Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 23, 2023

Local group started to support Ukrainian city

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly and Trostyanets, Ukraine Mayor Yuri Bova at the 2023 Cities Summit of the Americas in April. - Photograph provided

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly has established a new working group to rally resident support for Trostyanets, a Ukrainian city that survived 31 days of Russian occupation and is struggling to recover from the effects of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Kelly met Trostyanets Mayor Yuri Bova at the 2023 Cities Summit of the Americas in April, when five Ukrainian mayors came seeking help from their American counterparts, and both mayors resolved to explore relations between the two cities consistent with Chattanooga’s other sister city relationships.

Such cultural and economic exchanges would also give the people of Chattanooga the opportunity to help the war-torn town recover and rebuild, as well as open up new cross-Atlantic relationships and opportunities for economic development and trade.

No city tax dollars are involved in the effort.

“Ukraine’s courage and determination throughout their fight for freedom from Russian aggression have inspired Chattanoogans, and people have asked me many times since the beginning of the war, ‘Tim, how can we help?’” says Kelly. “Setting up a resident-led effort to determine the best way to expand our engagement and help them rebuild is a tangible way for folks to get involved.”

Before Russian tanks crashed into Trostyanets in the first days of their invasion, the small northeastern Ukrainian town 20 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border was known for its cluster of historic monuments, its chocolate factory and the innovative development strategies of Bova, a progressive mayor.

The town is barely recognizable now: Buildings have been shelled and looted, roads are mined and the surviving population – 20,000 residents lived here before the war began – is reeling from 31 days of Russian occupation.

After the initial Russian advance into Ukraine stalled, Trostyanets became a staging area for hundreds of troops and their equipment. The number of civilians killed during the occupation is still unclear.

Targeted by Russian authorities, Bova and other city leaders took shelter in a nearby village. Now that the Russians have departed and the theater of the war in Ukraine has shifted to the southeast, the mayor is helping the town back onto its feet. With most infrastructure damaged or destroyed and residents still traumatized and lacking services, that’s a mammoth undertaking.

Chattanooga City Council will consider a resolution that would confirm the partnership between the city and Trostyanets on economic, scientific, technical and cultural-humanitarian cooperation.

Kelly’s working group will convene a committee of Chattanoogans sympathetic to the plight of Trostyanets and the people of Ukraine, who seek only to live peaceful lives with the blessings of a democratically-elected government.

The group will determine a course of action for establishing plans to provide support to the Trostyanets. For example, Kelly hopes to connect Trostyanets with technical expertise and assistance as they seek to rebuild the city’s telecommunications infrastructure and hospital, which were badly damaged in the Russian attacks.

Residents interested in participating in Kelly’s working group in support of rebuilding Trostyanets can apply at forms.gle/rGQjkURpDGXQd8GZ8.

“What’s happening in Ukraine is an existential moment for Western democracy,” says Kelly. “It’s both a terrible tragedy and a wake-up call for the Western world to support those who, like Americans in 1775 and 1812, are simply fighting for freedom from tyranny.

“Chattanooga has a long history of answering the bell for the cause of freedom, and I’m sure our generosity will once again rise to the occasion.”