Uman City Coat of Arms Uman , Sister City of Davis Davis, California

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2005 Annual Meeting

By Elisabeth Sherwin, Secretary-Treasurer
Uman/Davis Sister City Program
Posted February 2005
February 14, 2005

The highlight of the Uman-Davis Sister City Project's annual meeting was a 30-minute video of Uman and Kyiv produced by Davis teacher Sue Britz-Diaz.

The meeting took place Monday night at International House.

Britz-Diaz made her film on a visit to Uman, Ukraine, last fall. She was the Davis portion of the Uman-Davis teacher exchange and in that capacity was able to film scenes from Uman preschools, the local university, the Day of the City celebration, and the world-renown Sofiyivka Park in Uman. The final section of the film took a scenic look at the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv.

Each year in early October, the city of Uman celebrates the Day of the City marking its founding. Representatives from Uman's sister cities are customarily invited to attend. Four Davis representatives, including Britz-Diaz, Stan Forbes, Phil Coleman and his wife, Kathy, traveled to Uman in October.

Britz-Diaz teaches fourth and fifth grades at Patwin School and used her film of Ukraine in class this year to introduce her students to children in Uman.

"I showed the film to my students and it helped them ask specific questions to their pen-pals in Uman at School No. 4," she said. "We got Christmas cards in reply and understand there are more letters in transit."

The video will be shown on Davis Community Television.

Outgoing President Coleman gave a brief rundown of the year's events and was thanked for his two-year term as head of the organization. Davis resident John Chiles then was elected president.

"It's been a joy," said Coleman summing up his tenure.

Longtime Uman supporter and Davis businessman Forbes is a new board member. He has supplied more than 50 scholarships to Uman students over the past eight years.

Forbes was given two medals for his philanthropic work - one from the agricultural university in Uman making him an honorary professor and one from the city bestowing upon him the status of official patron.

Only four Patron of the City Medals have been awarded. The medal has been given to the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, the president of an association of agricultural universities, the president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences - and Forbes.

The scholarships awarded by Forbes are given to students who have financial need, who are studying English, and who are academically gifted. They could not attend the university without his help with room, board and tuition.

"They all have fascinating stories," Forbes said. "I met 23 of them when I went to Uman last fall. One of the girls lost her father at Chernobyl," he added. "Another lost her father in Afghanistan."

A group of Ukrainian farmers and agricultural workers is coming to Davis on March 6 for three weeks. The group is from a city in western Ukraine south of L'viv and will be hosted by members of the Uman-Davis Sister City Project.

Elisabeth Sherwin, Secretary-Treasurer
Uman/Davis Sister City Program
Davis, CA 95616
e-mail: Secretary-Tresurer

Our Trip to Uman

By Phil Coleman, President
Uman/Davis Sister City Program
Posted October 2004
October 2004

In Early October 2004, my wife, Kathy, and I made our first ever trip to Eastern Europe. The occasion was the annual “Day of the City” in our Sister City of Uman, Ukraine. The Day of the City is the anniversary of Uman’s founding and is the most festive community event of the year.

While driving the 200-mile journey from the capital city of Kiev, the similarities between Davis and Uman became obvious. Like Davis, Uman is surrounded by thousands of square miles of rich and flat farmland. The Ukraine soil is so fertile it is black. No wonder Ukraine was dubbed the “Soviet Union’s breadbasket.” In what seemed like hundreds of locations along the road, local farmers had roadside stands selling freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. I was told that even during the Soviet rule and the days of collective farming, these food sales outlets existed and prospered. Perhaps this was a precursor to the free enterprise system that Ukraine now has after 75 years of communism.

Uman is about a third larger than Davis, with over 90,000 population. It is also a college town, with two universities within its boundaries. As we drove through the city for the first time, the large numbers of young adults milling about caught our attention. These were students, of course, and they were walking because students owning cars is extremely rare. And, unlike most US college towns, there is no real geographic distinction between city and university. The two entities blend together almost without notice.

The architecture of Uman is varied and striking. Most of the buildings are old, very old. Reflecting perhaps, the invasion route that Ukraine has been throughout history, buildings took on a variety of appearances. Moorish, Gothic, Islamic, Medieval, and the least attractive, Soviet, were all represented in Uman’s buildings.

Ukrainian hospitality is unsurpassed. We were greeted by a contingent of university and city officials and immediately made to feel very important. We saw many friends from past exchange visits to Davis. The Mayor and the Police Chief and several other city officials greeted us. In a way, it was a “homecoming” for us, in a home that we had never seen before but had learned much about from its occupants who visited us in Davis. We were also introduced to other sister city delegations from Poland, Estonia, and Rumania.

