Sister Rivers – Red River of the North & Dniester River

Sister Rivers – Red River of the North & Dniester River

In October, 2008, Bob Backman, FM River Keepers Executive Director (ret.) and I presented “The Role of Non-Profit Organizations in River and Resources Management: Red River of the North (United States and Canada)” at the International Dniester [nee-ster] Conference in Chisinau, Moldova. Our host was an organization called Eco-TIRAS and its Executive Director, Ilya [ill-e-ya] Trombitsky.  Similar to FM River Keepers and the IWI, Eco-TIRAS International Association of River Keepers advises authorities and populations to manage rivers in a sustainable way, using the integrated river basin management approach.

For both of us, it was our first trip to Europe.  I remember the apprehension; after all, Bob and I are both old enough to remember how the Soviet Union was portrayed in 1970s and 80s America before the Berlin wall fell!

Upon meeting our hosts, that apprehension quickly abated.  Ilya, his assistant Tatiana, and his wife Nina were the epitome of gracious and friendly hosts.  We met many wonderful people, were treated to Moldovan culture, and learned about the (very familiar) natural resources challenges associated with the Dniester River which serves as the boundary between the Republic of Moldova, the breakaway republic of Transnistria, and Ukraine.  The Dniester River begins in the Carpathian Mountains, near the Poland – Ukraine border and flows to the Black Sea.

In 2010, FM River Keepers secured funding from the Museums & Communities Collaboration Abroad (MCCA), a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (U.S. State Department). MCCA funding resulted in another Moldovan trip in 2010.  This time, Bob and I were accompanied by Christine Lainey (current Fargo/Moorhead River Keepers Executive Director), Kathy Deikman (Chahinkapa Zoo Director) and Wayne Beyer (Wahpeton, ND Parks and Recreation Director).  MCCA funding also enabled Ilya, Tatiana, and a contingent of our new Moldovan River Keepers friends to visit the U.S. to experience the Red River of the North Basin.  A Sister River Proclamation between the Dniester River and the Red River of the North was signed in Moorhead, MN.  A photo display book of the Sister Rivers experience can be found here:  

On July 8th, 2021, Bob (now retired), Christine and I joined an online session With Ilya, Tatiana, and European students attending the 2021 Dniester River Summer School in Chisinau, Moldova. It was wonderful to “see” my old friends again! Younger staff from the IWI and River Keepers also joined the online session to present and answer questions about our current events and education programs. 

Organizations involved in the Red of the North and the Dniester River sister river partnership.

My experiences with my European friends taught me lessons I will carry with me.  Whether it’s central Europe or the upper Midwest U.S., we’re not much different.  Residents in the Dniester and Red River Basin share the same natural resource problems, hopes and dreams for the future.  We have much to learn from each other.


Map of the Dniester River between Maldova and Ukraine.