How can sister cities help in Ukraine's recovery? Examples and instructions
From humanitarian aid to reconstruction—we explain how Ukrainians can use the twinning tool to benefit their communities.
What is the problem?
Destruction in Ukrainian cities
From the first days of russia's full-scale attack, Ukraine demonstrated to the world that it wasn't going to surrender. Our enemy turned out to be insidious and ruthless. As of June 28, the total number of russian missiles that struck our cities is 2,811. Fierce battles continue in the eastern and southern directions. russia targets civilian objects and residential buildings and destroys infrastructure. More than 20 percent of the country is occupied by russia, and the russians loot and maim the liberated territories. Cities, towns, and villages of Ukraine, which suffered from russia's invasion, need to find ways of restoration and reconstruction. People who receive internally displaced persons in Ukraine need support in providing for them.
What is the solution?
After the attack on Ukraine by russian troops, the entire civilized world rose against the russian federation. Western countries sided with our state and provided us with many weapons and enormous funds to fight against the aggressor.
True friends of Ukraine showed themselves with care and help in difficult wartime and at the local level. During the war, the interaction between cities like the twinning began to work with a new force. Cities and towns from all over the world are helping Ukrainian communities survive the challenges and consequences of the war.
How does it work?
What are sister cities?
Twin towns or sister cities are cities of different countries that concluded agreements on friendship and cooperation for comprehensive partnership and exchange of experience in economy, culture, education, sports, tourism, urban management, etc. A sisterhood of cities appeared for the first time in 836—between the German Paderborn and the French Le Mans.
The modern concept of town twinning was conceived after the Second World War in 1947. The initiators intended to build "bridges" of friendship and mutual understanding between different cultures and encourage trade and tourism. Ten years later, in 1957, representatives of all sister cities created the World Federation of Sister Cities, which decided to celebrate the sisterhood on the last Sunday of April.
Twinning is a highly flexible tool connecting villages, towns, and big cities. By bringing together people from different parts of the world, the sisterhood provides an opportunity to exchange experience in solving issues communities face, ideas, the vision of problems, and practical help. Twinning can cover a wide range of issues and involve many people from two or more communities, and skillfully arranged sisterly ties can benefit the community.
How to find your sister city?
Cities find twins in different ways. Sometimes it is a top-down process: mayors of two towns meet and become friends; later, they interest the activists of their cities in the joint program of sister cities. Sometimes there is a bottom-up process when a separate group of residents or specialists—teachers, entrepreneurs, sports clubs, and other groups—create an organizing committee that begins to work on sister city program development. For example, in many cases, affiliated schools, higher educational institutions, and sports clubs start working with sister programs. Sometimes forming sister cities is facilitated by the concurrency of the city names or the similarity of local customs. These are just some examples of how you can start looking for a sister city.
At the same time, many cities and towns of Ukraine already have relations with foreign cities. You can check the list of sister cities of your locality on the official websites of local authorities.
"Sister cities" should be distinguished from "partner cities." The latter refers to cities when they've concluded partnership agreements. In most cases, they assume only economic cooperation on several joint projects or one of them.
The agreement on twinning relations doesn't always pursue economic benefit. Cooperation is most often in the educational, cultural, and social fields. Residents of twin cities often visit each other, exchange special delegations, hold joint conferences, including scientific and sports competitions, and celebrate various holidays together. If one is in trouble, the other will always lend a helping hand. This tool can come in handy now during russia's full-scale war in Ukraine.
Does it work?
How have sister cities already helped Ukrainians?
n 1944, the residents of Coventry, the UK, prepared collected funds and a sincere symbolic gift—a tablecloth with the words "Better a little help than a big sympathy" embroidered in support of the destroyed Soviet Stalingrad (now Volgograd, russia). Even then, it was impossible to imagine that 78 years later, the natives of Volgograd would go with weapons to destroy Ukraine.
In March 2022, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on the mayors of European and other cities worldwide to restore the tradition of sister cities and help Ukrainian towns recover. "I want to appeal not only to the governments of the partner countries but also to the mayors of European and other cities worldwide. Today, russia is destroying our cities, as the Nazis did 80 years ago. We call on you to restore the tradition of sister cities and help Ukrainian cities with humanitarian aid and means of recovery. It is a big deal," Shmyhal said in his address.
This year, Ukrainians felt what a united Europe and the world are and what real friends are. From the first days, sister cities from all over the world began to support the settlements of Ukraine not only in words but also in deeds.
Kyiv received humanitarian support from the sister city of Munich. In March, Munich provided Kyiv with 15 railway wagons of humanitarian aid, medicines, and medical equipment. In addition, 12 ambulances, donated to the Ukrainian capital by the mayor's office of the sister city, arrived in Kyiv. Munich also accepts Ukrainian refugees. In addition to Munich, other German towns handed over eight fire-rescue vehicles and necessary equipment for firefighters and rescuers to Kyiv.
