One of our family’s favorite stories is about the time a kid named Marvin was picking on me. Marvin had a reputation for bullying just about everyone, but on this particular day, I was his target.
I don’t remember all the details of my rescue, but out of nowhere came my sister, Belinda. She started chucking rocks at Marvin. She chased him out of the neighborhood and saved her little brother. To hear Mom tell the story, Belinda came out of nowhere with rocks-a-blazing; a real-life combination of Annie Oakley and Wonder Woman.
Marvin ran and never bothered me again. You don’t mess with family, because that’s what sisters and brothers do. They support and protect each other.
In the summer of 2012, Wilmington hosted a delegation of elected officials from Ukraine. Most of the delegates were from small cities that surrounded Kharkov. While they were in town, we took them on tours and explained the operations of our landfill, wastewater treatment plant and water plant.
They toured the air park and enjoyed lunch at the General Denver. It was an educational and enjoyable visit. Friendships were made.
Kharkov is a large city in northeastern Ukraine. They have a population of nearly 1.5 million people. It is the second-largest city in Ukraine and lies less than 100 miles from the Russian boarder. Kharkov and Cincinnati have developed a special relationship for over the past 25 years. They are Sister Cities, and, as we all know, sisters and brothers support and protect each other.
The following year, the fall of 2013, I had the honor of participating as a member of an Ohio delegation. We spent a week in Ukraine. Most of our time was spent in the Kharkov region.
One of our principal goals was to establish relationships outside of the main city of Kharkov. To achieve that goal, we visited the cities of Solonytsivka, Chuguev and Merefa. We toured the region, visited factories, museums and historical sites. We established friendships with the leaders and the people of Ukraine.
It’s a beautiful country. The fertile fields of Ukraine have long been called the breadbasket of the region. Their landscape reminded me of the rolling hills of southern Ohio and Indiana. The people are open and friendly. They laugh easily and love to sing and dance.
Every meal was treated as an opportunity to share a feast and a little vodka. We openly discussed their relationships with the European Union and Russia, and whether they wanted to align with Europe, Russia or maintain their sovereign independence.
Before we flew home, we had made lasting friendships and, as Mayor of Wilmington, I had signed official letters of agreement that established Wilmington as a Sister City with Solonytsivak, Chuguev and Merefa. Those agreements will not expire.
Our friendship with Ukraine will last a long, long time, and, as sisters and brothers do, we should always support and protect each other.
We had been back in Ohio only a few weeks when all hell broke loose in Ukraine. The demonstrations that became known as Euromaidan started in late November 2013.
The large public square in the center of Kiev is known as Maidan Nezlezhnosti. Protesters were demonstrating against the government of Ukraine, that had recently decided to abandon membership in the European Union in favor of a closer alliance with Russia.
They combined the words European and Maidan into the new word “Euromaidan.” Thousands gathered in the main square to protest the government’s abandonment of national freedom in favor of closer ties to Russia. Hundreds died when the demonstration turned violent. Ukrainians carrying the flag of Ukraine and chanting “Ukraine is Europe” were killed by government forces.
By the spring of 2014, the Russian military, under orders from President Putin, had invaded Crimea in the southernmost part of Ukraine and other areas in the far eastern part of Ukraine. Since then, the news of Russian aggression in Ukraine has taken a backseat to other political news of the world, but the problems persist.
This month, marks the third anniversary of the killing of Ukrainians during the Euromaidan protests and the Russian invasion of Crimea that followed shortly after.
These actions must not be forgotten. We must not forget our sisters and brothers who live in Ukraine and are still fighting for their freedom. Russia still poses a huge threat. Over 10,000 have died in the war that continues to ravage them.
Our Congress has recently drafted three pieces of legislation in support of Ukraine. I strongly encourage our congressmen and senators to actively support this legislation. We must let our friends know that we have not forgotten them; that we will support them and do everything we can to protect them in their time of danger.
As always, brothers and sisters should support and protect each other.
Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.
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