Kharkiv: Defying Stereotypes and Leading the Way to Ukraine’s Future

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Neutron Source Facility, Kharkiv, March 2016
Neutron Source Facility, Kharkiv, March 2016

This week, I had the honor to travel to Kharkiv with President Poroshenko as we launched the commissioning phase of our joint $73 million state-of-the-art Neutron Source Facility, which has the potential to vastly expand the research capabilities of the renowned Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.  My visit, and especially our meeting with the bright young police volunteers training to serve in Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, reminded me again how fast Ukraine is changing, and just how outdated the simplistic Russian narrative of Ukrainian geographic division has become.  Seeing such dynamic energy in Kharkiv and all the exciting projects in progress there underlines the hope I have for Ukraine’s future.

My first stop with the President was the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology’s Neutron Source Facility (NSF).  It was well over a year ago that I first visited the site with Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller in December of 2014.  At that time, the project still had some way to go before the NSF could start work.  This time around, though, it’s in the very final stretch, with physical construction now complete.  The $73 million the United States has invested in this state-of-the-art facility will give Ukraine new research capabilities, as well as the ability to produce isotopes for industrial and medical use right here in Ukraine.  My congratulations go most of all to the brilliant scientists of the Institute who were our key partners in making this exciting project a reality, which marks yet another milestone in the twenty-year story (and counting) of our science and technology cooperation with Ukraine.  Ukrainian scientists continue working in close partnership with U.S. National Laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, on moving the facility from equipment installation, through commissioning, and into full operation.  The NSF will provide a platform for training a new generation of nuclear experts in Ukraine, and continue the proud tradition of excellence in applied and theoretical physics that has distinguished  the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology since its founding in 1928.

In my conversation with President Poroshenko during the visit, I urged him to support all the steps necessary to commission the facility in 2016, so that Ukrainians can benefit from the full potential of the research center. The upcoming 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled for March 31 and April 1 in Washington, D.C., will offer President Poroshenko to reaffirm, and the world to recognize, Ukraine’s continuing international leadership on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and safety.

From the NSF, we were off to meet the new Patrol Police cadets training in Kharkiv and observe their rigorous (and action-packed!) basic training course.  The group we saw will fill new Patrol Police positions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, including Kramatorsk, Slovyansk and Severodonetsk.  I was incredibly inspired by these patriotic young men and women – who represent the next generation of Ukrainians taking their country’s future into their own hands.  Like the cadets in other cities, they are taking the initiative to win the trust of their fellow citizens and keep their communities safe.  I have been very proud of the United States’ support throughout Ukraine for the new Patrol Police, who play an essential role in helping rebuild the faith that the Ukrainian people have in their government institutions – one of their most valuable contributions to Ukrainian society.  And nowhere is that more valuable than in these communities in eastern Ukraine, where Russia’s unprovoked aggression has wrought such devastation and threatened – unsuccessfully, I might add – to destroy people’s trust in their government.  But contrary to Russia’s intentions, Ukraine is stronger and more united than ever, and these cadets are living proof of it.

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Kharkiv Patrol Police Training Center, March 2016

Kharkiv is among the many Ukrainian cities making reforms to attract investment and jobs to their region, and this was evident at our visit to Turboatom, a turbine manufacturer and longtime Kharkiv institution that provides thousands of jobs at its mammoth facility near the center of the city.  Turboatom may have a long history, but it’s also reinventing itself: it’s reached deals with U.S. businesses including Westinghouse and Holtec to modernize Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and move Ukraine toward sustainable energy independence.  Westinghouse is helping Turboatom modernize Ukraine’s nuclear reactors, providing more clean energy to the national electrical grid and developing expertise relevant to other countries with Russian designed reactors, including in Europe; Holtec, meanwhile, is jointly developing spent nuclear fuel storage systems with Turboatom for both domestic and international markets.  It was striking to see at Turboatom so many Ukrainian flags, as well as a touching tribute to employees who were ATO veterans, another rebuke to Russia’s false narrative of division. I’m glad to see Ukrainian and U.S. businesses working together, as with Turboatom, to help Ukraine tap into its enormous potential in domestic energy production and to reduce its reliance on equipment imports from Russia, and hope we’ll see even more cooperation like this in the future.

