Burlington maintains Russian sister city relationship amid Ukraine tensions
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A group of Vermonters gathered in downtown Burlington Friday to protest a potential war in Ukraine.
Organizers say they’re also planning “teach-ins” to educate people about this conflict. They hope to have information about those out in the next couple of days.
While Russia and the U.S. stand at odds over Ukraine, Burlington maintains its lengthy and unique relationship with one Russian city.
Even with current tensions sparking local protests, as well as the pandemic, those involved with Burlington’s sister city program with Yaroslavl, Russia, say the relationship is alive and well.
“Sister city relationships were supported by both governments as a way to establish friendly relationships between ordinary citizens,” said Oliver Carling of the Burlington Yaroslavl Sister Cities Program.
Carling helps to maintain the sister city program. It began in 1988 and continues assisting in exchanges involving mayors, musicians and more on a regular basis.
Even with COVID, much of the program has continued online.
“Of course, we look forward to returning to Yaroslavl in future years and having groups come to Burlington again face to face, but we will continue this online connection we’ve made and work on online projects as well,” Carling said.
During the course of the relationship between the two cities, Russia and the U.S. have stood at odds more than once.
While the program avoids direct discussions about national conflicts, Patricia Preston from the Vermont Council on World Affairs says the connections established by these types of programs create important insight.
“The more that we do that and the more we engage with the world and its people, the more peaceful the world will be,” Preston said.
Adam Roof, a former Burlington city councilor, has visited Yaroslavl twice as part of the sister cities program.
“It was intimidating at first, but what I learned once I got there is that the people of Russia and Yaroslavl were incredibly hospitable,” Roof said.
Many other sister city relationships were formed around the same time as the one between Burlington and Yaroslavl, although they don’t always stand the test of time.
“Even though it’s sort of an unusual pairing, our relationship has been one of the most successful they say and continuing these exchanges over time,” Carling said.
Carling says they are looking for people to get involved with the sister cities program. They’re especially looking for teachers who might want to do student art exchanges.
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