A VIRTUAL summit held online on April 23 celebrated Coventry’s links with 26 of its twin cities.
A consortium of organisations put on the event which marked the 80th Anniversary of the modest beginning of friendship between two war-ravaged cities – Coventry and Stalingrad (later called Volgograd).
Among them were the UK Towns and Sister Cities Foundation, Coventry and Volgograd Bond of Friendship Committee, represented by Olga Lawson, Coventry Association for International Friendship (CAIF), represented by secretary Linda Hirons, and CAIF representative at Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee Mary Goodwin, and Positive Images Festival – that was represented by Mehru Fitter.
Coun Ram Lakha OBE, Chair of CAIF, welcomed everybody and thanked Olga for being the driving force behind the first ever summit of Coventry’s Twin Cities.
The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Coun Ann Lucas OBE, reminded delegates of the first step taken by people in two cities who had never met but knew they shared so much.
This bond has strengthened over the decades and inspired other unions.
She also pointed out that the year of loss and friendship during the pandemic had shown the importance of working with others to find solutions.
Coun Lucas said: “Our work with all in the name of peace and reconciliation is part of our DNA.”
She also spoke of the sporting, business and cultural links created by the twinning movement.
There was praise for the pioneering women of both cities for creating something very special and she invited people to visit Coventry online or in person during its special year as UK City of Culture 2021.
The Mayor of Volgograd passed on greetings from the people of Volgograd.
He said a shared common feature of the two cities was that both of them rose from the ashes of war and began the rebuilding process.
He praised the women of Coventry who had sent a message to Stalingrad in 1941 as their message was ‘alive with strength, hope and kindness’.
Anton Chesnokov from the Russian Cultural Centre in London expressed his delight at the participation of millennials in city twinning activities and hoped that young people would ‘take centre stage to use their creative thinking and open-mindedness’.
Clips of Russian cultural performances entertained participants.
The Mayors of Volgograd, Cornwall, Coventry – Rhode Island (USA), Windsor (Canada), Coventry (Connecticut, USA), Cork, Graz (Austria), Parkes (Australia) Kiel, Dresden and Ostrava (Czech Republic) attended the summit.
Messages of friendship were also received from Jinan (China), Caen (France) and Kecskemet (Hungary). Belgrade was represented by Slavica Stojsavkljevic, a former resident of Belgrade who now lives in Coventry.
Coventry was congratulated on its pioneering work in town twinning and on its success in being named UK City of Culture 2021.
All mayors stressed the importance of friendship bonds for better understanding and the solution of international challenges.
Further presentations enlightened attendees about Coventry’s past and future collaboration with twin cities. Simon Brake of the University of Warwick spoke about collaboration between medical schools in Coventry and Volgograd.
Roze Navab, Director of Twin Studios Project, briefed people about the Digital Tablecloth, for which young participants have been invited to submit photographs and comments about what their city meant to them.
Roze described the first tablecloth sent by Coventry women to Stalingrad as ‘an act of solidarity and the digital tablecloth as an act of admiration’.
Marina Voronova of Volgograd spoke about an international contest for young designers.
Tribute was paid to the late John Moore, a passionate advocate for peace and understanding and a founding member of CAIF.
The summit, held on St George’s Day, came to a close with Pru Porretta, Lady Godiva’s reading of a poem about St George, composed by one of the Godiva Sisters.
Delegates described the summit as heart-warming and informative.
Some of them were pleasantly surprised to learn that Coventry was twinned with three other towns called Coventry, that Graz was the first Human Rights City in Europe and that Coventry Garden in Windsor was one of the finest attractions in the city.
The whole summit is available to view on YouTube by clicking below –
The twinning movement continues with the Twin Cities Business Summit on September 27, the Twin2Win Award Ceremony in Coventry on October 6 and in Volgograd on October 30. The grand finale will be held on International Twin Cities Days between April 20 and 22 in 2022.