Modesto community worries about Ukrainian sister city

MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — City leaders in Modesto have said they are concerned for their sister city in Ukraine as the country’s conflict with Russia continues to escalate.

“It’s about exchanging cultures and understanding each other,” said Modesto Sister Cities International President Catherine Girard.

Separated by more than 10,000 kilometers, the cities of Modesto and Khmelnytskyi have been sister cities since 1987.

“Our mission is to promote peace through mutual friendship, mutual exchange, mutual understanding and the development of relationships with the people of our sister cities,” Girard said.

Girard said the city has hosted delegations of Ukrainians since 2011, and in the past they even shipped medical supplies abroad when needed.

“We were supposed to bring in a delegation on March 11, and obviously that’s not going to happen now,” Girard said.

As the conflict escalates, much remains uncertain.

“Well, this all happened so recently, so I think we’re all in a bit of a shock,” Girard said. “Even though we thought it was happening, it’s hard to believe it’s actually happening, especially when you watch what’s happening on TV. And we’re all very concerned for their safety.

“I am deeply troubled by this. Horrible. I can’t even imagine what people are going through there as we speak,” Modesto Mayor Sue Zwahlen said.

Zwahlen said she received a greeting card from the mayor of Khmelnytskyi which she keeps on her desk.

“He wrote: ‘Dear Mrs Zwahlen, I wish you a happy holiday season. May the peace, harmony and blessings of this incredible time be yours. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Sincere friendships.’ And it’s signed by the mayor,” Zwahlen said.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the mayor plans to hold a moment of reflection for their sister city and all of Ukraine.

“So that we can bring attention to their plight and at least send our… They know our thoughts are with them and that we care about them and their well-being,” Zwahlen said.

“We wish there was a way to help. It’s, you know, obviously, it just happens. At the beginning. I don’t know what could be done to improve the situation, but our prayers are with them,” Girard said.

Modesto Sister Cities International said it hopes to host another Ukrainian delegation this summer.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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