Helen Fotopulos may be well known for her years in civic politics in Montreal, but her work as an elections observer in the former Yugoslavia and ex-Soviet territories is perhaps less known.
She most recently returned from a trip to the Ukraine, where she acted as an observer in the presidential elections that saw Petro Poroshenko take office.
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As the child of two Ukrainian parents, one from Kiev and the other from Donetsk, Fotopulos is a native Russian speaker. She said she jumped at the chance to travel to Ukraine in the wake of recent events.
“I was thrilled to go and contribute in a different way in a different country,” she told CBC News.
She said it’s important for the Canadian government and the Canadian people to show their support for Ukraine after the revolution there in early 2014.
“We have to do what we can to help countries that are in the process of developing democracies to get over the obstacles,” Fotopulos said.
And many appreciated the presence of Canadian observers. She met some cafeteria workers who showed her a giant Canadian flag given to them by observers a few elections ago. She said she had never felt so proud to be a Canadian.
Fotopulos has previously observed elections in Montenegro and the election of Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president.
The May election in Ukraine was a good showing of solidarity among the people there, she said. The next step is the country’s prime ministerial election, which she also hopes to observe.
“How they were going to vote, what their opinions were on which leader would be best was really irrelevant. What they really wanted was a leader who would unite the country,” Fotopulos said.