Planting Hope: U.S.-Ukraine Memorial Tree Dedication Inspires Solidarity and Partnership

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Acting Deputy Under Secretary Jason Hafemeister speaks at the U.S.-Ukraine Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony.
USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Jason Hafemeister speaks at the U.S.-Ukraine Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony on May 10, 2023, at the U.S. National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C.

In a touching display of unity, remembrance, and resilience, the U.S.-Ukraine Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony took place May 10, 2023, at the prestigious U.S. National Arboretum. The planting not only commemorated the strong strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine, but also celebrated the ongoing commitment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to share expertise and information to enhance productivity, increase the use of new technologies, and grow bilateral trade and assistance with Ukraine.

The event was organized and championed by Olena Gnes and Serhii Haranskyi, a remarkable couple who have dedicated their lives to shedding light on the daily struggles faced in their homeland of Ukraine. Gnes, a passionate journalist, has faithfully chronicled the impact of war on Ukraine through her YouTube channel, “What is Ukraine.” Her husband, Haranskyi, is also a journalist, and served in Ukraine’s army. They have a treasured, family tradition of planting a tree on Gnes’ birthday, and Haranskyi was granted leave during the war to plant the tree with his family. This act was a shining symbol of resilience and hope. Gnes and Haranskyi are currently living as refugees in the United States with their family.

Even the chosen tree was a testament to the strength of the U.S.-Ukraine partnership: a magnificent pink horse chestnut, a hybrid of the European horse chestnut and the American red buckeye. The European horse chestnut is also the official tree of Kyiv.

The Morrison Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum served as the perfect location for this significant occasion, not five miles from the USDA Headquarters, where Ukraine was honored last year at the USDA People’s Garden. The Arboretum is home to many trees planted in honor of global partnerships, gifted to the United States by nations of the world.

In addition to Gnes, distinguished guests at the event included the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. USDA was represented by Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Jason Hafemeister and Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Sanah Baig.

As the participants gathered under the shade of the Arboretum’s trees, hearts were full. The event aimed to inspire hope, celebrate the enduring partnership between the United States and Ukraine, and recognize USDA's efforts in assisting Ukraine's agricultural trade sectors. As the pink horse chestnut tree takes root and grows, it stands as a symbol of courage, determination, and solidarity. Through the fusion of nature, the event reinforced the bonds between nations and the belief that together, we can overcome adversity.

The event took place during the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate Summit, hosted in Washington, this year, where numerous countries gathered to collaborate about climate change and ways to ensure a bright and prosperous future for generations to come.

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