ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea isn’t looking to end the Star City’s relationship with its sister city of Pskov, Russia anytime soon.
In a letter sent to Richmond on Monday, Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea addressed his conversation with Gov. Glenn Youngkin about Roanoke ending its sister city relationship with the Russian city.
“I do not believe that this support necessitates dissolution of our 30-year relationship with the people of Pskov, Russia. Indeed, it is times like these that such relationships are more important than ever - as person to person, we seek understanding and peace, " wrote Lea in the letter sent to the Governor.
Since October 1992, Roanoke Valley Sister Cities has been involved in numerous humanitarian, educational and medical initiatives in Pskov, Russia.
In the wake of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Youngkin is calling for decisive action in support of Ukraine. Part of that includes Roanoke ending its sister city partnership with Pskov, Russia.
Jessie Coffman works directly with the organization’s constituents in Pskov.
“To us, it is more of a bridge to continue the relationship because it keeps channels open for possible discussions or diplomacy. So, if we were to sever that relationship we feel that would be more detrimental than keeping the relationship open,” said Coffman.
Right now, she said they’re working on re-establishing an exchange program and organizing roundtables on culture.
Below is the full text of Lea’s letter:
Dear Governor Youngkin:
Thank you for speaking with me on the phone Sunday morning regarding your concern for the people of Ukraine. As Mayor of the City of Roanoke, I stand united with you and President Biden in denouncing the heinous actions undertaken by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. Along with others from across the Commonwealth and this Nation, I offer my prayers and support for those in Ukraine actively resisting invasion of their country. I do not believe that this support necessitates dissolution of our 30-year relationship with the people of Pskov, Russia. Indeed, it is times like these that such relationships are more important than ever - as person to person, we seek understanding and peace.
Established in 1956 by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower, sister cities are intended to advance peace through person-to-person relationships such as that between the people of Roanoke and Pskov. In his speech calling for the establishment of sister cities, President Eisenhower specifically cited the importance of such relationships between those in America and those in Russia as the only road to genuine understanding and peace. What was true in 1956 is no less true in 2022.
Now is no the time for further division, but rather to ensure we demonstrate compassion for and support of the people of Ukraine while continuing to use our existing relationships with the people our sister cities to show them there is a better way, a way led by common understanding, freedom and peace - standing in direct contrast with the path of authoritarianism and violence.
I hope and pray that the residents of Roanoke understand how important it is we maintain our relationship with the people of Pskov while rejecting the unacceptable actions of their leader and continuing to show our support of the people of Ukraine and the suffering they are enduring. Any change in this relationship should only proceed after thoughtful deliberation by the entire Roanoke City Council in collaboration with the Roanoke Valley Sister Cities Program grounded in a firm understanding of the intent and benefit of such relationships.
Thank you for all you do to better the lives of those who call this great Commonwealth home. I look forward to our continued work together in making Roanoke and Virginia as strong as they can possibly be.
Sherman P. Lea, Sr.
MayorRoanoke Mayor Sherman Lea