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The Orange Revolution: The Amazing Story of How a Deaf Interpreter Made Honesty Prevail in the Ukrainian Elections

Written By: Andrew Swanson  |  Posted: Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

            As many of you are aware, we are in the midst of a federal election here in Canada.  I am not sure what the results will be, but I do know that there is much rhetoric that takes place during election times. Each candidate expresses what he or she believes is the truth we need to know.
            Since I am not a prophet who can predict what will take place, instead I invite you to go with back to another election that took place halfway around the world in 2004.  Have you heard of the Orange Revolution that occurred in the Ukraine?  It was a nation-changing event that was begun by the most unlikely of heroes.  
            Like other countries that once had formed the Soviet Union, Ukraine moved toward democracy as the former empire collapsed, though in the Ukraine this change took place at a glacial pace.  If you think that Canadian elections are dirty…

            "consider that when the Ukrainian reformer Victor Yushchenko dared to challenge the entrenched party, he nearly died from a mysterious case of dioxin poisoning.  Against all advice Yushchenko, his body weakened and his face permanently disfigured by the poison, remained in the race.  On election day the exit polls showed him with a comfortable 10 percent lead; nevertheless, through outright fraud the government managed to reverse those results.
            "That evening the state-run television station reported, 'Ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.'  However, government authorities had not taken into account one feature of Ukrainian television, the translation it provides for the hearing-impaired.  On the small screen inset in the lower right-hand corner of the television screen a brave woman raised by deaf-mute parents gave a different message in sign language.  'I am addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine.  Don't believe what they (authorities) say.  They are lying and I am ashamed to translate these lies.  Yushchenko is our president!'  No one in the studio understood her radical sign-language message.
            "Deaf people, inspired by their translator Natalya Dmitruk, led the Orange Revolution.  They text-messaged their friends on mobile phones about the fraudulent elections, and soon other journalists took courage from Dmitruk's act of defiance and likewise refused to broadcast the party line.  Over the next few weeks as many as a million people wearing orange flooded the capital city of Kiev to demand new elections.  The government finally buckled under the pressure, consenting to new elections, and this time Yushchenko emerged as the undisputed winner." 

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