Ukraine’s future is bright, as it continues to defy Russia’s stereotypes about east and west and present a united Ukraine.  My trip to Kharkiv served as a reminder of just how much more united Ukraine has become over the past two years, through their clear choice for a European identity and in response to Russia’s aggression.  Ukraine has made remarkable progress, something that is all too easy to forget in the day-to-day drama of domestic politics.  And nowhere is that more true than Kharkiv.  At the airport, just before flying back to Kyiv, I had the chance to meet with Governor Rainin.  As I noted in my last blog on Kharkiv (from September), I’m thrilled to have such a strong partner there, one who is committed to pursuing reform and anti-corruption.  As we parted ways, Governor Rainin told me with obvious pride that “Kharkiv is moving ahead.”  My visit made very clear how true that is.

Helping Ukraine Defend Itself

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Special Operations Forces Training, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, January 2016
Special Operations Forces Training, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, January 2016

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Lengyel, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), on his trip to Khmelnytskyi, where U.S. forces from the 10th Special Forces Group are training Ukrainian special operations forces as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine.

I welcomed the chance to hear from Deputy Minister of Defense Dolgov and Ukrainian Special Operations Forces Commander Major General Luniov on the status of Ukraine’s special operations reform efforts, and to witness first-hand the classroom and field training U.S. and Allied special operations forces are providing Ukrainian special forces to enhance Ukraine’s capability to defend itself in the face of relentless Russian aggression.

Cyborgs Unit Patch
Cyborgs Unit Patch

At Khmelnitsky, U.S. special operations forces are providing training on a wide array of military specialties — medical, marksmanship, construction and demolition, communications, and technology.  I was incredibly impressed.  Ukraine’s new special operations recruits show great promise, and include many brave soldiers who’ve already served in the ATO, including one of the Cyborgs who had helped defend the Donetsk Airport.  I felt incredibly honored when he presented me with his unit patch.

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U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Ukrainian Special Operations Forces Commander Major General Luniov, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, January 2016

Our training at Khmelnytskyi is taking place at the invitation of the Ukrainian government, and reflects the commitment of the United States to help Ukraine build a professional, NATO-standard fighting force.  Since 2014, we have provided more than $266 million in equipment and training to help Ukrainian forces better monitor and secure their border, operate more safely and effectively, and defend their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

What I saw on my trip reaffirmed my confidence that the Ukrainian military is committed to moving forward with the process of reform — moving toward European institutions, a NATO-standard military, a NATO-standard special forces capability.  We’re very proud that the United States is part of that project.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch some of my trip highlights here.

Kharkiv: Eastern Frontier of European Democracy

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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At the end of last week, I visited Kharkiv, my first trip back since I was there last December. The winter snow may have been beautiful, but I have to say that the weather is a lot better in summer! And what I found was a city full of smart, motivated people who want to be part of a reforming, forward-looking Ukraine that is moving toward Europe.

I started off my visit by meeting with Governor Ihor Rainin. It was a real pleasure spending time with him, and I’m thrilled to have such a strong partner who’s deeply committed to fighting corruption and implementing real reform to make Kharkiv oblast an important part of a modern, European Ukraine.

7th Annual International Economic Forum, Kharkiv, Sept. 4, 2015
7th Annual International Economic Forum, Kharkiv, Sept. 4, 2015

From there, we both headed to the 7th Annual International Economic Forum, a great opportunity to bring together government and business, both local and international. I was especially glad to have the opportunity to finally meet and talk to local businessman Oleksandr Yaroslavsky, whose Premier Palace hotel was itself hosting the Forum. I was surprised and delighted to learn, when I talked to the head of the Kharkiv National University, that he had spent several months in my hometown of La Jolla (a center of research and development, like Kharkiv, with one of the highest concentrations of Nobel laureates) at the University of California San Diego.  Governor Rainin and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov both gave very strong remarks about the need for ongoing reform, and I was very grateful for Minister Avakov’s kind words about United States assistance to Ukraine as it continues to implement the changes its people demanded on the Maidan and continue to demand today. As Minister Avakov said, the strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine is built on actions, not just words.

