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This Ukrainian city faces constant 'shelling and missile strikes.' Stamford wants to be its sister city.

Stamford Advocate logo Stamford Advocate 3/26/2023 Brianna Gurciullo

STAMFORD — Kramatorsk, Ukraine, may be under constant barrage from Russian shelling, but it has a lot in common with the state's second-largest city — enough so that a city-to-city match could benefit both, according to the leader of a nonprofit organization supporting Ukraine.

The Board of Representatives is set to vote April 3 on a resolution recognizing a sister-city relationship between Stamford and Kramatorsk. The board’s State and Commerce Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full board pass the resolution this week.

Bridget Fox, Mayor Caroline Simmons’ chief of staff, told the committee that the idea of linking the two cities came from Brian Mayer, a leader of the nonprofit Ukraine Aid International. 

“Of course, due to the sizable population of Ukrainians here in Stamford, we absolutely jumped at the opportunity to talk with Brian and his team about what this could look like, and how we could move forward with becoming a sister city in the future,” Fox said. 

Mayer and his brother, Marshall, founded the organization after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, focusing on “last-mile delivery” of aid to Ukrainian civilians. They worked with officials in their hometown of Westport to set up a sister-city relationship between the Connecticut town and Lyman, Ukraine around the start of the new year. 

The group is now looking to pair more U.S. and Ukrainian cities. Easton’s Board of Selectmen signed off on a relationship between the town and Svyatohirsk, Ukraine, earlier this month. Stamford and Kramatorsk could be next.

During Wednesday’s virtual meeting, Mayer said his group paired Stamford and Kramatorsk because of their population sizes and their similar reputations as economically important cities.

Kramatorsk’s pre-war population was about 150,000 to 200,000, according to reports by major news outlets. Stamford’s population is about 135,000.

“It’s very close to the front lines,” Mayer said about Kramatorsk. “It hasn’t been occupied during this war, but it has been a near constant target of shelling and missile strikes. As a result, it has just faced an incredible amount of destruction. And in all of the times we have visited Kramatorsk, the one thing ... that they keep saying to us is how much they appreciate just ... knowing that they have friends in the West that want to help, that want to support.”

Mayer told city representatives that the aim of the sister-city program is “not only to show our support for communities that are very much like ours in Ukraine that are facing just an unprecedented amount of violence, but also to help facilitate that support into something that can help the Ukrainian people in the short term as well as in the long term.”

In Westport, for instance, the community raised more than $250,000 over a few weeks, which Mayer said has gone toward supplying Lyman with food, Christmas gifts for children, new garbage trucks, new police patrol cars, office equipment and construction materials.

“These things have all been supplied directly by private donations, not by the city,” Mayer said. “So the city has not spent any money on this, but the official partnership does allow for us to go to private donors and say, ‘This is the sister city of your community, and would you like to help support the city?’”

Kramatorsk specifically is in need of an MRI machine to replace one that was stolen from a hospital, he said.

Stamford has established sister-city relationships in the past, including with Settefrati, Minturno and Rose — all in Italy — as well as Lima, Peru; Jiangdu, China; Nanping, China; Pune, India; Afula, Israel; Sparta, Greece; and Neza, Mexico.

In the long term, Mayer said he hopes the sister-city bond between Stamford and Kramatorsk will lead to cultural exchange and educational programs, including trips by local officials.

Greenwich is moving toward forming a similar connection with Izium, Ukraine, which is about 45 miles northwest of Kramatorsk. Town resident and former Miss Connecticut Olga Litvinenko, who was born in Ukraine, is pushing for that sister-city relationship.


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