'We are all Ukrainians': Syracuse announces sister city with Irpin, Ukraine
Irpin, Ukraine located near Kyiv, was one of the first cities destroyed and liberated after the Russian invasion into Ukraine. Now the City of Syracuse is entering into a new sister city partnership with Irpin.
The City of Syracuse has flown the Ukrainian flag at city hall since the Russian invasion into Ukraine. On Friday, the Syracuse Ukrainian community packed the plaza singing the Ukrainian anthem together.
Dr. Gennady Bratslavsky, cofounder of Ukraine 1991 Foundation, helped bring the idea of the sister city partnership between Syracuse and Irpin.
"The goosebumps still penetrate the body," Bratslavsky said describing hearing the people in the city hall plaza sing the Ukranian anthem together. "As you hear the Ukrainian anthem and see all the people and hear and see how wonderful the heart is of our Syracuse mayor and our people, whether or not they are Ukrainians, they are just at this point, we are all Ukrainians."
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the city of Irpin is a lot like Syracuse. He said the war in Ukraine is personal as Syracuse's Ukrainian populations and their families and friends are being directly affected.
"With this new relationship with the city of Irpin today, we are taking that relationship of our community to another level," Walsh said. "Trying to wrap our arms around the community, both here in Syracuse, in Irpin and throughout Ukraine, and support them through this very difficult time."
Walsh welcomed Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn.
"When the city of Irpin turned back the Russians, President Zelensky named the City of Irpin 'Hero City,'" Walsh said. "I am so proud today to have the hero of Hero City with us, Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn."
Speaking through a translator, Markushyn said he wants to thank the people of Syracuse for supporting Ukraine.
"You can not imagine how important it is for us to see Ukrainians from different parts of the world coming together for meetings to support Ukraine," Markushyn said. "Our military definitely feels that support when they're fighting on the battlefield. Today, we're writing together the new chapter in modern history in Ukraine and our fighters are men and women who are fighting against the evil not only to protect the borders of Ukraine but also fight for the democracy in the world."
Markushyn said it's unacceptable for any country to try and change the borders of another through military intervention. He said Ukraine pays a high price for this battle as they are paying with the lives of military, kids, women and older men.
"Only together after we unite, we can stop the fighting and we can rebuild our beautiful city of Irpin and our beautiful community," Markushyn said.
Markushyn was presented with a traditional Ukrainian bread and salt greeting. Bread represents life and is a symbol of eternity and salt represents friendship. Together they symbolize unity and hospitality between people.
"Syracuse, while being a salt city, bread and salt is also a very classic Ukrainian tradition of greeting somebody and extending the warmest welcome possible," Bratslavsky said. "Perhaps there is a lot of symbolism that also happens in this tradition and in this connection between Syracuse and Irpin, the Ukrainian city hero."
Vlada Putintseva performed a dance called "Bridesmaids" with her sisters as members of the Ukrainian dance group Odesa. The sisters moved to Syracuse in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.
"We're from Kyiv and Irpin is a city in the Kyiv Oblast so it means a lot to us that the city we currently reside in is sisterhoods with the city we're from and grew up in," Putintseva said. "It means a lot."
Putintseva said she hopes people in Syracuse have a better awareness of the situation in Ukraine and how much sadness and grief can come from everyday news.
"We just go about our days and everyone worries about what they're going to eat for dinner," Putintseva said. "We're worrying if our family is safe."
In addition to the sister city partnership, Walsh announced the Syracuse Police Department plans to donate surplus body armor to Ukraine in a ceremony to be held later this month.
Updated 4/18/23: Watch portions from the ceremony below.