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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.