7th Annual International Economic Forum, Kharkiv, Sept. 4, 2015
7th Annual International Economic Forum, Kharkiv, Sept. 4, 2015

In my own remarks to the Forum (which you can read in full here), I emphasized Kharkiv’s position as a key regional center, well placed to serve both east and west, which can, and should, play a leading role in integrating Ukraine into the global economy. I also stressed the huge competitive advantage Kharkiv holds as a result of its vibrant IT sector and its workforce of highly skilled IT professionals. I had to mention U.S. projects we’re working on in Kharkiv, including our “Go Women” program supporting women entrepreneurs, our AgroInvest project on sunflower growing and harvesting, support for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in Kharkiv. One project I’m especially proud of is the state-of-the-art Neutron Source Facility, which produces medical isotopes and which the United States has supported through $70 million in funding, a symbol of Kharkiv’s strong past, and future, in nuclear technology. And of course, I’m very excited about the Kharkiv Patrol Police project (more on this in a minute).

Ambassador Pyatt at the Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Sept 4, 2015
Ambassador Pyatt at the Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Sept 4, 2015

In our meetings and in his remarks to the Forum, I consistently heard from Governor Rainin and his advisors a strong resolve to move towards European institutions and standards as part of a united Ukraine, including embracing the decentralization that the central government has made a priority. Indeed, the Governor argued convincingly that there has been more progress on reform and anti-corruption in Kharkiv than any other oblast. One dramatic symbol of how fast Kharkiv is changing is that new Patrol Police, which was also the next stop on my Kharkiv tour.

Along with Minister Avakov and Governor Rainin, I visited the Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, where the patrol police cadets for the city are still in training. The United States

Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Sept 4, 2015
Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Sept 4, 2015

has so far committed $15 million to supporting the Ukrainian government’s patrol police initiative. I was thrilled that police from my home state’s California Highway Patrol have been training these patrol police candidates (as well as Houston Police Department officers) and I was able to see the cadets in action during some “tactical demonstrations,” including some dramatic high-risk vehicle stops.

In talking to the cadets, many of whom left good jobs for the chance to help build their city’s future, I was struck by the look in these young men and women’s eyes: the hunger for serious, radical reform, which they’re counting on their government to deliver—and

Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Sept 4, 2015
Police Academy at the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Sept 4, 2015

for the international community to support. Their optimism and enthusiasm was infectious, and I wasn’t surprised to hear from Minister Avakov that this was one of the strongest groups of patrol police cadets he’s seen from across the country. It was incredibly inspiring to see these young people who have grabbed control of their future, and who are building the kind of Ukraine that its citizens have so longed to build – rule of law and European standards, just 20 minutes from the Russian border.

After the visit to the cadets, it was time for a more sobering meeting: with IDPs who have relocated to Kharkiv from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and who are being assisted by our USAID project partner Station Kharkiv. I made visiting Station Kharkiv a priority for my trip, because it’s critically important to focus on the difficult circumstances IDPs like the ones at Station Kharkiv find themselves in, and find ways to help. The people I met with were grateful for the assistance they’d received, and the warm welcome they’d gotten from the people of Kharkiv, but their stories were tragic: families ripped apart, their lives upended by an artificial war they certainly never asked for. I heard with concern their reports of a growing humanitarian catastrophe in occupied Donbas, of lawlessness and high prices for consumer goods on top of the danger of military conflict.

Like the cadets, and like everyone else I met with in Kharkiv, they too want to be part of a democratic, united, European Ukraine. And what was so exciting about Kharkiv was that, as much as anywhere else in the country, that’s exactly what people are building: new structures accountable to the Ukrainian people, governed by rule of law, used not to enrich or empower one family, but to build a better future for people’s children. And as I told the patrol police cadets, Ukraine is not alone in this: it has the support and the hopes of the government and the people of the United States of America.

