Sonoma is running for Ukraine
“Shocked” and “very saddened” is how Sonoma city officials described themselves this week in a letter to the mayor of the Ukrainian town of Kaniv, one of the city’s seven “sister cities”. city of Sonoma.
The letter was sent on Friday in response to the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, a siege condemned by governments around the world and resulting in unprecedented economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union, the United States and other nations.
The letter was emailed to Ihor Ren’kas, mayor of Kaniv, a town of about 29,000 located on the banks of the Dnieper, about 90 miles southeast of the capital Kiev. Kaniv has been a “sister city” to Sonoma since Kaeti Bailie lobbied for the Cold War partnership in 1987.
The letter, signed by Sonoma Mayor Jack Ding and Sonoma Sister Cities Association President Diana Short, calls the attack on Ukraine “absolutely unacceptable.”
“The loss of life and the attempted destruction of your free and democratic society is unforgivable,” the letter states.
“In these difficult days, we see the heroism and bravery shown by your leaders and ordinary citizens. We feel helpless in the face of unprovoked attacks on your country.
“We stand by your side, extending the hand of friendship and offering all the support we are able to provide.”
At press time, no military action in Kaniv had been reported.
Short said they hope to hear from Mayor Ren’kas on how best the Sonomans can help the city, whether they need money or medical supplies or anything else. “We’ll give it a few days,” she said, noting that they don’t know for sure if the email ever made it to the Ren’kas.
If they receive a response, she said, they will post the necessary information on both the Sonoma Sister Cities homepage and a newly created Sonoma/Kaniv Facebook page. The Sonoma Sister Cities have already launched a donation page to benefit Kaniv at givebutter.com/SisterCities_Kaniv. Monday afternoon, it showed $50 in donations.
Sonoma and Kaniv entered into their sister city relationship in 1987, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. According to the agreement signed between the cities at the time, the “strengthening bonds” movement was motivated by a desire to contribute “to the cause of peace, disarmament and mutual understanding among nations”.
In short, relations between sister cities are generally established with cities that share a common point. “Kaniv is a tourist destination” like Sonoma, Short said. Founded in the 11th century, the city is best known as the burial place of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, considered the father of modern Ukrainian literature.
She said Kaniv sent a delegation to visit Sonoma in 1988 and Sonoma sent a delegation back to Kaniv the following year.
Sonoma resident Cathie Sperring was part of this first delegation from Sonoma and recalled that establishing a connection with the Soviet bloc country was part of an “effort to create a more peaceful world”.
“It was back then, much like now, when the global fear of a possible nuclear holocaust was felt by many people around the world,” Sperring said. The trip included stays in Moscow and St. Petersburg before ending in Kaniv, where the matchmaking process was formalized.
“Many of us who have experienced this beautiful connection with our sister city in Ukraine feel a very strong reaction to the news happening there,” Sperring said.
Other delegations have been exchanged over the years, Sperring added, including student groups.
However, due to the unrest caused by Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula into Ukraine in 2014, Sonoma eventually lost connection with its sister city partners in Kaniv and, since then, the Sonoma Committee- Kaniv Sister City has remained largely inactive, Short said. . Until now.
Like much of the world, the events of the past week have prompted Sonoma to act on behalf of its sister city and Ukraine, as the nation faces the greatest threat to its sovereignty since the Cold War.
Over the weekend, dozens of Sonoma residents took part in protests outside City Hall to show their support for Ukraine, with participants waving signs denouncing the attack and calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin. to end its assaults on what is widely seen as a movement. take control of the increasingly Western-friendly former Soviet republic.
Among the rallying cries on the signage were: “Niet to Putin”; “Peace for Ukraine”; and “Zelensky = Hero, Putin = Zero” in reference to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s vow to stay in Kiev and fight the Russian onslaught.
El Verano resident Rhonda Bonecutter helped kick off rallies Friday night and Sunday afternoon in the Plaza in a bid, she said, “to show that we stand with the brave Russians who are descending into the streets of Russia to protest against Putin’s invasion”.
“The response has been very positive,” Bonecutter said in an email to the Index-Tribune, with Sunday’s rally drawing around two dozen protesters and a “constant stream of cars” honking in support. She said some local Ukrainians participated, and others stopped by to “warmly express their gratitude for the initiative and their concern for the situation in their country.”
She plans another rally in front of City Hall on Friday, March 4 at 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Sister Cities are regularly updating their websites in hopes of serving as a “one-stop-shop” for Sonomans to find the latest information on the difficult situations in Kaniv and Ukraine, Short said.
“We try to fill the need (for information) and participate as much as we can,” Short said. “We want them to know that we are there for them.”
Sherri Ferris, chief of protocol for Sister Cities, said the Ukrainian flag will fly over Sonoma City Hall all this week “to salute the bravery and sacrifices made by the Ukrainian people and to demonstrate solidarity and support from our sister city in Kaniv.”
Ferris added, “After all, Sonoma is a community that cares about others who may need our friendship and help during a difficult time.”
Email Jason Walsh at [email protected]