A series of relevant and meaningful international stories

Letter from the Editor

In April 2013, twenty years after the founding of ASCA, the ASCA board authorized a project to capture the rich history of the association and appointed me editor. The board was motivated by more than the celebration of a round number. It realized that our founding generation is beginning to leave the scene; what we did not retrieve now would dissipate and a compelling narrative would be lost. The board was also motivated by the desire to learn from our experience so that ASCA can continually improve its service to the community. In gathering the reminiscences of ASCA activists and posting them on the web, the board also wished to send a signal about the transparency of the association’s efforts as an ongoing invitation to Arlingtonians to join with us in advancing the cause of mutual understanding across international borders.

This project has been anything but a solitary exercise. It benefits in the first instance from our talented and dedicated team members, Sandra MacDonald Davis (former ASCA chairperson), and Chrystia Sonevytsky (former president and founder of the Ivano-Frankivsk committee). As is the case for virtually everything ASCA does, this project is a non-paid volunteer activity, undertaken because of a sense of responsibility and commitment to our community.

Together, we have mapped out a three-year work plan designed to produce at least 30 oral history interviews. The first ten we are posting represent all five of Arlington’s sister cities—Aachen, Coyoacan, Reims, San Miguel, and Ivano-Frankivsk—as well as perceptions from the Arlington County Board, with a special emphasis on the older generation of activists. As we add to this collection in the coming months, many other voices, including those from our counterparts abroad, will be added to the mix.

The attentive reader will notice that all of our interviews unfold in similar fashion. Our team decided to focus on three broad areas of conversation:

The background of the interviewee. We were interested in the types of individuals that considered sister city programs important enough to devote time and effort to ASCA. We also wanted to know about the specific path that brought them to ASCA.

The ASCA activities in which our interviewees participated. Here we explore as fully as possible the dimensions and range of our sister city relationships. We also shed light on the dynamics of development of the association and gain some insight into why things are done the way they are in ASCA.

How the interviewees evaluate ASCA: what were their initial expectations and how did they evolve. Where do they think that ASCA is headed.

From responses to these three fields of questions, our aim was to create as comprehensive a picture of ASCA’s origins, development and current association life as possible.

In addition to the interviews published on this site, In addition to the interviews published on this site, we added an essay “Honoring the Founding Generation, The Origins of the Arlington Sister City Association” to honore the founders of ASCA, two of whom, John McCracken and John (Jack) Melnick, have already left us. Without their vision and commitment, our slate would still be a tabula rasa.

Oral History Project Interviews

To read an abstract click the + button.

Click here to read Bernie Chapnick’s full interview:

Son of immigrants from Brooklyn to Biafra, Foreign Service Officer, restaurant owner, cycling enthusiast, and  transatlantic interlocutor, his Aachen connections thrust him into the center of Arlington’s sister city relationship with Aachen. He founded the modern SisterBike program in 2003.
Click here to read Harry Amos’s full interview:

Born and raised in Alabama, West Point cadet, service in Japan, Cambodia, Austria, Cambridge MA and Washington DC, linguist, and founding director of the Arlington-Reims committee, Harry organized Chalons 85 and Chalons 90 to honor the American Unknown Soldier in a Franco-American collaboration.

Click here to read Reid Goldstein’s full interview:

From Rochester NY to Arlington via Heidelberg and Bologna, this Johns Hopkins SAIS graduate is employed in defense planning. Service as ASCA board member and director for the Aachen inbound high school exchange illustrate his parallel career as an engaged civic activist.

Click here to read Chystia Sonevytsky’s full interview:

Founding director of the Arlington-Ivano-Frankivsk committee, she arrived in Arlington via Tódż, Vienna, Bregenz, Alberta, and Cleveland. With degrees in Chemistry and Microbiology, she taught, did research, and worked for an environmental NGO on reforestation before organizing a new sister city relationship.

Click here to read Christopher Zimmerman’s full interview:

Arriving in Arlington in 1979 as an Economics major at American University on a route that started in Greenwich Village and continued in Candlewood Lake, Connecticut, Christopher Zimmerman put his economics degrees to work at the Virginia House of Delegates and the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 1996 he was elected to the Arlington County Board. Active in a variety of community organizations before his election, Zimmerman developed an elective affinity for ASCA and provides a sweeping, yet intimate picture of sister city relationships here.   His wife, Mary Beth, who also holds a degree in economics, plays a central role in ASCA’s Ivano-Frankivsk committee.