I vastly underestimated the importance of the Day of the City. The city’s main square and street was closed off and numerous private and more commercial vendors set up their wares. A parade was the first featured event, which lasted well over an hour! In addition to floats, horses, and marching bands, there were representatives from the various departments of the two universities, youth sports teams, as well as the manufacturing industries.

The highlight of the parade was the ethnic attire worn by young men and women from Ukraine’s many regions. The brightly colored hand-made dresses, shirts, and cassock style pants were a treat to the eye. As each group of dancers and musicians would approach the mayor’s review stand, they would stop and perform a traditional dance indigenous to the region they represented. One group showed particular imagination and blended the old with the new. After performing their traditional dance, the band immediately transitioned to an American “Rap” song and the dancers followed suit. You have never seen culture clash until you witness traditional clad Ukrainian dancers “rapping.”

After the parade, the scene shifted to nearby a specially erected pavilion. The Mayor and his staff presented achievement and recognition awards to citizens and university officials for good deeds of the previous year. It started to rain, but the crowd remained unfazed. I was impressed with their fortitude until I realized that these were the friends and family who were present for the next event. Eleven brides and grooms, in full wedding dress, were paraded in front of the crowd and introduced. A bride’s white wedding gown is always spectacular. Imagine eleven of them in a row. We were told it was traditional here to have a “civil” ceremony for the bride and groom as part of the Day of the City. The religious ceremony would take place the following day. Each newly married couple received a microwave oven from the City.

The day followed with a Press Conference at City Hall, a recital by a local choir group-- that was simply the best I have ever heard-- and a formal banquet that evening. Perhaps now I should comment on the food in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s most productive output by far is food. Nowhere is this reflected than in the size and variety of the meals they serve to their guests. When Kathy and I sat down for our first Ukrainian meal, we saw a large table literally filled with plates of food. There were appetizers, vegetables, several types of meat and fish, and carbohydrates in every imaginable form. Naturally, we assumed this was the entire meal and we would serve and pass, buffet style.

Wrong. This was only the first course! As we waded through this avalanche of food, waiters kept bringing out more courses. There was no more room on the table to place a dish, so the waiters simply stacked dishes on top of the earlier course. Simply stated, Ukrainian meals consist of two or more main dishes, 8-12 side dishes, two kinds of bread, bottled water, wine, and lots and lots of vodka. After the meal, dessert coffee and tea was served for those who were still a little hungry or had not yet lapsed into unconsciousness.

The following day included a tour of the pedagogical university and several of its departments. We visited several classrooms and talked to the faculty and staff. When we entered a classroom, the students would jump from their seats and remain standing until the teacher told them to be seated. I don’t recall that ever happening in any American classroom that I have visited. Similarities with American schools were few. The facilities and equipment was vastly inferior in Uman, while the dedication and commitment to teaching and learning was vastly superior. We later had lunch with the Director of the University and his wife, who had visited Davis some two years earlier.

Uman’s proudest landmark is the magnificent Sofivka Park, analogous to New York’s Central Park or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. This 200-year-old park has a long and interesting history that is essentially a love story with soap opera subplots. We were provided an English translation of a book describing the Park’s history and it is available to anybody reading this and is interested.

We were given an extensive tour of the grounds and were greeted by the Park Director and his wife. We had first met them when they visited Davis two years previous and had dinner at our house. They recounted with fondness details of that evening that Kathy and I had long forgot, so it must have been a memorable time for them. The peace and tranquility of the park was most welcome. By this time, we were a bit frazzled with the pace and intensity of our tour of Uman.

At my request, we were given a tour of the Uman Police Department and met the management team. I formed many impressions of the police from a professional view, but that is a topic for another time. The police in Ukraine are subjected to working conditions that would be unheard of in the US. For example, it is common practice for patrol officers to work a 24-hour shift if staffing levels are low. And there is no such thing as overtime pay. At no time did I see a police officer smile or initiate a casual conversation, probably for good reason.

We left the next morning for the long return drive to Kiev. Despite the early hour, no less than five persons took the trouble to come to our hotel, give us farewell gifts, and see us off. Our very capable translator, Oksana Zabolotna, accompanied us to Kiev to make sure we were safely arrived before our return flight. Oksana made our visit especially enjoyable and deserves a medal.

The visit to Uman reaffirmed our earlier impressions of many Ukrainian traits. Their love of music, their hardiness and resoluteness, their unmatched hospitality and graciousness so characterize the Ukrainian people. We saw a new free enterprise country still struggling to adopt a western style economy. Much progress has been made in past few years alone we were told. We saw construction efforts everywhere in Kiev and there is reason for optimism in Ukraine. Nobody deserves prosperity more than these incredible people.

