Ukrainian mayor visits SU, commemorates sisterhood city status

Ukrainian mayor visits SU

Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn spoke at an event in Maxwell where he celebrated the relationship between Syracuse and Irpin.
Published: April 15, 2023 | Updated: April 17th, 2023 at 11:57 am
Oleksandr Markushyn, mayor of Irpin, Ukraine speaks at the Maxwell School on Friday, April 14.
Oleksandr Markushyn, mayor of Irpin, Ukraine speaks at the Maxwell School on Friday, April 14.

The Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs welcomed Oleksandr Markushyn, mayor of Irpin, Ukraine, to Syracuse University on April 14, hosting him in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs to commemorate Syracuse and Irpin becoming sister cities.

The sisterhood of the two cities has been long in the making. Since a Zoom meeting between Markushyn and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, and efforts from Syracuse to provide Irpin with aid during the war with Russia, the cities (and mayors) have had a relationship.

“Even before we signed this agreement, Syracuse helped us with humanitarian [aid] and medical supplies,” said Markushyn. “Now that we are officially sister cities, our agreement [contains] a lot of plans, which I am very thankful for, concerning education, exchanges, humanitarian help… I really appreciate all the efforts Syracuse and its Mayor put into this initiative.”

The event also featured a short address from Gennady Bratslavsky, a doctor and professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University, who co-created the Ukraine 1991 Foundation, a non-profit that has donated to relief efforts throughout Ukraine, including “medications, military-grade first aid kits, gas masks, dozens of ambulances, automobiles, as well as other lifesaving supplies.”

Markushyn, who personally organized and fought in the defense of Irpin against Russia early last year, was awarded the Order For Courage in March 2022 by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

After a welcome and introduction from Maxwell Dean David Van Slyke, Mayor Markushyn, who spoke in Ukrainian and was assisted by two interpreters, began by telling the crowd about his city of Irpin. Markushyn explained that Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv, was “thriving before the war.”

“Unfortunately, everything turned upside down on February 24, [2022] when the full-scale war began,” said Markushyn.

Markushyn told his own story of transitioning from being a “normal civilian mayor” to becoming a militant fighter in defending his city. He personally fought to defend the city from Russia while orchestrating an evacuation of 95% of the city.

He told first-hand stories of what he witnessed on the frontlines of the defense of Irpin, a “strategic” geographic point that was integral in Russia’s plan to take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Markushyn said that without Irpin’s defensive efforts, Kyiv would’ve fallen, earning the city the status of a “Hero City.”

“Our mission right now is to go around the world and to speak to people just like you,” Markushyn told the crowd. “And to ask governments for assistance to rebuild our cities.”

Markushyn, at times accompanied by Bratslavsky, has traveled to various cities that have helped Irpin’s rebuilding efforts in some way. The two traveled to Florida at one point to pick up supplies. Other smaller cities have also committed to helping Irpin, like a small town in Lithuania that pledged to build a kindergarten.

“Our mission is not a financial one,” said Markushyn, explaining that many companies are providing pro-bono support for Irpin’s $1 billion dollar rebuilding process. Irpin has been one of the more ravaged cities in Ukraine over the course of the war.

“I think right now, the biggest help would be sharing information,” Markushyn said, responding to a question regarding what students far away from global situations like the war in Ukraine can do to help.

Responding to questions about lacking support for US involvement and how peace can be achieved, Markushyn explained that the war in Ukraine is about more than just his country, but also one that has impacts throughout the world, and is being fought over the principle of democracy.

The event ended with Mayor Markushyn exchanging gifts with Dean Van Slyke and the Director of the Moynihan Institute, Brian Taylor.