MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Modesto city leaders said they are concerned for their sister city in Ukraine as the conflict between the country and Russia continues to escalate.
“It’s about exchanging culture and understating one another,” said Modesto Sister Cities International President Catrina Girard.
More than 6,000 miles apart, the city of Modesto and Khmelnytskyi have been sister cities since 1987.
“Our mission is to promote peace through mutual friendship, mutual exchange, mutual understanding and developing relationships with people of our sister cities,” Girard said.
Girard said the city has welcomed delegations of Ukrainians since 2011, and in the past, they have even shipped medical supplies overseas when they were in need.
“We were supposed to have a delegation arrive on March 11, and obviously, that’s not going to happen now,” Girard said.
As the conflict escalates, many things remain uncertain.
“Well, this has all happened so recently, so I think we’re all in a little bit of shock,” Girard said. “Even though we thought maybe it’s coming, it’s hard to believe that it’s actually happening, especially when you look at what’s happening on television. And we’re all very worried for their safety.”
“I’m deeply disturbed by it. Horrific. I can’t even imagine what the people are going through there as we speak,” Modesto Mayor Sue Zwahlen said.
Zwahlen said she received a holiday card from the mayor of Khmelnytskyi that she keeps on her desk.
“He wrote, ‘Dear Mrs. Zwahlen, wishing you a happy and joyful holiday season. May peace, harmony and blessings of this amazing time be yours. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Kind regards.’ 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 some attention to their plight and to at least send our … They know that our thoughts are with them and that we are concerned for them and for their wellbeing,” Zwahlen said.
“We wish there was a way we could help. This is, you know, obviously this is just happening. The very beginning. I’m not sure what could be done to help the situation, but our prayers are with them,” Girard said.
Modesto Sister Cities International said they are hopeful that they will be able to welcome another delegation from Ukraine this summer.