September 1, 2000

Ithaca Hosts Ukrainian City Officials

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Three officials from Ithaca’s Ukrainian sister city, Komsomolsk, worked for two weeks in City Hall. The officials returned home last Sunday to apply the new government practices that they observed here.

Ithaca and Komsomolsk, in collaboration with Tompkins Cortland Community Collage (TC3), are among 18 pairs of sister cities in the federally-funded Community Partnership Program.

As part of this program, city officials from both countries have interacted with their counterpart governments, and during the summer, Ithaca Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81 visited Komsomolsk.

“This program was designed to facilitate the development of their democracy and their economy,” Cohen said.

The most recent visitors in this program were Komsomolsk’s city attorney, its planning and development director and the city director of health and environment.

“Each [official] had different goals for their visit,” said Beth Fuller ’00, TC3 business, development, and training specialist. “They acted as representatives of their city to investigate certain issues with which they would like help.”

With its population of 54,000 and its agricultural environment on the waters of the Dniper River, Komsomolsk in some ways resembles a Ukrainian version of Ithaca. The city also has one major employer, though it is the Poltav Mining Company instead of a university.

On Aug. 24, the Ukraine celebrated its fifth independence day. Komsomolsk participated in the event heralding its current mayor as the first democratically-elected mayor in the city’s history.

Komsomolsk — like the entire country — has been restructuring its government and economy during the past five years, replacing its former communist system to one based on Western capitalism.

Ithaca has been involved with Komsomolsk since early 1998 and will continue the program for two more years.

Cohen identifies the Ukraine as a strategic partner for the United States and the third largest recipient of U.S. aide, and Ithaca receives federal funds to support its involvement with the foreign sister city.

During their stay here, each of the Ukrainian officials met with their counterparts in the city government. They also spoke with business leaders, Cayuga Medical Center officials, local law enforcers, and many other community leaders.

For example, Iryna Korva, Komsomolsk city planning and development director met with landlords and entrepreneurs to look at American techniques for evaluating, strengthening and diversifying Komsomolsk’s economy.

Viktor Multomd, the city’s director of health and the environment discussed Komsomolsk’s water quality and associated health hazards with specialists in Ithaca and New York state.

Then professors and a doctor discussed the Komsomolsk syndrome, an illness associated with the city’s middle aged men — with no known causes.

“[The officials] responded wonderfully, they were all very excited,” Cohen said. “They were exhausted because we worked them hard, but they learned a lot, which they will share back home.”

The knowledge shared by officials in the Community Partnership Program extends beyond those cities’ borders.

“The information is available all throughout the Ukraine and it will spread from the cities,” Fuller said. “We can’t help the whole country, but can make a difference one city at a time.”

Archived article by Eve Steele