Dolyna through a Prairie Villager’s eyes: A trip report from our Sister City halfway around the world

A sign in Dolyna letting residents know Sister City Prairie Village, KS, is a mere 8,500 km away.

Prairie Village City Councilman Michael Kelly recently returned from his third trip to Prairie Village’s Sister City, Dolyna, Ukraine, and sent along this article about the experience:

In Dolyna, Ukraine, an American is a rare sight. Especially two Americans. My friend, business associate, and fellow Prairie Village resident Michael Long accompanied me to visit Dolyna, our Sister City, recently.

Dolyna is a city of 25,000 people. It’s located at the base of the Carpathian Mountains. Lviv, approximately 100 km north, is the jumping off point for a trip to Dolyna. From Lviv it’s a 1.5 hour drive to Dolyna. The roads in the Dolyna region are a little rough and the people drive very “aggressively.” It’s a Nascar experience — with potholes.

As you get close to Dolyna the landscape changes from rolling prairie to mountains and pines. The middle of the city is dominated by densely configured Soviet-era concrete apartment blocks. In PV we call this mixed use. In Dolyna they call it “cozy.”

The streets of Dolyna.

The apartments themselves are small by our standards. As such, on a summer day, most apartment dwellers stroll the promenades or enjoy a Lvivski Beer at one of the many outdoor beer halls.

The rent on the apartments is very low, if not non-existent. However, as our translator Lyrssa said, the utilities are “very expensive.” While there is running water, it’s best advised to not drink it.

Many residents live in modern homes outside the city. The modern homes dot the hills that surround Dolyna. It’s kind of a south-of-435 setup.

Upon arrival we visited with Mayor Volodia at the Dolyna city hall. The city hall is an imposing, whitewashed, four-story building surrounded by blooming flowers.

Dolyna City Hall
Michael Kelly with Dolyna's mayor.

After a warm welcome at the mayor’s office we went to dinner. The dinner started with vodka. Followed by vodka. After a toast to our mothers, we drank more vodka. Followed by another round of vodka.

Along with the vodka we ate salo. Salo is the national dish of Ukraine. It is white pork fat that has been cured with salt, garlic, and paprika. The combination of salo and vodka serves as a form of self-embalming that allows you to…consume more vodka.

Salo.

Mayor Volodia is in his early to mid-forties. He was elected four years ago. He ran against an entrenched and corrupt establishment candidate. His sincerity, integrity, and love for his city are very apparent. A Ukrainian Atticus Finch.

I asked the mayor what he wanted the people of PV to know about the people of Dolyna. He said, “We are a young country and a young city. Our youth are highly educated [most under 25 speak english]. We are a people who are proud of our history and culture. I encourage PV citizens to visit and to consider investment in the Dolyna region. We have tremendous natural resources, abundant land, an excellent exchange rate, and a highly educated people.”

I also asked Mayor Volodia, who has visited Prairie Village, if he found PV and Dolyna similar in any way. He said, “Prairie Village and Dolyna are totally different! I like your streets and trees. We have to continue to make investments in our infrastructure. But, like Dolyna, the people of Prairie Village are very friendly. I encourage your citizens to visit Dolyna. Enjoy our mountains and rivers in the summer, and ski the Carpathian Mountains in the winter.”

A trip to our Sister City is unlike any trip you can take and still be in Europe. I encourage you go and experience the culture and to see the mountains. This having been my third visit to Dolyna, I return for the people. They are proud of their city. They are optimistic about their future. And, most of all they have a genuine interest and respect for our city.

If you visit Dolyna they will welcome you with open arms. But be forewarned, one of those arms will be holding a bottle, or two, or five, of vodka.

Michael Kelly (right) and Michael Long (left) sharing a toast with translators.

Duja Harna Misto!