Apathy Grips Hard-Up Ukraine Village Ahead Of Polls

BUZOVA, Ukraine -- Tetyana Shevchenko is no longer proud she took part in Ukraine's 2004 "Orange Revolution" sparked by a rigged presidential election. In Sunday's poll, like many of her fellow villagers, she will not vote at all.

Tetyana Shevchenko, 53, sells her modest household produce, curds and sour cream, on the roadside at her village of Buzova outside Kiev, January 16, 2010.

Five years after unprecedented street protests propelled pro-Western President Vikor Yushchenko to power, her life has only got worse, and ordinary people are embittered by politicians' unfulfilled pledges, she says.

"The worst that happened is that people have lost their faith in humanity," says the 53-year-old out-of-work shop assistant selling her modest household produce -- curds and sour cream -- on the roadside at her village of Buzova, 35 km (22 miles) from the capital Kiev.

She comes daily to the busy motorway to spend hours in biting frost selling dairy products to earn a few dollars to supplement her disabled mother's pension of 670 hryvnias ($84). Her paralyzed husband draws one of 1,200 hryvnias ($150).

"Yes, I was in Kiev's Independence Square then, and we chose Yushchenko. But what happened? Life is just so terrible in the village," Shevchenko said. "Whoever is elected this time, will he buy hay for my cow or pay for this expensive natural gas?"

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich is trailed by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the run-up to Sunday's election, according to opinion polls. Yushchenko, seeking a second five-year term in the vote, is widely viewed as an outsider.

Yanukovich, feuding with his arch foe Tymoshenko since his humiliating defeat in the 2004 rigged election, have exhorted voters to take part in the election, both painting grim scenarios for the impoverished ex-Soviet state if they lose.

DESPAIR AND APATHY

Ukraine's uneasy relations with Russia, its aspiration to integrate into Europe and heavy debts to international lenders are all abstract notions for Buzova's desperate residents heavily reliant on their chickens, cows and pigs to survive.

Villagers, the most conservative and active part of the electorate, make up one third of Ukraine's population of 46 million.

Rural residents seem to be among the ones hardest hit by the global crisis which is estimated to have slashed Ukraine's gross domestic product by 15 percent last year. Ukraine's GDP now stands at just around 60 percent of its size in 1990.

Signs of decay leap to the eye in Buzova, once part of a huge thriving state farm that produced meat and grew vegetables in hothouses all year around.

Roads clogged by recent heavy snowfalls have isolated the village of several hundred houses from the outer world, electricity supplies are erratic, jobless young people have moved to Kiev and even the village policeman has disappeared.

"These politicians, they have killed our minds and souls. They only want to shine like stars on television, nothing else," said pensioner Katerina Dudorenko, 67, selling eggs and curds in the frosty wind. "I will not vote. Enough is enough."

In a vivid display of popular cynicism marking this election, many Ukrainians have posted offers in the Internet to sell their votes for up to 500 hryvnias ($63).

Braving the frost and snow to earn just a fraction of this sum, Shevchenko said firmly: "I will not sell my vote. And I do not need somebody else's. I just won't vote."

But Petro, a 56-year-old driver from the nearby village of Khmilna who declined to give his last name, said he would probably choose Yanukovich, a rough-hewn man whose two prison terms at a young age have been widely exploited by Tymoshenko's team to discredit him during campaigning.

"Yushchenko is a weakling, he has soiled his pants. Maybe Tymoshenko would make a good president in Finland, but all she does in Ukraine is make a lot of noise," he said.

"But Yanukovich has been toughened by prison. He is a hard man. We need him like (Soviet dictator Josef) Stalin to put Ukraine in order."

Source: ABC News

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