Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections

A Memoir of International Democracy Builders (Ordinary People Trilogy Book 2)

Non-Fiction - Memoir
265 Pages
Reviewed on 02/10/2022
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Author Biography

Lois Nicolai is a former teacher; Girl Scout Troop Organizer, Leader and Day Camp Director; Indiana State Champions ASA Girls Softball Coach; Detasseling Supervisor for Pioneer Seed Corn Fields; International Organizer/Supervisor of OSCE/PAE Democratic Elections in ten developing countries in Eastern Europe; Founder and Director of World Citizen Diplomats in Princeton, NJ, which led to seven trips into former Soviet Republics during the fall of Communism through Perestroika and Glasnost; and wife for twenty-plus years.

Today Lois is a widowed mother of six living her dream retirement years on the Jersey Seashore enjoying heart-warming visits with her eighteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.

Her first of a three-part "Memoir Trilogy", ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY TIMES; A MEMOIR OF ONE CITIZEN ACTIVIST, was released on October 1, 2020, Her second book, ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY ELECTIONS: A MEMOIR OF INTERNATIONAL DEMOCRACY BUILDERS was released on October 1, 2021. Her third and final book of the trilogy, ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY DEEDS: A MEMOIR OF WORLD CITIZEN DIPLOMATS, is being released this spring, 2022 and tells about all the projects she encountered from 1988 thru 2014.

Lois's writing is an honest and engaging memoir for all age readers. Her straight-forward prose makes it possible for the reader to imagine the characters and setting of each chapter and encourages the reader to want to continue on the journey with the author as she begins a new chapter in her life.

You can learn much more by visiting her website at -- LoisNicolaiAuthor.com

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections: A Memoir of International Democracy Builders (Ordinary People Trilogy Book 2) by Lois Ann Nicolai is a continuation of the amazing journey of this former Indiana farmer’s wife who reinvented her life after her husband’s tragic death. Setting out on a journey of promoting peace around the world, Lois has kept up a breathtaking pace for the past thirty-odd years. This chapter of her adventure focuses on the work she has done in fostering the growth of democracy, throughout Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a volunteer for OSCE/PAE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), Lois traveled to, observed, and supervised the elections in many emerging new states in the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and others. As both a long-term observer (helping to register local electors, especially displaced persons for the upcoming elections and assisting local election authorities with systems and plans for democratic elections that had never previously been held in these countries) and a short-term observer (observing actual polling day and the counting of votes), she played an instrumental part in fostering democracy in these former communist countries. She takes us on a journey that includes the sights, the dangers, the wonderful people she encountered, and their thirst for freedom and democracy, along with the ingrained mistrust and sometimes hatred between the ethnicities that make up these newly minted states.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections, like her first book in this series, is an absolute joy to read and something that can easily be accomplished in one pleasurable sitting in front of the fire of an afternoon. Author Lois Ann Nicolai has an innate ability as a writer to transport you into these often scary and sometimes dangerous foreign climes. Her writing is simple, straightforward, and directly from her heart. What drives Lois, when many of us are content to put up our feet and rest on our laurels, is what makes this story so compelling. If you are like me, of a not too dissimilar an age to Lois, you will look around and perhaps feel a little guilty that you are not contributing to the ideal of world peace and democracy with the fervor that Lois clearly brings to the task. I appreciated the short essays by some other election observers at the end of the book, which in many ways served to make Lois’ observations even more pertinent and relevant. What I particularly enjoyed about this iteration of her adventures is the deep personal relationships that she formed with her fellow observers but also with the people of the villages she was assigned to. It is telling that she could return to a small village in Bosnia, the site of her first mission some sixteen years earlier, and still be recognized by passersby on the street and welcomed with open arms. To quote the inimitable Winston Churchill: “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Lois Ann Nicolai has made a difference in the world, as only Lois can and I wait with excitement to read the final memoir of this ordinary woman on her extraordinary journey through the second half of her life.

K.C. Finn

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections: A Memoir of International Democracy Builders is a work of non-fiction in the memoir subgenre and serves as the second installment in the Ordinary People Trilogy. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Lois Ann Nicolai. Set during the fall of communism and the immediate aftermath, the book recalls the author’s time working in former Soviet Bloc countries to establish democratically elected leadership. Including accounts from ten of the author's colleagues who participated in the process in various countries, the book gives an account of the rise of democracy in the late 20th century.

This was one of the most fascinating books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for this site, covering in detail an aspect of 20th-century European history that often gets neglected despite its clear and important relevance to modern-day politics. The stories of the people of the former Soviet Bloc tentatively stepping out from the shadow of communism and toward their first democratic elections in a lifetime – and sometimes their first-ever – are beautifully told in this memoir which celebrates not just democracy but the people who participate in it. Lois Ann Nicolai’s first-hand accounting of the struggles and fears surrounding these changes across several nations is heartfelt but constantly underpinned by the factual setting. It manages to emphasize the emotional aspect of the regime change without ever straying into the brand of romanticism that would devalue Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections as an important educational tool in the discussion about international politics and civics.

Foluso Falaye

In Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections, Lois Ann Nicolai relates what she experienced from 1988 to 2014 as she traveled to developing European countries to help the OSCE/PAE create new democracies. Lois's decision to move to Princeton to become actively involved in International Relations and Peacemaking and contribute toward building a safer and better world led to a transformative experience worth sharing. From being guarded by soldiers with guns in perilous, war-torn countries to seeing the horror of the Srebrenica massacre in the eyes of the survivors and dealing with mosquitoes, heat, and other inconveniences, the story is filled with memorable and challenging experiences. The book also includes essays from ten of Lois's democracy-building colleagues, who tell their stories in the second book in her memoir trilogy.

That Lois Ann Nicolai decided to take on a challenging goal and impact the world positively is a message to all that they can contribute to the world and achieve important goals at any age. It's quite inspiring how much the author sacrificed to help create a better world: having to deal with financial challenges, being distant from her family for long periods, and leaving the comfort and safety of her home. The combination of Lois's narration of her personal challenges (including losing loved ones to addiction), the stories of the different beautiful souls she met, and the political and social information about the places she visited results in an intriguing, educative, and poignant memoir. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Elections is recommended as we all need to know and care about the plights of both our close and distant siblings in our global human family.