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Coventry helps Russian ‘twin’ mark historic anniversary

Published Thursday, 08 February 2018

The Lord Mayor of Coventry and Deputy Leader of the Council were in Volgograd to help Russia mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Stalingrad.

Lord Mayor and Cllr Khan in Volgograd
Lord Mayor and Cllr Khan in Volgograd

The city hosted a major event to commemorate the anniversary, with Russian President Vladimir Putin leading the tributes to those who died and to the bravery of the city.

Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Skipper and Deputy Leader Cllr Abdul Khan were invited as representatives of Volgograd's twin city, along with the Dean of the Cathedral the Rev John Witcombe.

The Battle of Stalingrad became a symbol of Soviet resilience in the face of the Nazi onslaught in 1942-43. It claimed the lives of between 1.7 million and 2.2 million people in little more than five months of fighting and marked a major turning point in the war.

Coventry's friendship with the city began while the battle was still raging.

Women from Coventry sent messages of hope to the women of Stalingrad, having experienced the Coventry Blitz just a few years earlier. 

The first message said: "From this city scarred and ravaged by the arch enemy of civilisation, our hearts go out to you, who now face slaughter and suffering even more fearful". 

A total of 900 Coventry women signed their names, which were then embroidered on to a tablecloth, which now has an honoured place in the Panorama Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad.

The people of Coventry also sent supplies and medicines to the people of Stalingrad and the friendship became a formal link in 1944. The two cities will mark the 75th anniversary of their friendship next year.

In his speech, the Lord Mayor said: ""The people of your city suffered great horrors, but showed such bravery and your courage helped to bring an end to the war.

"From those dark days you have risen to greatness once more and you have worked tirelessly to show others the way towards peace and a better world, where such terrors can never happen again.

"The city of Coventry is so proud of its links with Volgograd. Who would have thought those first messages of support would start a friendship that has grown so strong, that inspires others around the world and enriches so many lives.

"We are proud to remember those who gave so much and to remind ourselves of the horrors of war so those dark days are never seen again.

"Your story and your people are inspiring and as we look back to remember the battle, the lives it claimed and the damage it caused, we also look ahead to the amazing future Volgograd has made possible."

Cllr Khan said: "We were very proud to represent Coventry as we remembered the Battle of Stalingrad and all those who lost their lives.

"Our two cities both suffered so terribly during the war and we have now been joined in friendship for over 70 years, working together to spread a message of peace and reconciliation.

"We look forward to continuing that work and celebrating 75 years of friendship with the people of Volgograd next year."

The anniversary ceremonies included a parade with 75 armoured vehicles -- one for each year since the victory – around 1,500 military personnel and 60 aircraft.

Pictured: Cllr Khan and the Lord Mayor in Volgograd at a tribute to the tablecloth presented by the women of Coventry during the Battle of Stalingrad.

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