Linkages, Russia and Covid-19

The Covid-19 public health crisis has left no corner of the globe untouched and Russia, including our sister city, Velikiy Novgorod, has not been exempted. At this writing, Russia is the world’s fourth most-affected country in terms of infections, behind the US, Brazil and India. Russia now reports nearly 830,000 cases.

Almost all international flights were grounded on March 27; Russia’s international borders remain closed but the government is in negotiations to reopen some borders and permit entry to some foreign visitors. Social isolation policies are gradually being relaxed. Vladimir Yarish, the famous birchbark weaver in Novgorod, tells us the Culture Centre is open again and he is back to work.

Our friends in Novgorod also tell us that they were practicing the same public health measures as we have been to control the spread of the virus. Residents were expected to stay at home and practice social distancing. Some residents are isolating in their rural dachas. The impact of the pandemic has been more severe in larger cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Linkages had an ambitious schedule of activities in 2020 that were interrupted or postponed because of the Covid-19 crisis. We are foregoing a hardcopy Linkages newsletter this season because of the pandemic in favor of a series of articles sent by e-mail and posted on the Linkages website.

A series of articles will detail the ways in which the pandemic has changed our plans for the foreseeable future. The timing was unfortunate as 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Rochester and Velikiy Novgorod. It was 30 years ago in July 1990 that a delegation from Rochester traveled to Novgorod to sign the sister city agreement. 2020 is also the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, or the Great Patriotic War as it is known in Russia. The City of Rochester and Linkages were invited to attend 75th anniversary celebrations which were originally planned in May.

Although plans were abruptly upended, the mission of Linkages has not been interrupted and we will find ways to observe this milestone anniversary at a distance. Now more than ever, it is important to maintain our ties of friendship to support each other through a time of common hardship.

In May the Linkages Board saw that Novgorod was beginning its own painful journey through Covid. Although we in Rochester were just a few months ahead in our own experience with the pandemic, we wanted to send a message of solidarity and support. We created a PowerPoint message on YouTube which we sent to many friends in Velikiy Novgorod who then circulated it among their social circles in the city. A short time later we received a similar message on YouTube from Novgorod. For those of you who have not yet seen them, hwe invite you to open the links below.

Message of Hope to friends in Velikiy Novgorod:

And here is a

Return message from our sister city

Both communities have progressed in learning how to cope with this virus but the messages of support and friendship we exchanged in the spring are still relevant and powerful. Hopefully they will help all of us through these challenging times.

Paul Caccamise

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