Ambassador Tefft Visits Ivano-Frankivsk

Marc Gartner, Economic Officer

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Amb. Tefft and Mykhaylo Vyshyvanyuk, Head of the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Administration at the oblast border

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

Nano-Materials Center at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University of Ivano-Frankivsk

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.

50 States in 50 Days: Wyoming – Like No Place on Earth

Posted by: Jerrold Frank, Regional English Language Officer

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Grand Geyser, Yellowstone-Nationalpark, USA, photo by Stefan Pauli
Grand Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, USA, photo by Stefan Pauli

With its sweeping plains, high deserts and majestic mountains, the state of Wyoming typifies the Great American West. As the ninth largest in terms of land mass but the least populated state in the United States, those seeking solitude in vast wide-open faces can find it here.  The state offers countless outdoor recreational and sightseeing opportunities and is home to the first national park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park. Within more than 2 million acres comprising Yellowstone National Park, visitors can view up close some of the most unique geothermal features in the world – including perhaps the most famous geyser in the world, Old Faithful. So interesting are the features of this park that the first published reports of the region in 1807 describing the Yellowstone area were thought to be fictional. Nobody could believe the other-worldly descriptions of the geography and geology found there. In addition to Yellowstone National Park, the state also boasts Grand Teton National Park, Devils Tower National Park and Fossil Butte National Park. Each of these parks is special in that they house one-of-a-kind natural landscapes that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetimes.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Wyoming is a state of many firsts. Aside from having the first national park in the United States, Wyoming was also the first state to grant women the right to vote and to serve on juries. In addition, the country’s first female governor was elected in Wyoming back in 1924. This has lead the state to become known as the Equality State.

With so few people living in such a large land mass, naturally there is room for an abundance of wildlife in Wyoming. Some of the more famous non-human inhabitants of Wyoming include grizzly and black bears, gray wolves, elk, pronghorn deer, antelope, moose, mountain lions, eagles, and yes, American bison.  Also, keep on the lookout for rattlesnakes! If you’re out hiking in the Wyoming wilderness, best to wear some ankle high hiking boots. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also find game such as elk or bison on the menu of some local restaurants.

In terms of crime and personal safety, Wyoming has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The biggest danger in Wyoming is the sheer size and emptiness of the place. Visitors must be sure to plan ahead when trekking into the great open spaces of Wyoming. Winters can be especially fierce so you don’t want to get caught in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. That being said, the middle of nowhere offers the outdoor-minded opportunities to fish, hunt, ski, snowmobile and camp. Just be sure you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve ever watched a cowboy movie and yearned to explore the open spaces of the Great American West then Wyoming is for you. Who knows, once you visit you may not want to leave.

From Sevastopol to South Carolina

Participating in the Access Microscholarship Program Teacher Workshop, Summer 2011 

By Anastasiya Avdeyeva, Access program teacher

Ethnicity, Race, Gender class with Professor Liza Stockdale

This summer I had an amazing opportunity to participate in the workshop for English Access teachers from all over the world. The workshop was organized by the University of South Carolina (USC), and ran from July 1 – July 22, 2011. I spent two weeks in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Those weeks were both exciting and tough enough as we had very intensive classes devoted to various aspects of language teaching: pronunciation, reading, grammar, vocabulary and listening.

Pronunciation class with Ann Janosik

We also learned a lot about leadership training and sharing strategies. In the evening we enjoyed some lighter activities such as sightseeing tours, shopping trips, host family visits, etc. Our major assignment was a project dealing with U.S. culture and customs. My team’s topic was about “the Seven Wonders of South Carolina.” We chose the seven brightest moments of our trip around SC and prepared a presentation. I guess it was a success! Continue reading “From Sevastopol to South Carolina”

Not a Window but a Gateway to America

Posted by: Heather Fabrikant, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer

Vinnitsya Window on America with staff including Window director and Head

Monday morning arrived and I was thrilled to be taking a trip to visit four of the U.S. embassy’s 29 Window on America centers in Ukraine: in Vinnitsya, Khmelnitsky and Ternopil.  I had never been to any of these three oblasts and was excited to see more of Ukraine.  Each region of Ukraine is also like a window: shedding light into the complex and beautiful Ukrainian country and people. Our Window on America program in Ukraine is a network of centers co-located in Ukrainian libraries where Ukrainians interested in learning more about the U.S., watching American films, learning English, meeting Americans, or practicing English can come together. For a full list of the centers in Ukraine click here. The following are some of my recollections from the trip.