Odesa: Cosmopolitan Crossroads with Extraordinary Potential

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at a Press Conference with Governor Mikheil Saakashvili, Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015
U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at a Press Conference with Governor Mikheil Saakashvili, Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

On Sunday and Monday, I had the chance to return to Odesa – a cool, multicultural city on Ukraine’s coast with extraordinary potential.  It was my first trip back since the fire at the Trade Unions Building, and I was eager to learn about the transformative change the new Oblast Administration has undertaken.

On Sunday afternoon, I took the advice of some of my Twitter followers and visited the shops and beaches of Arcadia City.  It was great to see so many families out (and a lot of American flag t-shirts!) – but I promise you will never see me on the amazingly high water slide that has almost finished construction!  I also took the chance to join the crowds of tourists and locals out walking on Deribasivska Street – one of Ukraine’s greatest people watching spots.

My Monday started with Ukrainian civil society.  I wanted to hear the views of young, reform-minded leaders and learn more about their efforts to drive forward the positive change we all want to see for Ukraine.

From there, we went to the Governor’s office, where I underscored U.S. support for the Oblast Administration’s efforts to tackle the problems of corruption and governance that have been such an impediment to economic development in Odesa.  I talked a lot with Governor Saakashvili about how the United States plans to support these efforts in the days and weeks ahead – providing trainers to help stand up a new patrol police, helping to form an Anti-Corruption Task Force inside the Oblast Administration, and supporting other initiatives to improve policing, root out corruption, and strengthen rule of law, including a new grants program for civil society groups.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015
U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

I also welcomed the chance to visit the new public service hall – the focal point of the Oblast Administration’s efforts to create an atmosphere of transparency and establish practices that ensure a level playing field and guaranteed delivery for government services.  The building’s sunny atrium reminded me of the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis:  sunlight is the best disinfectant. Everybody I’ve ever talked to in Ukraine has stories about the small-scale corruption that has infected the process of receiving government services. This new service center reinforces that government is meant to serve the interests of the citizens, and not the other way around.  That’s the foundation that this initiative is being built on.

After meeting with the Mayor, and discussing his own efforts to support these anti-corruption efforts (which I applaud), I headed to the port, where I visited customs officials and a recently expanded grain handling facility.  It reminded me of the huge untapped potential of this part of Ukraine.  Every time I visit Odesa, I am reminded that it is a globally connected, cosmopolitan city.   It should be a thriving gateway, not just for Ukraine’s maritime commerce, but really for all of central and eastern Europe.  And I think it has the potential to re-emerge as a great global crossroads once again.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, Ukraine, July 6, 2015
U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

A highlight of my trip was the time I spent on-board the Sahaydachny, to pay my respects to Ukraine’s sailors on behalf of the U.S. Navy as they celebrated Ukraine’s Navy Day.  The honor guard was terrific, I was moved as the band played the U.S. national anthem on the deck of the ship, and I am so very grateful for Admiral Hayduk’s hospitality.

Finally, I had the chance to visit with the members of the American Chamber of Commerce, where I previewed the U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum being held by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington next week.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, American Chamber of Commerce, Ukraine, July 6, 2015
U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, American Chamber of Commerce, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

I come away from this visit to Odesa with a sense of optimism.  Most important to me is the sense I got from people from all over the Oblast — not just the Governor and his inner circle — but from a variety of people that there’s a willingness now to focus in a very serious way on the reform agenda, and an eagerness to partner with the international community.

But most important was the validation I heard from members of Ukrainian civil society.  The belief among civil society is that this is not just window dressing, that this represents a real change in direction and change in tone by the Odesa authorities.

Everywhere I go in Ukraine I find an appetite for change, for getting rid of the corruption, for removing the barriers and obstacles to doing business that have had such an awful impact on this country over too many years.  I said to the Governor that I was confident that as long as he drives forward the pace of reform, we will continue to see an active and visible presence from me and my colleagues.  We see real opportunity here — we see change coming.  And as long as Ukraine keeps delivering on the promise of reform, the United States will continue supporting it on its path toward a more democratic, prosperous, European future.

