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While American and allied soldiers were on the ground in Iraq battling a vicious insurgency in preparation for that country’s elections later this month, an international force of quite a different kind descended on Ukraine last week. More than 12,000 international monitors came to the Eastern European country to oversee its presidential election Dec. 26. Supervising elections can be a mundane and largely thankless task. There are long hours on obscure airlines of suspect reliability, travel to small towns over roads with indecipherable signage, and lonely hours in hotel rooms where the late-night television offerings seem limited to foreign takeoffs on “America’s Next Top Model,” dubbed reruns from the Hallmark Channel, and programs covering the latest developments in chess. Then there’s the work itself. David Lorello, 30, and Elena Volochay, 35, both international trade attorneys at D.C.’s Steptoe & Johnson, were sent to Ukraine as part of the firm’s pro bono activities. Election Day, they worked from 7 a.m. until 3 a.m., visiting polling stations, talking to local monitors and election officials, and watching hundreds of Ukrainians place folded slips of paper in clear plastic boxes. After the polls closed at 8 p.m., Lorello and Volochay were locked in a college gymnasium for five and a half hours observing Ukrainian officials count votes by hand and carefully draw up 15 handwritten copies of their election protocol. How does one get involved? “There are moments in a lawyer’s career when an issue just captures you,” Lorello says. Lorello’s came after meeting his future fianc�e, Olya Pryymak, a Ukrainian economist at the World Bank, in April 2003. His interest in Pryymak and Ukraine rapidly developed, and in November 2004, Lorello went to the country to monitor its presidential elections with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, a network of the country’s diaspora. (Lorello and Pryymak had become engaged in May.) That trip was anything but boring, as Lorello and a French businessman named Christian Carrer witnessed widespread electoral fraud. A report by the two was used before Ukraine’s Supreme Court to help overturn the results of the election. Soon after, Steptoe’s pro bono committee agreed to pay to send Lorello back to monitor the Dec. 26 revote and also to send Volochay, a Ukrainian lawyer who has lived in the District for six years and is now a paralegal. “The future of Ukraine is being decided now,” she says. Also in Ukraine was a large contingent of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Among them was Leif Fischer, 76, a former Danish defense official who has spent part of his retirement monitoring elections from Kuwait to Belorussia. “You meet a lot of people,” he says. Daryl Gray, 58, a genial former schoolteacher and one-time member of the Canadian parliament, was one of 400 monitors selected by the Canadian government from a pool of 4,000 applicants. The Canadian government paid for Gray’s trip and provided him with a per diem, but he says the true reward is hard to measure. “I think we’re watching history,” he says. Up next? The Iraqi elections � pending approval from his wife. “It’s not a holiday,” Gray says. “It’s an experience.”

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