Marc Gartner, Economic Officer
In mid-November, I had the chance of a lifetime: to travel in Ivano-Frankivsk with our Ambassador and see first-hand the positive impact U.S.-Ukraine cooperation has made for residents of the region. Ivano-Frankivsk is one of the more beautiful oblasts in the country, with gorgeous rustic villages nestled in verdant mountain valleys, a regional capital (Ivano-Frankivsk) with splendid churches and centuries-old streets, and some of the most hospitable and welcoming people in Ukraine. Over the course of two days, I witnessed a culture that looks with pride at its traditions and at the same time is intent on its future.
The Ambassador went to Ivano-Frankivsk to participate in a symposium on shale gas to which the Embassy had brought a number of U.S. experts. While in town, he had meetings with the governor and mayor, alumni of U.S.-government-sponsored exchange programs, and Peace Corps volunteers. For me, one of our most interesting meetings was at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University of Ivano-Frankivsk. This excellent higher-educational establishment has been collaborating with the
United States to build a novel research lab – the Nano-Materials Center, one of only two in the entire country. Both the United States and Ukraine have contributed approximately $300,000 each since 2009 to develop the research center under a CRDF grant. In a meeting hall of about 35 people, including professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and local officials, we saw a fascinating presentation by the center’s lead scientist on the history of the laboratory and its areas of focus. The lab was performing cutting-edge research and development in engineering as diverse as nanotech manufacturing and lithium batteries, applications which could be commercialized and advance high-tech industry in Ukraine. The presentation segued into a tour of the entire facility, which included some of the most advanced lab machines in the country. I noticed the Ambassador was extremely impressed to hear that the fruit of U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation could advance technology in a host of areas and that the lab was networking with other labs in the European Union.
Later that day, I had a few free minutes to meet up with Yuriy, a tour guide, to learn more about the history of Ivano-Frankivsk city. Yuriy led me to the two main historical squares of the city, explaining how the city had changed over time, from a walled stronghold to a market center of the region. We walked through the old city wall, which is now filled with attractive art galleries, and entered the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection, a beautiful 300-year old Greek Orthodox church that would not be out of place in the heart of Paris. As people came and went in the church, I realized that Ivano-Frankivsk represented both the past and the future of Ukraine, respect for tradition and spiritual enlightenment and expectation for a bright future of new ideas and international collaboration.