Creating a Better World by Practicing Multilateral Diplomacy

Posted by: N. Kumar Lakhavani, Information Management Specialist

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ModelUNI got excited when I saw an email from Peace Corps Director Dr. Doug Teschner inviting me to attend the Model United Nations (MUN) Camp managed, hosted, and taught by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine. I quickly made up my mind to take the weekend off and go to Odesa to attend and speak at the conference on my own dime and my own time. This was an opportunity of a lifetime to speak to the inspiring future leaders of Ukraine and also meet Peace Corps volunteers and camp counselors.

The MUN conference consisted of a week of activities that offered bright high school students a unique opportunity to learn about global issues, develop skills in negotiation and debate, and become friends with other remarkable individuals from all over Ukraine.

It was a quick trip! I booked a flight to Odesa for Saturday morning and a day train from Odesa returning back to Kyiv on Sunday. The Embassy’s Public Affairs Office pointed me in the right direction so I could prepare a message about diplomacy, volunteerism, and development of communication and negotiation skills. Knowing how much Peace Corps volunteers give up to serve overseas, I wanted to speak about the importance of volunteerism.

MUNdiscussion1I flew down to Odesa early Saturday morning and in less than two hours a taxi got me safely to the MUN Camp in Odesa Oblast. Sixty attendees, 20+ Peace Corps Volunteers, and 10+ camp counselors were in the middle of a meeting working hard to pass a MUN resolution. Participants were representing countries from Angola to Afghanistan, Cuba to Croatia, Panama to Pakistan. You could see all of the hard work and effort that was put into this camp by Peace Corps Volunteers like Lukas Henke, Natalie Gmitro and Julie Daniels.

MUN Camp participants had been at the event the entire preceding week starting at 7 AM and finishing as late as 10 PM every day. They discussed parliamentary procedures, meetings as nations, global issues, and had already taken votes on different resolutions. The camp included some fun evening events such as a talent show, “Activities from Around the World,” networking, and a bonfire.

MUN-Meetingconclusion1I was given the podium on Saturday to speak to the participants about “Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Value of Helping Others by Volunteering.” After my remarks, participants spent 45 minutes asking me questions. I was also invited to attend a training session about corruption later that day. At the session, participants discussed the definition of corruption, their thoughts about corruption in Ukraine, the causes of corruption, and shared ideas about how to eradicate corruption in their country. The campers took turns roleplaying to explore what corruption looked like and how individuals could work towards making Ukraine a corruption- free society. Georgia’s success in reducing corruption was cited by participants.

At the conclusion of the corruption session, I was given a thank you note signed by the participants sharing their appreciation for my travel all the way to the camp in Odesa Oblast to speak.

A Peace Corps Volunteer showed me the way to the marshrutka stop with my most prized possession that day in my hands. The two hour marshrutka ride back to Odesa was tough but reading the thank you note made me realize it was all worth it!

Community Service and Volunteerism in Ukraine: Supporting Children with Special Needs

Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadia NGO representatives
Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadiya NGO representatives

Posted by: Lisa Steinhauer, U.S. Peace Corps Community Development Volunteer (Drohobych, L’vivska Oblast)

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The United States is associated with many positive emotions at Nadiya, an NGO focusing on children and youth with special needs located in Drohobych, L’vivska Oblast.  The organization, in operation since 1991, has received various sources of support from U.S. grants as well humanitarian assistance over the years.  In June 2012, the NGO’s relationship with the United States was strengthened further when I arrived as the organization’s first U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.

Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadia NGO representatives
Ambassador Pyatt meets with Nadiya NGO representatives

Peace Corps has given both Nadiya and me an exciting opportunity to work together on local community development projects while participating in a cultural exchange program.  Since arriving in Drohobych, I have been overwhelmed with the hospitality and openness of my organization and community.  People consistently take the time to genuinely listen to and understand what I have to say, even with my broken Ukrainian.  They have accepted me into their lives, up to the point that it is not uncommon for me to hear myself referred to as “наша Ліза” (our Lisa).  They even go as far as declaring our organization an extension of the United States on U.S. Holidays as a way for us to celebrate American culture together.

