshenko represents an opportunity for a new beginning.
“We have great hope in him,” said Eugene Topolnisky, president of the Parish Council at the St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.
“I think he will be able to lead a very fair government in Ukraine. Even though he has become a very successful businessman, he does have the true value of the Ukraine at heart.”