Babushkas on Bicycles – Travels Through Central/Western Ukraine

As we drove, our van stuffed with books, posters and DVDs to deliver to our Window on America centers, I marveled at how lucky I was to be living in Ukraine and doing such exciting work.  On our way to Vinnitsya we passed the beautiful Teteriv River, strewn with dachas, and dotted with yellow sunflowers reaching the horizon. I thought of the sunflower oil made from these golden medallions and sold at outdoor markets. I escaped into the mossy, hanging trees, verdant from the frequent summer rain. I saw babushkas on bicycles overloaded with their bounty. Motorcycles and truckers alike braved the bumpy roads.  Cows grazed next to the highway and horses galloped through soccer fields. Tractors wove in and out of the road and ancient trucks emblazoned with “milk” or images of bread flew by. The smell of burning grass wafted into the car and a tile mosaic sign indicated we had entered the Vinnitsya oblast.  Continue reading “Not a Window but a Gateway to America”

Odessa in June: Sea Breeze, Talented Children at Lastochka, and a Busy Schedule Make for a Wonderful Four Days in One of Ukraine’s Greatest Cities

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft 

Like most people, I like to think weekends are best when they offer time to relax with my family, but there are times when my job requires me to fill the time with a full schedule and travel and I do not mind. A wonderful example occurred June 3-7, when Mariella and I visited Odessa, one of my favorite cities in Ukraine.  This was my third time in the famed seaside town. Like last summer, the main purpose of the visit was to support the joint U.S.-Ukrainian naval exercises known as Sea Breeze, but our time was spent doing much more.  We had a very busy weekend, joining a group of Ambassadors for part of a program organized by the Ukrainian Directorate General for Services of Foreign Missions (GDIP).  For example, on Friday evening we were treated to a performance at the Odessa Opera House, which I have been told is a close architectural cousin of the opera in Vienna.  Mariella and I are both great fans of the ballet, and seeing Odessa’s young ballet stars up close was a wonderful experience.

The next morning, I joined the diplomatic corps in a call on the Governor and the Odessa Oblast Council.  We were briefed on investment plans for the Odessa region.  Later I had private meetings with Mayor Kostusev and Governor Matviychuk.  Both of them stressed the importance of investment in Ukraine and in the Odessa region.  This is a topic I work on closely, and I expressed some of our concerns about the investment climate, and about fighting corruption at all levels.  The Mayor and the Governor both agreed that these are important issues, and I am looking forward to working with them to help promote economic development in the Odessa region. Continue reading “Odessa in June: Sea Breeze, Talented Children at Lastochka, and a Busy Schedule Make for a Wonderful Four Days in One of Ukraine’s Greatest Cities”

Chernihiv Visit: U.S.-Funded Program To Fight Human Trafficking and Meeting with Energetic Local Journalists

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

As a veteran of many countries of the former Soviet Union, I am interested in the history of this region, and I had the chance yesterday to visit a really remarkable city, which was one of the key centers of the Kyivan Rus period – Chernihiv.  It’s about a 90 minute drive from Kyiv, and well worth the trip, especially on days like yesterday when the weather was clear and warm.

Ambassador Tefft at opening of a court room equipped for the secure interview of victims and witnesses during trial
Ambassador Tefft at opening of a court room equipped for the secure interview of victims and witnesses during trial

I kicked off my visit by cutting the ribbon on a new remote witness testimony system in the Chernihiv Court of Appeals.  The court was outfitted with a separate witness room to allow victims of trafficking in persons, or other serious crime witnesses, to safely testify through video connection without having to directly face the defendant.  Right now, only one third of trafficking victims in Ukraine cooperate with law enforcement, and the single biggest reason for not cooperating is concern over lack of protection.  The system allows for voice or image distortion, although there is a monitor for the judges, so that they can see the individual clearly.  The head of the Court of Appeals, Judge Sadih Tagiyev (an Open World exchange alumnus!), explained very well how this type of protection will allow his court to better meet international standards for witness support.  And he already has big plans for the system – he’s planning on bringing in students to hold mock trials later this month.   The system was funded through State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, and is one of five such systems installed by the International Organization for Migration.  While it is aimed specifically at victims of Trafficking in Persons, the equipment has been used successfully elsewhere for witnesses of serious crimes, where confidentiality helps prevent them being re-victimized or feeling threatened by defendants.  Continue reading “Chernihiv Visit: U.S.-Funded Program To Fight Human Trafficking and Meeting with Energetic Local Journalists”

Learning to Teach in Zhitomir

Posted By: Leah Antil, PAS Intern, US Embassy, Kyiv, Ukraine

Zhitomir city

Just west of Kyiv along a long stretch of highway through ancient forests and tended fields lies the city of Zhitomir, the administrative center of Zhitomir Oblast. A major transportation hub, historically Zhitomir linked Kyiv with the west through Brest, and currently connects Chop with Kyiv and Minsk with Izmail and other Ukrainian cities. Historically, this city of 280,000 was one of the more prominent urban centers of the medieval State of Rus, first showing up in written records around 1240. Legend has it that it was first established in 884 by Zhitomir, the prince of the Drevlians (a Slavic tribe). Economically, the area around Zhitomir specializes in granite quarrying, indicated by the intricate and rather exquisite quarry markers and memorials lining the route from Kyiv. Throughout the city, there are hidden overlooks to the rivers that wind through it. The city also boasts a particularly breathtaking World War II memorial and eternal flame that sits atop the highest hill in town.

Academically, Zhitomir is home to several universities nestled among the many parks and public squares. This is what brought me to Zhitomir as a participant in the 16th Annual “Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages” (TESOL) Ukraine conference held at Zhitomir State University on April 13-15. Over 450 English teachers and representatives of schools in Ukraine and Belarus gathered to collaborate, attend trainings and presentations, and purchase the latest in English language teaching textbooks and classroom materials. Continue reading “Learning to Teach in Zhitomir”