Back in the days when Richland was founded, it would have been unimaginable -- perhaps even treasonous -- to trade tips with a town behind the Iron Curtain.
Then again, back when Richland was founded the idea of talking to someone half a world away by video conference probably was unimaginable, too.
But those days are far in the past and on Monday, Richland officials had a friendly confab with their counterparts in Slavutych, Ukraine, via Skype -- software that allows people to communicate by voice, video and instant messaging through the internet.
Despite being literally night and day from each other with a 12-hour time difference, the two cities may have more in common than they do differences.
Much like Richland, Slavutych was a city planned and built for a purpose -- to house people displaced by the Chernobyl nuclear accident and those working to clean up the site of what is considered the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster.
Perhaps in a bit of symmetry, it was the Soviet government's handling of the Chernobyl accident that some historians say was a catalyst for glasnost -- the policy of "openness" that led to reforms of the communist state and played a role in its ultimate dissolution -- and paved the way for new relationships between western nations and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine.
On Monday, Slavutych officials, who all spoke in English, were eager to extend invitations to Richland officials to attend their town anniversary celebration, and to trade ideas about technology and how Richland uses the internet to serve its citizens.
Slavutych Mayor Vladimir Udovichenko also expressed an interest in cultural exchanges, and offered as a Christmas gift a performance by several of the town's children singing the classic carol We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Fox invited Udovichenko to send Richland a proposal for future Skype conversations and information exchanges, and told him the city council will consider it when they meet again.
"I am very happy you support our proposal for continued friendly relationships," Udovichenko said before signing off.
Fox told the Herald after the Skype conversation that forging this type of connection with cities in other countries is a step toward creating the kind of understanding that eventually could lead to peace instead of global conflict.
"During the Cold War when there was a real threat of it turning hot at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis ... it was hard to imagine we could have this kind of relationship," Richland Mayor John Fox said. "Why should we not think there can be hope perhaps in a generation or so to have a different relationship with countries like Pakistan, Iran and Syria and so on, and to try to reach that state through means other than war?"
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org