Coventry to celebrate historic beginning of twinning of cities

Published Thursday, 08 April 2021

Coventry, in association with its very first twin city Stalingrad (now called Volgograd), is holding a year-long celebration to mark its links with 26 twin cities.

Celebratory events are being planned by a consortium of four organisations: UK Twin Towns & Sister Cities Foundation; Coventry & Volgograd Bond of Friendship Committee; Coventry Association for International Friendship (CAIF); and Positive Images Festival.

Coventry became the pioneer of the twinning movement when it made its initial contact with the suffering city of Stalingrad during the Second World War.

Coventry, which had been devastated by aerial bombing during the war, understood the pain of Stalingrad, which suffered more than a million casualties during the fierce Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43.

On 6 October 1941 “The Coventry Telegraph” reported that women of Coventry decided to send a message of support to the women of Stalingrad. This gesture marked the modest beginning of friendship between the two cities, united by the shared experience of suffering.

A Stalingrad paper wrote about these messages of support on 13 November 1941, the day before the first anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.

In 2021, our city is celebrating the 80th year of Citizens2Citizens Friendship, started by the women of Coventry and now widely spread across the world.

The events starts with an online summit on 23 April from 2pm onwards to mark the International Twin Cities Day. Invitations have been sent to Coventry’s 26 twin cities, each of which will present a short message of friendship.

At this summit, an announcement will be made about the Twin Cities Awards on 6 October 2021 to honour individuals and organisations for their sterling work in promoting international friendship. A committee of experts in our twin city of Volgograd will hold a reception in Volgograd on 30 October.

A grand live event on the International Twin Cities Day will be held in April 2022.

Lord Mayor of the City of Coventry, Cllr Ann Lucas, said: “We are so proud of our links with Volgograd and the way we have worked together for the past 80 years, using our own stories to inspire others towards peace and friendship.

“Who would have thought those first messages of support would have led to a worldwide movement bringing people together in friendship, helping schoolchildren, businesses, faith leaders and politicians to get to know and understand others.

“It really is a cause for celebration and I would like to thank everyone involved for helping to recognise the tremendous amount  of work that goes on to support the twinning movement.

“Coventry is honoured to have been there at the very start and we will continue to work with our friends from around the world to promote twinning and the many benefits it brings to us all.”

Ram Lakha OBE, Chair of the Coventry Association for International Friendship, said: “Coventry is internationally renowned as a centre of peace and reconciliation and as the initiator of the trailblazing twinning movement.

“The first city Coventry twinned with was Volgograd. This twinning link continues to flourish.

“The 80th Anniversary of Citizens2Citizens Friendship is being marked in this very special year when Coventry begins its reign as City of Culture UK. All eyes will be on Coventry. We hope to be significant partners in this celebration and also use our twinning events to rejuvenate our friendships with our twin cities.”
 

The members of the organising committee of the event:

Abdul Salam Khan, Chair of the UK Twin Towns and Sister Cities Foundation

Yuri Fyodorovitch Starovatyh, Honorary Citizen of Volgograd, Chair of Volgograd Peace Fund, former Mayor of Volgograd

Ram Lakha, OBE, Chair of Coventry Association For International Friendship

Olga Sergeevna Bezborodova, Chair of Volgograd Club of International Friendship

Linda Hirons, Secretary of Coventry Association For International Friendship

Tamara Galynina, former Chair of Volgograd Association for International Friendship

Mary Goodwin, Coventry Association For International Friendship Representative at Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee

Natalia Alshuk, Vice Chancellor for International Students Program and International relations at Volgograd State Medical University

Mehru Fitter, Secretary of Positive Images Festival

Olga Igumnova Lawson, Coventry and Volgograd Bond of Friendship Committee, est. 1944

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