People throughout the United States are watching the Russian invasion of with shock and horror. For several residents, the shock and horror are personal—the devastation is affecting people they know. Dozens of Wyoming families have connections with citizens of Kharkiv, a city located about 25 miles from the Russian border and one of the cities hit hardest
by the Russian attacks.

As the Russian invasion of continues, and the hardship feels close to home for many in our community, the Promote  Commission is making a donation to Matthew 25: Ministries to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Kharkiv is the second-largest city in and one of eight sister cities with Cincinnati. The Kharkiv-Cincinnati collaboration was established in 1989 to share knowledge and contacts in business, government, education, and the arts. More than two thousand Cincinnatians and Kharkivites have traveled between the two cities through the nonprofit Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership (CKSCP). The partnership has involved people throughout metropolitan Cincinnati, but residents are particularly active, and several Wyoming residents have served on the CKSCP board. Some of these exchange programs have blossomed into enduring relationships between residents of Kharkiv and Wyoming.

The exchange programs have often been a collaboration with the Open World Program, a nonpartisan initiative of the United States Congress, to provide delegates from emerging countries an opportunity to learn about democratic governing systems, free market operations, and non-governmental organizations. The delegates typically visit with government leaders in Washington, D.C., then spend several weeks in Cincinnati.

Margie and Steve Carleton are among the numerous Wyoming residents who have hosted meals, helped drive delegates to activities around Cincinnati, and invited exchange participants to stay in their home. “It was an honor to host our visitors from Kharkiv,” says Margie, “and it was eye-opening to see our world through their eyes. Our Kharkiv visitors were impressed with things we take for granted and eager to learn how to improve their communities. Our family has stayed in touch with our friends in Kharkiv and it’s heartbreaking to see their country destroyed.”

Open World Exchanges Lead to Student Exchanges

At an Open World exchange in June 2009, Kharkiv delegates expressed interest in meeting teens who volunteered. In Ukraine, there was little interest in volunteering—why would anyone seek to work and not be paid? Longtime Wyoming resident Marilyn Braun, the president of CKSCP at that time, reached out to fellow Wyoming residents Wes and Chris Adamson, who were active with youth volunteering at and Friendship United Methodist Church.

The Adamsons and a group of WHS students met with the Kharkiv delegates and were enthusiastic about joining future delegate exchanges. When another Open World delegation visited in the fall of 2009, the students joined the delegates for an outreach project and a potluck dinner. One of the delegates, Vladimir Bulba, a university professor in Kharkiv, invited the students to visit his city.

Wyoming students Whitney Mangas, Elizabeth Zhou, Grace Brown, and Meera Basu, in traditional Ukrainian attire, pose with Professor Vladimir Bulba on a visit to Kharkiv.

With the support of CKSCP, the Adamsons led two trips to Kharkiv in 2010 and 2011 with WHS students, and Professor Bulba sent two groups of university students to stay with Wyoming families and to volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, homeless shelters, and other outreach programs. The Adamsons and the students who traveled to Kharkiv have stayed in touch with their Ukrainian friends.

“The Wyoming/Kharkiv student exchange program was formed to build relationships between the two cities, and these friendships have endured,” says Wes Adamson. “Chris and I are heartbroken about the current struggle of our ‘Ukrainian family’ and others whom we have come to know and love. Ukrainians are kind, resilient, and passionate about their country. Now the entire world knows what we learned during our exchanges.”

The trip to was the first time Grace Brown, a WHS junior in 2010, had traveled outside the United States. “I remember being nervous to go abroad, and did not know what to expect,” Grace says. “I was met with the warmest and kindest people and culture; we immediately connected, shared stories, and made friendships. That trip transformed my worldview. I am forever thankful for the love and kindness that was extended to us during our time in amazing Ukraine.”

Student Exchanges Inspire Commitment to Sister City Program

Wyoming residents Ann and Mark Lampe first connected with the Sister City Program when they hosted Kharkiv students in 2010. The Lampes have continued to host students and Open World delegates visiting Cincinnati, and Ann was inspired to serve on the CKSCP board. “Mark and I have had wonderful experiences with hosting,” she says, “and the more we learned, the more we got involved and connected. It’s these connections that make watching the destruction of so difficult. These are people we know and love.”

Return Visit to Wyoming with Pleas for Help

has participated in several exchange programs with students from Kharkiv, dating back to 1993, in collaboration with CKSCP. The exchanges are an opportunity for Ukrainian students to live with American families and experience American education and culture.

An exchange program sponsored by the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership brought together high school students from Wyoming and Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Anastasiia Miroshnikova is one of the Kharkiv students who spent a month with a Wyoming family and attended WHS in a 2018 exchange. She has returned to Wyoming, but this time her visit is due to the need to flee a destroyed city. Anastasiia was recently interviewed on WLWT, where she described the desperate conditions in Kharkiv and her journey to escape. She has started a fundraiser to buy medical supplies for the Ukrainian military. You can watch her interview here and learn more about her fundraising project here.

Many Wyoming residents are eager to help, and assistance is needed on many levels. The Promote Wyoming Commission is making a donation to Matthew 25: Ministries to support humanitarian aid, and other fundraisers initiated by Wyoming residents are dedicated to help their friends in Kharkiv reach safety outside of Ukraine.

You can learn more about the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership’s mission and activities, read current updates with residents of Kharkiv, and read a post by Anastasiia on the CKSCP website.