A group of seven adult delegates from Sebastopol traveled to Ukraine in late April of 2017, spending five days in our Sister City, Chyhyryn. We spent a VERY FULL day of sightseeing in Kyiv, led by Sebastopol’s good friend (and Open World Facilitator) Natasha Uchen. The next morning our delegation was met by Lyudmila Birko and whisked away on a whirlwind trip to Chyhyryn, where there was snow on the ground, to renew old friendships and forge many new ones. This visit was groundbreaking in that it brought together involvement from our long-time friends from Chyhyryn led by Lyudmila Birko and many of the Open World Delegates from Chyhyryn who have visited Sebastopol during the last seven years as part of that program. We have hosted five delegations, with a sixth coming in September 2017. The results in Ukraine are quite striking. A legal services program has been started, programs to encourage volunteerism have been considered for the first time, and different ways of approaching traditional business processes are now being considered. There was tremendous enthusiasm from our previous delegates to continue periodic exchanges.

During the course of our few days in Chyhyryn we were also able to meet with Mayor Stephan Buhanets, who was very enthusiastic and supportive of developing some sort of on-going collaboration with the City Council of Sebastopol to share best practices in governance, share ideas about city business development, and explore other ways that our cities can work together. Important lines of communication were opened in that exchange.

Our delegation also had the opportunity to tour the local hospital and interact with the hospital’s administrators in regard to SWF’s effort to collaborate with Project CURE to bring critical infrastructure to the hospital in Chyhyryn.

Purely by serendipity and the good graces of former Open World delegate and Assistant Mayor Oleg Bun, a few of us had an extraordinary opportunity to visit a technical High School in Chyhyryn. We were given an extensive tour and we were able to spend time with the English language class. We hope that our contacts there will lead to an educational exchange between their classes and similar classes at Analy High School.

Our time was not all spent with important bureaucratic work, though! We were hosted to many social occasions where our friendships deepened over food and conversation, and we visited many important local sites- a Monastery that is prominent in Chyhyryn life, a 1000 year-old oak tree and the park that surrounds it, and we were treated to a tour of multiple Orthodox churches led by Vasyl Tsyril. He is a 2014 Open World delegate who returned to Ukraine energized to advocate even more actively for Ukrainian troops at the Eastern Front with Russian separatist forces). Some of our group were able to participate in traditional Ukrainian remembrance day activities for departed members of their host families.

Nevertheless, all too quickly, our time was up in Chyhyryn and we bid tearful farewells to our hosts, old friends, and new friends and headed off in various directions from Kyiv on our way back home to Sebastopol.