Ambassador Pyatt with Nadia NGO representatives
Ambassador Pyatt with Nadiya NGO representatives

Needless to say, when Nadiya found out that the new U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt would be coming for a visit, the mood was jovial.  Around 20 of Nadiya’s youth with special needs, volunteers, and parents anxiously waited for Ambassador Pyatt outside the building on that Monday morning.  We had practiced saying “Welcome to Nadiya” in English several times before his arrival and it was a proud moment when everyone welcomed the Ambassador in unison.

Ambassador Pyatt graciously listened to information about our projects over the past year, made possible through U.S. support, and congratulated us on our successes.  He then enjoyed a brief tour of our facility and a cup of tea with our youth and volunteers.  Everyone was really encouraged to hear so many positive remarks from the Ambassador. People cannot stop talking about his visit to Nadiya.

From all of us in Drohobych, we would like to say thank you, Ambassador Pyatt, for taking the time to see us at Nadiya!  I am sure this day will be remembered for years to come.

Ambassador Tefft Visits Donetsk for America Days

Posted by: Tim Piergalski, Political Officer

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Donetsk City
Donetsk City

I recently had the opportunity to visit Donetsk, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine, with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft.  Donetsk is a steel city, a Ukrainian Pittsburgh, which has benefitted from strong central government investment in its infrastructure.  The city center’s roads are smooth, and we observed workers planting grass and flowers on medians, a great contrast to cash-strapped Kyiv.  Donetsk lacks the historical buildings which dot the rest of Ukraine, having been founded in 1869 by Welshman John Hughes to establish coal mines and steel mills.

Opening of Ivan Dudkin’s “America the Unexpected” photo exhibit at Window on America Center at Donetsk Oblast Library
Opening of Ivan Dudkin’s “America the Unexpected” photo exhibit at Window on America Center at Donetsk Oblast Library

Ambassador Tefft went to Donetsk to take part in America Days, a multi-day celebration and exposition of American culture.  It was interesting to hear the questions the students asked him at an education fair (visas are always on everyone’s mind!), and I learned, quite to my surprise, that students in Donetsk play American football.  The Ambassador also opened a photo exhibit, which emphasized views of America as seen through Ukrainian eyes (and lenses).  We met with the mayor and the governor, and what surprised me most was that a horde of journalists were present throughout both meetings, eagerly writing down and recording everything the Governor and Ambassador said to each other.

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Meeting with Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, Donetsk Mayor

We also visited the site of a Peace Corps Volunteer who teaches at the Donetsk Institute of Tourism.  The Ambassador took questions from the students, who showed off their impeccable knowledge of English.  In the same vein, we visited two USAID-funded projects.  The first project helps the Donetsk Court of Appeals improve the transparency of the judicial process.  The chief judge couldn’t say enough about the improvements over the past few years, thanks in large part to USAID grant money and her partnership with a local NGO which conducted independent surveys of court users to determine whether they felt they got a fair shake at court.  Perceptions of fairness are increasing, even among those who lost their case, and perception of corruption is decreasing.  We also visited a tuberculosis hospital, which has halved the mortality rate from tuberculosis in Donetsk oblast over the past ten years since the hospital has been working with USAID.  The

Ambassador Tefft Visits TB Hospital in Donetsk
Ambassador Tefft Visits TB Hospital in Donetsk

doctors and staff at the hospital had an obvious passion for their work that was evident when they told the Ambassador about the various projects that they were implementing.  On the day of our visit, the hospital was being audited by the WHO to see whether it would become a WHO training site.  All of these visits indicated how important our efforts are, and how a few small projects can make a big difference in the lives of many.

On the flight back, I collected my thoughts about the trip and realized just how much we had seen in under three days – we had 19 different events but hadn’t even come close to including everything we wanted.  But, it left me yearning to see more of Donetsk, the Donbass region, and Ukraine and visit other places with stories to tell.