Phil Coleman, President
Uman/Davis Sister City Program
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 756-4885
e-mail: President 2004

A 12-step meeting comes to Uman, Ukraine

By Elisabeth Sherwin
Posted October 2003
Enterprise staff writer

A certain percent of the population in Uman, Ukraine, suffers from addiction to drugs and alcohol, just like a percentage of the population in its American sister city of Davis.

Nationally, the drug and alcohol abuse rate in the United States is about 10 percent and is probably no lower in Ukraine.

Dr Oleskiy Leschenko and Maynard Skinner.In 2000, Dr. Oleskiy Leschenko, a public health doctor in Uman, said he had no effective way to combat these addictions.

The doctor's modest clinic is a little run-down by Western standards but the city is making a commitment to help drug addicts and alcoholics.

Leschenko said treatment at his clinic consisted of talk therapy and some drugs, but the results were not particularly encouraging.

Leschenko said he was familiar with 12-step programs, which have gained some popularity in larger cities throughout the former Soviet republics. But he was not convinced that this program, which stresses the need for a spiritual awakening and personal responsibility, would be effective.

"If I held a meeting," he said three years ago, "no one would come."

The Uman-Davis Sisters Cities Project in Davis then invited the doctor to come to the United States and find out what treatment consists of in Yolo County.

It took several years, but in June Leschenko became the first drug and alcohol specialist to visit Davis from Uman.

For one week he was taken to visit clinics, hospitals and recovery homes in Davis, Woodland and Sacramento and met doctors, social workers and alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery.

After meeting with Fred Heacock, deputy director of the Yolo County Department of Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services, Leschenko said the social problems faced by both Davis and Uman are similar.

"There are a lot of good things to learn in America that can be applied to Ukraine," he said, speaking through an interpreter, Val Zdorovenin of Sacramento.

Leschenko offered his Uman clinic as the meeting place for his city's first 12-step meeting devoted to recovery from alcoholism.

A notice appeared in Uman's local newspaper and the meeting, open to the public, was held early in August.

In the intervening month, Leschenko contacted a group in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, and received advice on how a 12-step meeting should be run. When the meeting began at 6 p.m. on Aug. 6, the clinic held more than 30 people including several couples, older women, and single men of varying ages. Many of the men were the doctor's patients from the clinic. One common language was silently spoken in that room: Misery.

No one looked up. No one said hello. People were fidgeting nervously. But when the five guests from Kiev began to describe what it was like to be a helpless drunk and what happened to change that lifestyle, the audience paid rapt attention. For two hours the visitors from Kiev described their experience, strength and hope in terms that seem to make a difference to the people who were listening.

Finally, a break was called. The meeting newcomers seemed to have cheered up considerably. No one was laughing and smiling, but it no longer looked like a mass suicide was the only option.

Later, the doctor described his patients' reaction to the meeting.

"They liked it very much," Leschenko said. "They told me no one every talked to them that way before. No one ever told them that they have an illness and it's not their fault."

Leschenko's patients decided they would like to hold daily 12-step meetings. Later, they decided to hold a meeting once a week. At last notice, a weekly 12-step meeting was taking place every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Leschenko's clinic in Uman.

(--Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at


Returning to Uman

By Lorraine Visher
Posted September 2003
May 2003

We all have places where we experience great power. In a moment suspended in time we are changed forever. When we return, we struggle to integrate that experience into our daily lives. This was my experience when I visited Uman, Ukraine, Sister City to Davis, California in April of 2001. I became connected to teachers halfway around the world in a personal and intimate way. The similarities as well as the differences between our countries and our schools were thrown into sharp relief and I returned to Davis with a strong desire to develop our relationship further.

For the next two years I worked with the Sister City Board of Directors to secure a visa for my Ukrainian host, Ira Orenchuk. Each year she was denied and our teacher exchange program was visibly failing. In an effort to continue some kind of exchange between our schools I created the Classroom-to-Classroom project. This project would allow teachers and students to apply to the Davis Sister City Board for small grants to create reciprocal projects between Davis and Uman Schools. Pen Pal programs, photo exchanges, email literature circles and more would put teachers and students in direct contact with each other. But the concept of grants, fundraising, email exchange and Internet websites was difficult for the Ukrainian teachers to understand. In an effort to secure the support of teachers and students, my daughter Laurel and I traveled back to Ukraine in May of 2003

Places of power are hard to revisit. Like returning to your childhood home, nothing is quite the same as you remember. During my first visit I stayed with my host Ira in her home. The close living conditions promoted intimate meals and conversations. In an effort to avoid placing a financial burden on the teachers, I stayed in a hotel this time with an interpreter. A more isolated experience to be sure, but a different relationship arose. I took my friends to dinner, met them in the park for a walk and talked with them in empty classrooms at the end of the school day. Gradually I was able to help them understand the potential of the project. They began to share ideas of their own, exchanging student writing in our school newspapers, writing competitions between Ukrainian students learning English and our Second Language learners, a shared website with writing, photographs and poetry posted by both countries. Suddenly that feeling of power had returned, this time for both sides.

