On the 6th of October 2021, the Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin came to Coventry as part of the events marking the 80th anniversary of the begging of what would become the concept of international twin cities. Although Coventry and what was then called Stalingrad (now Volgograd) would become the first officially twinned cities in the world in 1944, that process began in 1941.
This is why the eagle-eyed of you may have noticed a wreath on the area at the top of Trinity Street which was dedicated to Volgograd in 2019, on the 75th anniversary of official twinning. The Ambassador probably wasn’t actually taken to the official Volgograd Place, though if the council did take him there, it’s a good job someone had cleaned up the monument a couple of weeks ago.
The Russian Embassy say that during the visit, the Ambassador unveiled the “Stalingrad in British History” exhibition in the Council House in Earls Street, but we’ll have to take their word for that for the moment as the public aren’t currently being allowed in to the Council House as it is still in partial Covid lockdown.
When the exhibition does open, you’ll be able to see previously unpublished documents from Russian and British archives, and it is in Coventry not only because of the long-term relationships built up due to twinning, but because during World War II when the city had its’ own problems, the people of Coventry led a large-scale fund-raising movement to support the city of Stalingrad after the devastation of the Battle of Stalingrad, with over 300 towns and cities across the UK participating in this campaign.
As part of all of this, the Stalingrad Foundation are asking for help and are running a competition. The aim of the competition, and indeed the foundation is to continue to promote international friendship in peace and reconciliation, and they specifically want help in finding any documents not just from Coventry, but from anyone from any of the other cities which were involved in the fundraising to support Stalingrad in the 1940s. Anyone who helps will get a certificate, and someone may well win a trip to Volgograd itself!
For more details, visit the We Helped Stalingrad Facebook page.