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OPENing windows of opportunity

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 11:19 a.m. CST

Those of you who have been around much longer than me and have followed the happenings of OPEN-Newton have probably noticed over the last couple of weeks that I haven’t mentioned a certain name.

That omission, until now, was by design. Because of a special project that is being developed at this very moment, I wanted to wait to talk about Vladyslav Dymion, because his family will play a central role in a series of events later this year in Newton and Jasper County.

Since 1996, OPEN-Newton has initiated nearly 60 projects of an international nature. And, despite losing funding from the Newton City Council, and despite the departure of Maytag, the sister city organization didn’t fold up shop.

In fact, in 2010, it successfully pulled off its biggest project ever — a project that required more than $65,000 in donations to pull off. Vladyslav was a big part of that project, and you can see its fruits today by visiting the Jasper County Historical Museum.

There, at the south entrance, you will find the “Friendship Memorial,” a limestone sculpture crafted by the Ukrainian sculptor in May and June of 2010 and completed just before the Iowa Sculpture Festival. It was officially unveiled in its permanent location during a special ceremony in August of that year.

The sculpture honors the American and Ukrainian soldiers’ historic meeting, “The East-West Link-Up” at the Elbe River in Germany, near the end of World War II. Two soldiers from Newton took part in that historic meeting.

April of 2010 marked the 65th anniversary of the Link-Up, so that month, OPEN-Newton sponsored a special event at Newton Senior High School commemorating the historic meeting, complete with professional re-enactment actors. A few days later, Vladyslav set to work on the Friendship Memorial.

Marvin Campbell, who planned much of the project — as well as the project OPEN-Newton will be involved in later this year — met Vladyslav during one of his many visits to Ukraine. The two struck up a friendship, which resulted in the talented artist coming to Newton to work on the masterpiece.

It’s truly a fitting reminder of the blood, sweat and tears shed by our military veterans during World War II.

During Vladyslav’s visit to the U.S., two journalists came along, producing five 20-minute programs about Newton for a local television station. Marvin also took the artist on a trip to South Dakota, where he was able to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument.

The artist’s son and daughter will come to Newton in December of this year as part of a new OPEN-Newton project. Roman and Nadya Dymion will present a program in Newton and at a number of school districts around the area on how Christmas is celebrated in Ukraine.

Christmas is a relatively new holiday for many Ukrainians, who instead celebrated New Year’s Day much the same way many Americans celebrate Christmas. The Dymions will talk about those differences and show a video of how Christmas is celebrated in our sister state.

A second program offered during December will focus on Ukrainian icons, which are a rich part of the Eastern Orthodox faith. During World War II, they disappeared, but following the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, they began to return.

Marvin Campbell will give a three-part presentation on the history of Ukrainian icons, where they went during the wars, and how they returned.

“The purpose of the projects is to continue the ongoing process of providing projects that will inform the people of Iowa and Ukraine on each other’s history and culture,” Marvin said. “These projects will also help to renew and create new friendships between the people of Iowa and Ukraine.”

During their 25-day visit, Roman will produce an educational DVD for the people of Cherkasy, Oblast, which will show how the people in their sister state of Iowa experience the Christmas holiday. Nadya will assist in the video production, and will serve as an English-Ukrainian translator.

It will be quite the undertaking, but Marvin does have a track record of somehow pulling these sorts of things off. So, I’m less concerned about making it happen and more excited to see how it all will unfold.

There are a lot more fun and exciting things coming in the future for OPEN-Newton. Earlier this year, the board worked on a strategic plan, which includes:

• Culture Class — OPEN-Newton would like to work with DMACC, Iowa State University, Central College and Grinnell College to develop a culture class.

• Open World — OPEN-Newton is exploring what it needs to do to become a regular host site for Open World events. This is a program with which OPEN-Newton President Jane Ann Cotton has some experience.

• Ukraine Delegation — OPEN-Newton is exploring the possibility of taking a new delegation of Newton residents to Ukraine, perhaps in May of next year.

There are additional projects the board will explore going into 2014, including ways in which OPEN-Newton can attract more young adults to its organization, as well as opportunities to acclimate new immigrants and foreign visitors to our community. We’ll talk about those in more detail in the future.

Meanwhile, we’re also working with former Daily News staff writer Nicole Wiegand on the development of a new OPEN-Newton website. We get to see the progress on that project next week.

And, we’re preparing for a new OPEN-hosted exchange student, who will be coming from Wu-Chi Town, our sister city in Taiwan. You can be sure the Daily News will be introducing him to the community as soon as he arrives later this month.

I’m looking forward to it.

• • •

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

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