The sister city, Marseille, helps Odesa. Two ambulances arrived from Marseille, one of which was an all-terrain vehicle with the appropriate equipment and medical supplies. Also, three ambulances, a fire engine, medical equipment, and medicines have already been delivered from Marseille to Odesa.
Mykolaiv receives humanitarian cargo from the Bulgarian twin city of Pleven. Pleven was one of the first to respond and offered Mykolaiv its help. Medicines, sleeping bags, and chargers are sent to Mykolaiv as humanitarian cargo. All this is distributed to city hospitals and territorial defense units.
As soon as they feel the need for something, the city of Chernivtsi receives the necessary batch of humanitarian aid from the Romanian sister city of Suceava. Romanians admire the spirit and patriotism of Ukrainians—for many, Ukrainians have become an example of a brave fight for their land. That is why Suceava is ready to continue helping its sister city in everything and to cooperate closely. The residents of Chernivtsi also receive humanitarian aid from another sister city, the Polish town of Konin, in particular, medicines, food, warm clothes, and shoes, as well as walkie-talkies and helmets for the military.
Poland, like no other, supported Ukraine in the fight against the russian invaders. The city of Andrychów, a sister city of Izium in the Kharkiv region, also immediately responded with an offer to assist. The sister city sincerely welcomed the residents of Izium, who were evacuated abroad, providing them with shelter in the Andrychów community. Also, the municipal authorities of the commune provide humanitarian support to the needs of the residents of Izium who remained in Ukraine and need urgent assistance.
The German city of Magdeburg supports Zaporizhzhia. Just one consignment of humanitarian cargo amounted to more than five tons of things necessary for the city residents: medicines, personal hygiene products, clothes, and technical equipment.
Zhytomyr receives support from the sister city of Płock; they receive the people of Zhytomyr, particularly children and their mothers.
Khmelnytskyi receives humanitarian aid from seven sister cities! Lublin, Ciechanów, Šiauliai, Częstochowa, Prague, Rzeszów, and Silistra send permanent humanitarian cargo to Ukraine: food, medicine, means of communication, copters, clothes, medical transport, hygiene products, shoes, and much more.
Moreover, during the war, the American state of Mississippi recognized Khmelnytskyi as a sister region. This decision was adopted by the Senate and the House of State. It is the first friendship between a Ukraine region and a state in the USA. Establishing official relations will contribute to humanitarian support for the Khmelnytskyi region; currently, more than 150,000 internally displaced persons in need of assistance live in the area.
The sister cities not only provide humanitarian aid and host refugees but are also ready to help cities affected by the ruscist inflow to recover.
Help in reconstruction
Irpin's sister city, Borna, Germany, will help restore the Irpin Lyceum No. 3, which was damaged by russian occupiers' shelling. The mayor of Borna, Mrs. Simone Luedtke, confirmed this during her visit to Irpin.
The German city of Hamburg, which has become a strategic partner of Kyiv, will assist the Ukrainian capital with the city reconstruction. The towns will identify specific projects for this purpose.
Gdańsk will help rebuild the sister city of Mariupol, which we will liberate. Mariupol Mayor Vasyl Boichenko notes that every town and village of Ukraine can have a European sister city that will help it return to life.
The entire country started to help the Zhytomyr region: The Estonian government has announced that it plans to actively participate in the reconstruction of the Zhytomyr region, which suffered from russian aggression. The country is currently in contact with representatives of Ukraine, including regional authorities, to obtain information about needs.
Denmark will also participate in reconstructing Ukraine after the war; in particular, it will participate in rebuilding Mykolaiv.
The UK has also expressed its desire to take over the restoration of Kyiv and the Kyiv region.
Even more helpful solutions!
How can cities apply for support?
The Association of Ukrainian Cities says over 100 Ukrainian cities have about 700 sister cities in different countries. Heads of communities should take this into account and ask for support and help:
- Send a request for support to sister cities.
- The twin cities can provide the humanitarian aid millions of Ukrainians desperately need.
- Heads of communities should define a list of things that communities need in letters of appeal.
- The twin cities can also organize and demand an end to the war in Ukraine and even the closure of Ukraine's military needs. Today it is crucial for our country!
Every Ukrainian city can renew and revive its ties with its foreign sister cities, establishing contacts, talking about what is happening, how your city survives in war conditions, what it needs and how it can be organized. Our foreign friends have many ways to help Ukrainian cities during the war and post-war reconstruction.
It is also essential to break twin relations with russian cities, as Kharkiv has already done. Kharkiv, which has been under ruscist fire for three months, no longer has any illusions about the true intentions of the "brothers."
In May, the city of Kharkiv unilaterally severed twinning relations with russian cities: Belgorod, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, and St. Petersburg. The deputies unanimously adopted the decision at the extraordinary session of the Kharkiv City Council. Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov emphasized: "You cannot have sisterly relations with people who kill Ukrainians and destroy our Motherland. Such sister cities cannot exist in Kharkiv!"