Serbians’ visit to Wichita part of program promoting global understanding, cultural connections

Five Serbian women and their facilitator are in Wichita this week making friends and learning about how Kansas businesses, government, arts and charity functions are conducted.

“I hope to learn new things, meet new people and gain new knowledge to use in my work at home,” said Tamara Glisic.

The women were invited to participate in Open World Leadership Center, a weeklong program hosted by the Friendship Force of Kansas. While in the area, they will learn about Go Wichita and Wichita Festivals, meet members of the League of Women Voters and visit a Rotary Club.

They will also tour the Wichita Area Technical Center Aviation Training Facility, Wichita Public Schools, Grace Med, the downtown YMCA, the Lord’s Diner and the Wichita Community Foundation.

Then they will go to Topeka, tour the Capitol and see the Legislature in session, plus visit a small family farm near Rose Hill.

On Sunday, they toured the Wichita Art Museum.

“The idea of the program is to connect cultures in some way,” said Dina Rakin, one of the Serbian women. “We all have private expectations of getting introduced to America, Kansas and Wichita. My idea is to see nongovernmental organizations – how they cooperate with local municipalities and institutions and how they work with citizens.”

Tatjana Bakraclic, the group’s facilitator, said the five women were selected from various areas of Serbia. Each is considered a leader, and they all have different backgrounds.

The Friendship Force of Kansas is part of an international group promoting global understanding. The Kansas group has about 90 members, according to Sherri Lichtenberger, the host director. While in Wichita, the women will learn about Wichita’s aircraft manufacturing legacy and the businesses that have helped build the city, including the beginnings of Pizza Hut and Coleman.

While the Serbian women are in Wichita, they will be staying in the homes of Friendship Force members.

“Friendship Force is the one doing all the planning and sponsoring this week,” Lichtenberger said. “They will have four nights of home-hosted dinners. This promotes good will. Our theme is meeting people on a personal level.”

The women will also be learning about Wichita’s arts and culture scene and the role women play in each of these areas.

“I personally am very interested in your culture, lifestyle and local customs,” said Marija Dosic, one of the Serbian women. “We went this morning to a church and church ceremony. It is much different from our country and customs. I would like to learn much more about families companies here in Kansas. I think we will have a great time here. We think we can learn a lot from you.”

Iva Radic wants to see Wichita’s planes.

“I like airplanes,” she said.

On Sunday as they sat at a table before touring the Wichita Art Museum, they met with Sharon Fearey, president of the Arts Council and a former Wichita City Council member.

“You may think cultures are different, but in the end, you find a lot is just the same,” Fearey said. “When you are friends with somebody, you have a greater chance for peace and understanding.”