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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

Delta couple preparing to start life in Ukraine

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tim and Luda McQuillin made three trips to Ukraine last year to serve as presidential election observers. Tim and Luda McQuillin made three trips to Ukraine last year to serve as presidential election observers.
DIANE HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

DELTA - With the recent election of Viktor Yushchenko, a Delta native is hearing the call of Kiev.

Tim McQuillin, who served as an election monitor in Ukraine, is leaving the Fulton County countryside next week for his new home and job in one of the biggest cities in Europe.

"I had a vested interest in the outcome of the election," said Mr. McQuillin, 36, a 1987 graduate of Pike-Delta-York High School. His wife, Luda, is a native of Romny, Ukraine, where they met after Mr. McQuillin signed up in 1997 for a 15-month assignment as a consultant to help businesses in the former Soviet republic become private enterprises.

Before the recent presidential election, Mrs. McQuillin, as well as many others in Ukraine, didn't pay much attention to politics, she said. "It was boring. It never made sense. It never made a difference." Today? "The country is changing," she said. "You can't stay indifferent to that."

Mr. McQuillin said that he knew in 2003 that he wanted to go back to Ukraine to live if the conditions were right. Term limits meant that a new president would be elected in 2004. "I knew there could be big changes," he said, and if the reform candidate won, "that would be the trigger."

Sensing an urgency to the outcome, the need to make sure that the election produced a respected leader who would help integrate Ukraine into Europe, Mr. McQuillin wanted to be involved in the process. He applied to be one of the election observers. He said he watched out for "any funny business" during two rounds of voting last fall.

In December, he and his wife went back - their third trip to Ukraine for the elections - to monitor a rerun of the Nov. 21 run-off between Mr. Yushchenko and pro-Kremlin Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, whose victory was later annulled by Ukraine's Supreme Court amid evidence of widespread vote fraud and massive pro-Yushchenko protests.

It was amazing to witness the protest in Kiev's Independence Square, said Mr. McQuillin. Protesters, he said, were saying that "they didn't have to live like this anymore. It was the first time that I saw them take a stand."

The election marked a turning point for the country where democracy has struggled to take hold in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union. Mr. Yushchenko has pledged to clean up corruption and set the country of 48 million on a course toward European integration.

In January, the McQuillins attended the presidential inauguration, meeting Mr. Yushchenko, and then the couple returned to Berkeley, Calif., where they started to pack up belongings in their apartment. They were married in California in 2000. For the last couple weeks, they have been staying at the Delta home of his parents, Kathleen and Mark McQuillin.

Tim, who has a background in business, and Luda, whose area is finance, have created a firm called ROMDEL, a name that blends her hometown of Romny and his hometown of Delta. They will do business consulting and work with Sauder Woodworking of Archbold to export Sauder products to Ukraine, said Mr. McQuillin. "I would love to see Ohio become a leader in export/import with Ukraine," he said. "Ukraine could be a good source. Ukraine has been out in the cold for so long." But the business climate is changing, he said. The thaw, "It's happening."

Contact Janet Romaker

at: jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.



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