Prairie Village city intern has special insight into Ukrainian sister city

Emily Kotay in a canola field near her Peace Corps site in Ukraine.

The new intern at Prairie Village city hall has a special insight into the culture of sister city Dolyna, Ukraine, half a world away.

Emily Kotay, who is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration at the University of Kansas, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine from 2007-2009. Kotay’s site, Kozova, is about 85 miles northwest of Dolyna, Prairie Village’s sister city.

Though Kotay never visited Dolyna, both cities lie in the western, Ukrainian-speaking part of the country and share similar cultures. Residents in the eastern half of the country primarily speak Russian.

During her 27 months in the country, Kotay, who is originally from Wellsville, Kan., primarily taught English at a school with around 300 students. It took some time, she says, to adjust to the living arrangements — her water would go out three times a week, and the city controlled the heat in all of the buildings in the town, and could be stingy with it in the winters. Getting used to the cultural differences was a challenge as well.

“There is definitely a feeling that the culture is closed to strangers,” she said. “There is no smiling, no eye contact. That’s hard when you come from Kansas, where everyone is super friendly.”

But, she said, after establishing relationships with a few contacts in her city, the experience felt like a success.

“Peace Corps is something I’d wanted to do for a long time,” she said. “It really is an adventure

Kotay is on pace to complete her MPA in 2013, and is hoping to get into non-profit administration.