My daughter Laurel, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Davis Senior High School. Her job was to help create a relationship with the students. She had been corresponding with a student in Uman for the last two years. They met for the first time on our second day and spent a lovely afternoon walking together in Uman’s famous Park Sofiyivka. This proved to be just the beginning of a stream of young men and women who wanted to know her. Using laughter, music and gesture they found ways to communicate beyond the limitations of language. By the end of our visit Laurel had a dozen names and addresses requesting pen pals in the United States. She had been gifted with paintings, photographs and even a CD of favorite popular music. She was an excellent emissary of the students of Davis.

Of course we took the time to sightsee too. The streets of Uman were green with spring and flowers were everywhere. The buildings seemed a little fresher, new business had sprung up. Walking was still the prevalent method of travel and taxis still drove too fast. We toured Kiev the last few days and Ira joined us there to make one last application for a visa. My husband, also traveling in Ukraine on business, was to meet her there on Monday. He would walk through the process with her while Laurel and I flew home. I received their call at 3 a.m. Both David and Ira were ecstatic. When you open one door others often seem to follow. Ira had her visa at last.

Ira Orenchuk will visit the Davis schools from October 29 to November 11, 2003.

Lorraine Visher
North Davis Elementary
Davis, CA 95616


Uman doctor visits Davis to compare problems, solutions

By Elisabeth Sherwin
Enterprise staff writer
June 2003

The first medical doctor to visit Davis from Davis' sister city in Ukraine recently spent a week in Yolo County visiting places of interest.

Dr. Oleskiy Leschenko, who stayed at the home of a doctor from UC Davis, spent the week visiting clinics and hospitals and meeting people in the drug and alcohol recovery field.

Leschenko, 50, is a public sector physician whose medical specialty used to be family practice but is now focused on preventing and treating alcohol and drug abuse in Uman, a city of 68,000.

After meeting with Fred Heacock, director of Yolo County Department of Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services, Leschenko said the social problems faced by both Davis and Uman are similar.

"There are a lot of good things to learn in America that can be applied to Ukraine," he said, speaking through an interpreter, Val Zdorovenin of Sacramento.

He also attended a 12-step meeting, and visited Woodland's Cache Creek Lodge, a non-profit recovery center for alcoholics and drug addicts. He toured the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento and visited the Kaiser-Permanente clinic in South Davis.

Leschenko met with Dr. Michelle Famula at the Cowell Student Health Center at UC Davis and discussed the ways in which students are steered away from drug and alcohol abuse. He also met with Capt. Steve Pierce of the Davis Police Department and two Russian-speaking police officers, Paul Doroshov and Ilya Bezuglov.

He visited the Yolo County Drug Court and was impressed with the humane manner in which each case, each person was treated.

"I liked the fact that the court tries to help alcoholics and addicts turn their lives around and doesn't just send them to jail," he said.

He hopes to begin offering12-step programs in Uman.

"Whatever works in the United States should work in Ukraine," he added.

Until recently, alcoholics and drug addicts in Ukraine could be ordered to undergo medical treatment. Leschenko said patients could be forced to take medication that would induce vomiting if they drank alcohol.

"The results were not good," he added. "Medication alone is not the answer."

The doctor was interested to hear about the social changes that have taken place in the United States over the past 30 to 50 years. Smoking, drinking and drug use, which used to be widely tolerated and even celebrated in some U.S. circles, has decreased.

Leschenko said he appreciated not seeing billboards in the U.S. selling cigarettes. He also visited the Davis Farmers' Market on Wednesday evening and even though there were hundreds of people in Central Park, he saw no one smoking or drinking or visibly under the influence.

Leschenko returned to Ukraine today. This visit marked his first trip to the United States and it's a trip he never thought he'd be able to make. He was invited by members of the Uman-Davis Sister City Project.

He will have many things to tell his wife, who is also a physician, and daughter when he returns home. His daughter, Natalie, 18, is majoring in English at a local university inUman.

Leschenko said he was impressed by several things he saw in America: the huge number of cars on the freeways, the overall good driving, good roads, and well-constructed buildings. He also said the Americans he met were uniformly pleasant and friendly.

It was, he said, a very good visit.

(--Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at

Jim Saum, Treasurer for Uman Sister City The current board in Davis consists of President John Chiles (, Secretary Sue Britz-Diaz, Treasurer Maynard Skinner (, Phil Coleman, and Stan Forbes. The board meets on the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m., International House, 10 College Park, Davis. Guests are warmly invited.

Send check for annual membership dues ($25 per person or $35 family) to: UDSCP, Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd., Davis CA 95616.

Questions? Please email us through John.
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