Click here to read Wade Gregory’s full interview:

From an one room rural school in Eastern Pennsylvania, to a Masters degree in Agricultural Economics from Penn State University  with military service in the Marine Corps and an  oversees assignment in Guam, and later in Japan after VJ Day, he was a long time employee of the United States Department of Agriculture, Wade had traveled extensively as an expert in agricultural economics to Chile, Colombia and other South American countries.  He also worked for the Agency in Nairobi, Kenya for several years. After retirement he settled in Arlington at a time when ASCA was just beginning to develop. He was one of the original “founding fathers” of ASCA for a time being the person in charge of the forming of the Coyoacan committee. Always willing to give a helping hand he was also involved in the San Miguel Committee where his knowledge of Spanish was appreciated.

Click here to read Sandra McDonald Davis’ full interview:

Sandy was born in Germany to a U.S. military family in 1950. She participated in high school and college exchange programs and spent a 30-year career working in international education.  She joined ASCA in 2004 and served as chair 2006-2009. This was a time of growth for ASCA, both in terms of program diversity, updating its communication tools, and adding two additional cities (San Miguel and Ivano-Frankivsk) to Arlington’s sister city partnerships while re-invigorating the Coyoacan partnership

Click here to read Karl Liewer’s full interview:

Born in Osmond, Nebraska, attended West Point, and began a career in the U.S. military. 20+ year member of the Arlington Sister City Association, early traveler to Aachen, special affiliation with the San Miguel committee, and long-time ASCA board member.

Click here to read Orlando Gamarra’s full interview:

Born in Callao, Peru, Mr. Gamarra obtained his law degree at the University of San Martin de Porres, studied at Georgetown University and was granted a Master of Laws in International Legal Studies at the American University in Washington, DC.  Among other leadership positions, he has served as on the Board of Advisors of the Virginia Commerce Bank and as President of the American-Peruvian Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC.  His legal practice is concentrated in US immigration laws, as well as Latin American transactions.  He is a long-standing member of the San Miguel committee of the Arlington Sister City Association.

Click here to read Heinrich Friedhoff’s full interview:

Heinrich C. Friedhoff was born in Aachen in 1946, experienced the American occupation, was an AFS exchange student in Shaker Heights, and returned to Germany to study law. He established a successful law firm in Aachen and served eight years in Aachen’s city parliament, running on the Social Democrats list. Heinrich was the founding director of Aachen’s Arlington Partnerschaftskomitee from 1994-2000.

Click here to read Hubert Gronen’s full interview:

Returning recently from eight years in Romania, Aachen native Hubert Gronen has reconnected with Aachen’s Arlington Partnerschaftskomitee. In 1994, the young secondary school teacher became a founding member of the Arlington-Aachen relationship and had a central role in founding the Aachen relationship with Reims and the SisterBike program.

Click here to read Waltraud Kőster’s full interview:

Raised on a large farm in Austria during the American occupation, Waltraud (Traudl) Kősters made her way to Aachen after studies in Innsbruck. Engaged in the 68er movement, she earned degrees in Psychiatry and Medicine and operated a successful practice in Aachen for nearly three decades. She was a founding officer of Aachen’s Arlington Committee and became chairwoman in 2000.

Click here to read Jim Rowland’s full interview:

Son of a Connecticut industrialist, Jim Rowland found his way to Washington in the 1980s working on Democratic presidential campaigns. An early member of ASCA, he led the Aachen Committee and then became ASCA Chairman. His experience in the White House served ASCA well.

Click here to read Heidi Addison’s full interview:

Heidi Addison’s German parents ensured she was raised in a bilingual household. From a Midwestern university she spent her junior year abroad in Marburg and graduating in German and Economics went on to engage in Holocaust studies in Berlin, before earning an MBA and settling in Arlington, where Addison joined ASCA to direct the Arlington-Aachen elementary school exchange program in 2004.

Click here to read Karl VanNewkirk’s full interview:

From Frostburg through Vietnam and Cold War Germany Karl VanNewkirk made his way to Arlington and became a steady influence on ASCA’s development from soon after its inception, elected treasurer, then board chairman, then treasurer again. In this interview, VanNewkirk talks about the institutional innovations that created a specifically Arlingtonian sister city brand.

Click here to read Katherine Glenno’s full interview:

A native of Northern Virginia, Katherine Glennon came home to take a position in Arlington County’s cultural affairs division after gathering degrees in fine arts, travelling adventurously in Europe’s periphery and core lands, and gathering experience in Ohio, Appalachia, as well as in DC at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Corcoran Gallery. Here she recounts her journey and a surprisingly broad palette of artistic connections between Arlington and Aachen, Reims, Coyoacan and Ivano-Frankivsk.

