For the past 68 years, we have worked extensively with civil society and other partners in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and various post-Soviet countries. In the last decade alone, we have hosted hundreds of adults and students from these countries who have spent time in Midwest homes.
At the heart of our work at Global Ties KC is our mission of citizen diplomacy, through which average citizens, people like you and me, have the opportunity to build person to person relationships. War, and global crisis have a different meaning when you have friends on the other side.
As a sovereign nation, Ukraine did not ask to be invaded. Our alumni, the people we have hosted, are amongst the masses choosing how to respond to this immediate crisis. Over 1 million people have fled, children and families who have left everything behind. Just as many are running forward, to stand and defend their nation. The same hometown pride that radiates through the Midwest can be found in the hearts of Ukrainian’s. Our visitors have always been fiercely proud of their cultural roots, their language, and a rich tradition of poetry and literature. This is what they are fighting for; a hope for continued democracy, and a future filled with Ukranian sunflowers, that look the same as our fields in Kansas.
The reality is that this is a war of choice. Putin has chosen a path of violence over diplomacy with the possibility of triggering a wider conflict in Europe. Russian citizens will also experience the aftermath of a decision their leader made without their collective approval. The decision of a government and the will of a people do not always align.
We are hopeful 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.
Through thousands of conversations, shared meals, and professional exchanges between individuals in the Heart of America and individuals from the heart of Europe, our hope is that the small role we’ve played in facilitating relationship building between our nations will allow for increased dialogue and a greater community of support.
Please continue to share stories about your own global ties within your local community.