CORVALLIS, Ore. – Concerned members of Corvallis continue to watch the developments in Ukraine – not only to stay informed – but because it has a sister city in the western part of Ukraine: Uzhhorod.
Corvallis first became affiliated with Uzhhorod roughly 20 years ago, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Organizers say it was a way for Corvallis to provide peaceful interactions between Americans and Ukrainians. Since, the Sister Cities Association has developed programs in both cities to provide cultural education. The Association also raises money to help various programs in Ukraine, such as for schools, health care clinics, and orphanages.
“Corvallis has relationships with two sister-cities,” said Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning. “Gondar, Ethiopia, and Uzhhorod in Ukraine.”
Manning visited Uzhhorod in September. She was invited to the city by Uzhhorod’s mayor after he visited Corvallis.
“Governments operate differently around the world,” she said. “And this is a way for us to see how things are done in a different way.”
Not only is it a learning experience, but she says the partnership is a way for cities to form friendships.
“When we were there last fall, they were very hopeful that ultimately the trade agreement with the European Union would go forward and that the President would sign it,” Manning said.
But Uzhhorod is located on the western edge of Ukraine, near the Slovakian border. Manning says because of its geographical location, many of the residents are heavily influenced by Europe.
Ukraine, about the size of Texas, is culturally diverse, which also means opinions about the country’s future also differ. But despite Uzhhorod’s distance from Crimea, political tensions still exist.
“The Association has been in touch with friends in Uzhhorod,” Manning said. “And there have been protests around administrative buildings.”
Contacts of the Sister Cities Association in Ukraine say the mayor of Uzhhorod recently resigned, as well as the governor of Transcarpathia and the Rector of Uzhhorod National University – all apparent members of the same political party as Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych.
“For any country to be in that much turmoil – it’s very disruptive of their lives,” said Carla Francis, the President of the Sister Cities Association for Corvallis and Uzhhorod. “And it hurts.”
Despite the turmoil, Francis says the programs will continue on as they normally would.
“We’re hoping that no matter what happens, that our association will continue and that we’ll be able to continue enriching each other’s lives.”
But Francis says something might be disrupted: sending delegates between the two cities.
“This year we were interested in bringing over a group of medical delegates,” she said. “They would learn medical skills that we’d have to offer here. And that may not happen because they may not be able to get visas.”
Corvallis also sends delegates to Ukraine annually – but this year might be different.
Francis says the Association will play it by ear – but in the meantime hopes for a peaceful resolution in Ukraine.
“What we’re desirous of is that Ukraine is able to develop a system that benefits the people,” she said. “That the needs of the community and the needs of the country are met. That the infrastructure becomes strong and the economy becomes strong – because now, they’re not.”