The Berne “International Bridge” connected Russia and Ukraine on Earth Day 1990.

“The most wonderful, benevolent, educated people live in state-owned housing, mostly with smelly entrances,” he said. “And then you walk into their apartment and it’s full of classic books and good art on the walls. And the elevators did not work, and the telephones were damaged, and there was no copier to be found. And it was just the third world.”

Kyiv, on the other hand, was incredible.

“Kyiv was the most beautiful city I have ever been to. It is lined with trees. They have a cultural heritage of always planting trees, plants of every generation, trees in the city. And it was great and the people were so friendly,” Evans said.

“I remember my father, a World War II veteran, talking about how amazingly nice people they were and how, you know, he considered them enemies all his life,” Chipman Evans said. “He ended up sponsoring two young Ukrainian students at a college in San Antonio because he just loved them.

But over the decades, the couple has lost contact with virtually everyone they met in Russia and Ukraine.

But the fond memories of friendship and the beautiful places they visited still shine brightly decades later. The bridge embodies this enduring optimism and hope for happiness and peace.

In 1990, Evans and the Cibolo team decided to celebrate Earth Day by planting two six-foot red oaks.

“So we had tree planting,” he explained. “And I was just amazed at the size of these trees now, because they were just shoots when we planned them. My son was just a little boy.”

Evans added: “It was quite emotional because there is an American tree on one side and a Russian-Ukrainian tree on the other. And when the trees were planted, we tied ribbons on them and rejoiced, and hugged each other, and looked forward to peace.

These two Red Oaks have flourished through drought and flood and are about 60 feet tall. As Russia and Ukraine wage a brutal war in 2022, Evans said he wondered what happened to those teenagers who came to the YES camp.

“This is grief. I hope these trees will have the same longevity as many trees here, where they can witness cultures change, conflicts come and go, people go to war and then make peace,” he explained.

“Meanwhile, the trees just sit and take it all in. But it’s great that it all started with such friendship between Russians, Ukrainians and Americans. And so, hopefully, the day will come when we can meet again under different circumstances.”

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