As news in Ukraine continues to unfold, we are keeping close eye on this weeks’ bombing of Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial site in Kyiv. Over 300,000 people have visited the Auschwitz Exhibit at Union Station in Kansas City in the last year, enhancing our understanding of the holocaust and highlighting without a doubt why it matters to remember the lives lost during this tragic time. The attack of the Babyn Yar memorial in Ukraine is a heartbreaking view into history repeating, and a call to reflection on our statements of “never again”.
Since 2019, the site carries an additional meaning for the community of Kansas City. In March of that year, Global Ties KC hosted an Open World professional exchange program looking at Roma Issues. One of the Program participants, Mr. Artur Zolotarenko is the Head of the Babyn Yar Museum Department. In Artur’s own words, “I work in the area of preserving historical memory of the events and victims of the Babyn Yar tragedy; Holocaust, Roma genocide, executions of peaceful civilians in Kyiv, prisoners, Red Army soldiers, priests, partisans. One of the key areas of the national reserve’s work is teaching younger generations about the scary events that took place during the occupation of Kyiv in 1941-1943.”
During his time in Kansas City, Artur lived with a host family for a week in Prairie Village. He met with the KU Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, visited Topeka, spoke with students at Haskell Indian Nations University, and learned about the Community Housing of Wyandotte County. Alongside five other Ukrainians who work to support the Roma community, he met with Samuel Rodgers Health Center, the ACLU, Jewish Vocational Service, and Swope Health Services. He learned about our political system via a meeting with Congresswoman Davids office, and sat down with the Mayor and Police Chief from Prairie Village- a community deeply tied to Ukraine via a sister city relationship with Dolyna. Artur talked to leaders at the Truman Presidential Library, and had long discussions of collaboration with staff at the National World War I Museum. He watched our downtown come alive with local, regional and national artists as he explored the depths of the Crossroads District at First Fridays. In just one short week, he made Kansas City home.
While we’ve reached out to Artur, like hundreds of other Global Ties KC alumni, we are waiting to hear that he is okay. We remain committed to the small hope that the person-to-person relationships forged through years of professional exchanges, sister city connections, family trips, and business ties will remain a bridge for civil society communication.
Managed by the Congressional Office for International Leadership, the Open World program is designed to enhance understanding and capabilities for cooperation between the United States and the countries of Eurasia by developing a network of leaders in the region who have gained significant, firsthand exposure to America’s democratic, accountable government and free-market system.
Since its founding by Congress in 1999, the Open World program has enabled some 18,000 current and future Eurasian leaders to experience American democracy, civil society and community life; work with their American counterparts; stay in American homes; and gain new ideas and inspiration for implementing change back home.
Photo Copyright: Brendan Hoffman