Chicago Center for US-USSR Relations and Exchanges

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The Chicago Center for US-USSR Relations and Exchanges was the sponsor of the sister city program between Chicago, USA and Kiev, USSR.


In an article by Marianna Liss in The Ukranian Weekly, published on August 9, 1987, the involvement of the Center with the Chicago/Kiev sister city project was discussed:

"The international sister city movement seeks to bring about world harmony through trade and cultural exchanges between towns of diverse countries. Ironically, the effort to make Chicago and Kiev into sister cities has become controversial. Both the Jewish and Ukrainian communities have been highly critical of the program which is sponsored by the Chicago Center for US-USSR Relations and Exchanges, aimed at bringing the two municipalities together. Officials in Kiev, on the other hand, ahve been eager to court Chicago. One Kievan bureaucrat admitted that Chicago would be a feather in their cap."[1]

Opposition to the Program

The Jewish community of Chicago was opposed to the program, with Peggy Norton, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago stating, "We are not ready to jump into the situation until there is progress in the area of human rights." They held that such an arrangement between the two cities would give tacit approval to the Soviet Union's system. Former Ukranian political prisoner, Valentyn Moroz delivered a lecture in May, 1987, in which he said that at the present time, taking part in the program would be an unwise move.

Then Mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington appeared to be cautious about the program. Nonetheless, he sent a letter inviting the chief executive of Kiev, Valentin Zgyrsky, to Chicago, though declining to confer official status on that delegation.[1]

Trip to Kiev

Towards the end of April, 1987, a delegation from the Center traveled to Kiev, USSR to meet with Soviet municipal officials. The delegation was made up of Erwin Salk, president; Richard Cooper, official spokesperson; Margaret Burroughs and Sylvia Herrera, Chicago Park District vice presidents; and Robert and Pearl Estes, documentary filmmakers.[1]

The group of Chicagoans arrived in the Soviet Union to lobby municipal leaders in Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, for an official ``sister city`` relationship.

``This comes under the heading of `getting to know you,` `` said delegation leader Erwin Salk, chairman of the Chicago Center for U.S./USSR Relations and Exchanges.

Salk said such links between U.S. and Soviet cities help promote trade between nations and understanding between people.

Upon arrival at Moscow`s Sheremetyevo Airport, the Chicagoans were met by two representatives from the Kiev City Council who hosted them for dinner before the group boarded an overnight train for the Ukraine.

Vladimir Melnik, chief spokesman for the Kiev council, said the Chicago delegation will spend the week meeting top municipal officials and touring the Kiev region.

Sessions are scheduled with Kiev park commissioners, artists, religious leaders, housing officials, trade representatives and athletes, Melnik said.

The delegation also includes Rev. Thomas Baima, assistant director of the Office of Human Relations and Ecumenism for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese; Margaret Burroughs, vice president and commissioner of the Park District and founder of the Du Sable Museum of Afro-American History, and her husband, Charles Burroughs, former museum assistant curator.

Also on the trip are Richard Cooper, director of the Chicago Center organization; Robert Estes, president of Five Star International, an independent film company, and Richard Farkas, political science professor at De Paul University.

Completing the delegation`s roster were Sondra Gair of WBEZ radio and Sylvia Herrera, park district vice president and commissioner and assistant vice president of De Paul.

Though the group is not an official city hall delegation, Salk has a letter from Mayor Harold Washington for Velentin Zgyrsky, whose position in the Kiev city government may be likened to mayor.

``I would like to extend a personal invitation to you to visit Chicago and meet with me and representatives of the sister city committee,``

Washington wrote.

Salk carried to Kiev 32 letters from a spectrum of Chicago residents--religious leaders, business leaders, cultural trend-setters--to illustrate that the Windy City desires exchanges with Kiev.

After visiting Kiev, the group is to spend two days in Leningrad before traveling to Moscow next week for a brief stay and then will return to Chicago.[2]

Board of Directors

As at August 9, 1987, Erwin Salk served as the president of the Center.

As at May 13, 1988, the following served on the Board of Directors of the Center:[3]