Ukraine's security service says it had nothing to do with the poisoning of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Scientists in Vienna say tests show the illness and facial disfigurement suffered by the opposition leader was caused by dioxin, and Mr. Yushchenko became ill after a meeting with security service officials in September. But the security service said people should not jump to conclusions. On the eve of Ukraine's third round of presidential elections, there is great anticipation. Many people are thinking about the future, especially Ukraine's younger generation. Jeff Swicord spoke with one young couple living in the suburbs of Kiev, and asked about their lives and how they see the future of the country this election week.
24-year old Julia Znakharenko, a new mother, spends most of her days at home caring for her six-month old baby. Like most Ukrainians, Julia and her husband Bogdan have been amazed by the political events of the last month. For them, this election is about the future, theirs, and their children's.
Before her pregnancy, Julia worked her way up into an upper management position in a software company. And Bogdan still works as a computer programmer. Although their salaries are quite low by Western standards, about $600 a month each, they consider themselves fortunate. Julia says, "As for me I just want to thank God that I have a place to live and that I have food, all the important things, but I think that the greatest problems that we face is the financial problems because most of the people they cant even afford a car. Not just as a luxury item, but just basic transportation."
It's the sense of helplessness and lack of control over their destiny that most young people are concerned with in this election. Since independence in 1991, Ukraine has had a shadow democracy, ruled by an oligarchy that amassed enormous fortunes, manipulated the political process to their advantage, and left the masses to fend for themselves.
The recent electoral fraud and the poisoning of the opposition's candidate have only added fuel to the fire. Julia says the people are fed up. And she sees the recent orange revolution as democracy finally taking root in Ukraine. She says that is not easy for a people who have spent most of their lives under some form of authoritarian rule. "As for my personal point of view I think that if you will look into our history for our people, for our population, freedom and independence wasn't a natural thing. But anyway I think we have to believe in the future to believe for good things to happen." she said.
Julia likes meeting with friends and taking a stroll through Kiev's expensive downtown underground mall, window-shopping for clothes she knows she could never afford. Ironically the mall is right under Independence square and the stage where opposition leader and presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko made daily appearances in front of huge crowds. Julia says, "I am a woman, I will always have inside I want I want I want. I just think my husband, he does everything to try to make me feel better, but I think all these luxuries, it is not the most important thing in life."
And Julia hopes that in the future the economy- and the country- will be free of corruption. "I hope that in the future, we won't have such corruption as we have in hospitals and medicine, in education, and when I come to the doctor to consult the doctor, he will meet me with a smile and give good treatment because it is the professional thing to do. Not because I bring him presents." she said.
Julia and her husband Bogdan have decided that they, like their country, are at a turning point. If there is fraud and manipulation in this round of elections, they have vowed to try to leave Ukraine. And, raise their family In Western Europe.