It is bitterly cold today in Dilove, a tiny village in the Tysa valley in Ukraine. As folk gather outside the village's recently restored wooden church after the morning liturgy, stamping their feet in the snow to keep warm, the conversation turns on only one topic – whether it really is worth bothering to vote. Ukraine has national elections today.
Dilove is a village that we featured in hidden europe magazine back in November 2005. A monument in the village claims that Dilove is the very centre of Europe. The marker bears the imprimatur of the Vienna Geographical Society and derives from surveys made by K&K surveyors in 1887 and again in 1911. Dilove's status is contested of course, most vehemently by the Lithuanian authorities who back the claim of the Lithuanian hamlet of Purnuskes to be the centre of Europe.
Folk in Dilove look very much towards western Europe. The Romanian border is just a few kilometres away to the south. They had great hopes after Ukraine's Orange Revolution that the Carpathian region in which they live would benefit from much closer links with the European Union. Those hopes have not been realised.
In all probability today's election in Ukraine will see the incumbent president, Viktor Yushchenko, consigned to political obscurity. Yushchenko's bid for the presidency in 2004 was strongly backed by the West, and he was popular in Dilove. But today few folk outside the church have a good word for the outgoing president. But, like many people in the Tysa valley, Dilove residents are not won over by any of the candidates looking to succeed Yushchenko as President of the Republic. Even in the centre of Europe, it seems, the right to a democratic vote has lost its lustre.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
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