AN ONLINE summit on April 23 for International Twin Cities Day marks the start of a year-long celebration between Coventry and its 26 twin cities across the world.
Coventry pioneered the twinning movement, and together with the Russian city of Volgograd – its very first twin city – is celebrating the anniversary of how it all began. 2021 is the 80th year of Citizens2Citizens Friendship, started by the women of Coventry and now widely spread across the world.
Devastated by aerial bombing, Coventry understood the pain of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, which experienced more than a million casualties during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43.
On October 6 1941 The Coventry Telegraph reported that women in the city 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.
Events are being planned by a group 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.
They will start with an online summit on April 23 marking International Twin Cities Day from 2pm. Invitations have been sent to Coventry’s 26 twin cities, each of which will present a short message of friendship.
This summit will see the launch of the new Twin Cities Awards on October 6 2021 honouring individuals and organisations for their work in promoting international friendship. A committee of experts in Volgograd will then host a reception in the city on October 30.
A grand live event on the International Twin Cities Day will take place in April 2022.
Lord Mayor of Coventry, Coun 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.”
- Volgograd stands on the mighty Volga River, in the south-east of Russia.
- Formerly called Stalingrad – the fortress that played a pivotal role in the Second World War – its story is featured in the film ‘Enemy at the Gates’ starring Jude Law and Rachel Weisz.
- The battle with the battle with Nazi forces started in July 1942 and has been described as the bloodiest battle of all time – an estimated 1.9 million people, almost twice the city’s current population, were killed, wounded or captured
- One of its most iconic landmarks is an 85m high statue, the Motherland Calls, of a woman holding a sword on top of a hill above the city known as Mamayev Kurgan, a memorial complex commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad.
- It is sandwiched between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, midway between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, and a long way south of Moscow.
- The city was rebuilt after the war, and new apartment buildings and factories extend for more than 40 miles along the river.
- The University of Volgograd was opened in 1980.