Athens mayor to visit Ukrainian sister city

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – On Saturday, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson will depart for an eight-day trip to Ukraine on a trade and diplomatic mission.

Patterson will visit the city of Lviv, along with Athens’ sister city, Ostroh. Connections between the two cities were established through a program overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development known as the Governance and Local Accountability Activity.

“When I learned more about this type of a sister city, I became very intrigued,” said Patterson, who told USAID to find a city in Ukraine that was comparable to Athens. “Ostroh is home to the Ostroh Academy, which is one of the oldest institutes of higher education in all of Ukraine.”

The National University of Ostroh Academy was established in 1994 in a decree issued by Ukraine’s then-president Leonid Kravchuk, though its roots go back much further. The original Ostroh Academy was founded in 1576, becoming the first institution of higher education on Ukrainian soil. In the 16th century, Ostroh Academy published the Ostrog Bible, one of the earliest East Slavic translations of the Bible.

USAID’s goal is to create economic and political relationships between U.S. and Ukrainian cities, along with encouraging economic development and fostering cultural understanding. To help further these goals, Patterson is hoping Athens K-12 schools and Ohio University can exchange ideas and begin a student exchange program with Ostroh down the line.

“I’m working with several of our local businesses here who have given me items to take over and share some of the products that are produced here in the city of Athens,” Patterson said.

Mayor Steve Patterson stands for a portrait in his office in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Mayor Steve Patterson stands for a portrait in his office in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Among the items Patterson is bringing to Ostroh are pawpaw seeds, a ukelele and a cigar box guitar kit from Stewart-MacDonald, and spirits from the West End Distillery.

“So, it’s really trying to make these connection points between our two communities to see if once that connection is made (to) get them to start communicating and working with or partnering with some of the local businesses,” Patterson said.

On February 24th, Patterson will attend a ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An obelisk will be dedicated in the town square of Ostroh, featuring the seal of the city of Athens and celebrating the bond between the two cities. Patterson will also visit Lviv and place flowers on the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred, which commemorates those killed by the secret police of Russian-backed dictator Viktor Yanukovych during the Maidan Revolution.

“I had the good fortune when I was attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., last month, where I got to meet the mayor of (Lviv),” Patterson said. “We got to know each other, we shared cards and whatnot. So we’re going to be making a stop for basically a day and spend the night there.”

While Ostroh is over 500 miles away from the frontlines in the Donbas, its hospitals are filled with the sick and wounded from the battlefields of the east. Russia has also struck cities in western Ukraine with missiles as part of a campaign to degrade Ukraine’s infrastructure and weaken its morale. On Thursday, Lviv was bombarded by a barrage of Russian cruise missiles, damaging a school, a residential neighborhood and taking out an electrical substation.

“Ukrainians are resilient, they are steadfast, and I am honored to be able to go over there and engage with them and to show our support for everything that they are having to endure,” Patterson said.