Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Sister City program shows us how to mix

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Twelve years ago, a team led by Conrad “Bud” Haupt, a retired Cincinnati city planner, met with residents of the Ukraine city of Kharkiv in what was then the Soviet Union.

        Together they started a Sister City project that has transcended world events.

        “During the many years of the Cold War, the United States had missiles aimed at the Soviet Union and they had missiles aimed at us,” said Jan Sherbin, a member of the trustee board of the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Project.

        “School children in both nations practiced huddling in hallways and under desks in case of nuclear attack.”

        Since the project began in 1989, she said, “literally thousands of people on both sides have become friends and are wondering how on earth we could have been afraid of each other.”

        The group's exchange program has brought Kharkiv professionals — from law, medicine, food production and other fields — here, to be paired with professionals in the same field. Mr. Haupt, the group's senior vice president, said that so far, 1,500 people have traveled back and forth between the two cities.

        “I would say the two main accomplishments is that 23 people from here went to Kharkiv to dedicate the America House and the (large) number of American families that served as host families to visitors from Kharkiv,” Mr. Haupt said.

        “Also, now we have Americans going there and living with host families. And the relationship must be very good because there have been three marriages between people from Cincinnati and Kharkiv.”

        Judy Bogart, president of the project, said the effort gives hope that the Cincinnati region can overcome other chasms of misunderstanding.

        “I think what the project has shown is a good example of people reaching out to other people not like themselves. Cincinnati has not had a lot of experience at this.”


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