Click here to read Jennifer Wright’s full interview:

A life-long familiarity with exchange programs puts ASCA’s Arlington-Aachen relationship in good hands. Jennifer Rohling Wright comes from a Midwestern family and German/Swiss heritage. Via college and graduate school degrees, she learned the trade and assumed responsibility for collegiate and high school programs before joining ASCA.  Rohling-Wright’s career continues with her position at the American International Recruitment Council. As an ASCA board member she has continued to provide expert advice to improve all ASCA programs.

Click here to read Muriel Farley Dominguez’s full interview:

A New York City native, Muriel Farley Dominguez acquired French in school and went on to make the language and culture her life’s passion and career. She taught French at colleges and universities in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia for more than 30 years and has been working with the Reims committee of ASCA for the past ten, most recently as president of that committee.

Click here to read Cindy Zavala’s full interview:

In her 21 years, Cindy Zavala, born and raised of Salvadoran parents in northern Virginia, has been involved in a plethora of Latino community organizations and is actively defining cultural identity for the rising generation.

Click here to read Cindy Zavala’s full interview:

From the barrios of San Salvador to high school in Brooklyn, college in Scranton, community organizing in the DC metro region, a move to Arlington and election to the County Board,  Walter Tejada is the soul of the politics of inclusion and a potent symbol of Arlington’s diverse community.

Click here to read Fatima Küsters’ full interview:

Growing up in Clermont-Ferrand, central France of Algerian parents, citoyenne française married to a German she met in Paris, linguist and world traveler, Fatima Küsters has woven her Aachen-Arlington connection into her cosmopolitan life.

Click here to read Jay Fisette’s full interview:

Jay Fisette came to Arlington by way of Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Paris, and Capitol Hill. In his second decade as elected member of the Arlington County Board, its chairman at the time of this interview, Jay Fisette’s route to public life came through serving citizens in need as director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Arlington.

Click here to read Jürgen Linden’s full interview:

Exemplifying the political urgency of Franco-German reconciliation as leader of a Catholic European youth movement, Jürgen Linden responded to Social Democratic Chancellor Willy Brandt’s call to dare more democracy in Germany’s young republic. As Lord Mayor of Aachen for nearly 20 years, he became and remains a key figure in the European movement as master of Aachen’s Charlemagne Peace Prize jury and fostered transatlantic understanding as prime-mover in Aachen for his city’s sister city relationship with Arlington.

Click here to read Karin Schmitt-Promny’s full interview:

From a small town and Catholic environment Karin Schmitt-Promny is a local patriot and by trade a social being advocating for women and children, co-founder of a successful media business, and elected member of Aachen’s city and then to the regional council.

Click here to read Arnauld Desplanques’ full interview:

Long-interested in the United States, local Reims businessman Arnauld Desplanques was first a member of France-Etats-Unis in the Champagne-Ardennes branch and then headed that organization. Later when the Sister City relationship was established in 2004 he led the Reims Committee for 10 years, establishing the annual American Film Festival and the Thanksgiving feast among other events.

Click here to read Libby Schollaert’s full interview:

Born in Washington, DC, Libby Schollaert began her French career at Château Brillantmont in Lausanne, Switzerland, worked at UN headquarters in New York, taught French first in Charlottesville VA and then in the Arlington school system for 30 years, where she developed Arlington’s high school exchange program with Reims. Meantime, she managed to raise a family in Vienna, Moscow and back in Arlington.

Click here to read Paula Niemietz’s full interview:

Born in Chicago, raised in Arizona, Paula’s transatlantic life began at MIT where she met Dieter and the two newly-minted Ph.D.s—the Linguistics specialist and the Physicist—moved to Germany. As vice-president of Aachen’s Arlington committee, Dr. Niemietz launched the elementary school exchange on an invitation from ASCA-founder, John McCracken, in 2000.

Click here to read Oleksandra Fedoruk’s full interview:

Oleksandra (Lesya) is the president of Arlington’s newest sister city counterpart organization. Born in Ivano-Frankivsk in 1975 to an engineer and an economist whose families came from the western part of the country, she had a normal childhood in Soviet Ukraine. Lesya earned her academic degrees from the Precarpathian University in Ivano-Frankivsk in Literature and English.

In this interview we talked about her family background, living through the transition from Soviet times through independence and then the “orange revolution” and “Euromaidan movement” and the launching of our sister city relationship.

Click here to read Malcolm Phillips’ full interview:

With 45 trips to the country since 1975, very much at home anywhere in Ukraine, and a long way from Mercer, Pennsylvania, where he came into the world, the Reverend Malcolm Phillips was inspired by a Ukrainian university teacher, launched an international career, and became ASCA’s chairman after discovering the new  ASCA relationship with Ivano-Frankivsk.