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We are a group who seek to promote international friendship and understanding.

We meet together regularly for social events and fundraising and take part in exchange visits with similar groups from our twin cities and partner towns abroad.

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We were pleased to be invited to the opening of this exhibition at the Russian Cultural Centre in Kensington, London. We met Dmitry Belov last year when he outlined his plans for this exhibition, which follows on from a similar one in Paris two years ago on the theme of Stalingrad and France during WW11. The exhibition was extensively researched by Dmitry and was areal tribute to his passionate knowledge of the subject. Councillor Abdul Khan, Deputy Leader of Coventry Council gave a speech. He was accompanied by Councillor Pervez Akhtar. I made a short speech , on behalf of CAIF, which I have reproduced at the end of this article. Our thanks again go to Olga Lawson, who was instrumental in liaising with all parties involved. The exhibition will come to Coventry in late April.

 

COVENTRY ASSOCIATION FOR INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP “STALINGRAD IN BRITISH HISTORY” EXHIBITION OPENING

Venue: Russia Culture House in London, 1st Floor, 37, Kensington High Street, London Friday 31 January 2020 We are here this evening united by our shared concern to preserve the memory of the sacrifice made by the people of Russia and Great Britain during World War II. The Coventry Association for International Friendship, of which I am the Secretary, aims to continue the mission - begun in our city by Provost Richard Howard in 1940 – of spreading the idea of peace and reconciliation and of friendship between people. Representing the people of Coventry, we are here to celebrate the co-operation and solidarity which was started in 1943 and which is on-going to this day between the people of Coventry and the citizens of Volgograd. Conflict and the destruction - in any time, in any place - visits great damage on, not only the physical environment of a city, but, most importantly, on the civilian population and on the civic society as a whole. The restoration of a stable and peaceful society can take a long time and can only be achieved with the moral support of our friends. In 1943, a group of women from our city of Coventry, led by Alderman Emily Smith, made remarkable efforts to send aid to Stalingrad, as people gave sixpence each to have their names entered into a book of condolence and support. 900 women signed their names and these were embroidered into a tablecloth which was with then sent to the city with the message: “Little help is better than big sympathy.” Factory workers also collected money and this was sent to Stalingrad to buy much-needed medical supplies and equipment for hospitals.

In the book of condolence and support the women wrote -

We, the women of Coventry, greet you, the women of Stalingrad, and with you the brave women of the entire Soviet Union, in your splendid resistance to our common enemy, Hitler Fascism. Coventry stands as a symbol to the world of the ruthlessness and murderous brutality with which the Nazis wage their war against the civilian population of both our countries. Hitler’s savage bombers have not only claimed scores of innocent human victims, but have destroyed the most priceless and lovely architectural and cultural treasures of Coventry. So, from this city, scarred and ravaged by the arch-enemy of civilization, our hearts go out to you, who now face slaughter and suffering even more fearful … … we undertake to do everything in our power to remove all hindrances to maximum production, so that the brave soldiers, sailors and airmen of both of our countries will not lack arms in this titanic struggle. Once more we greet you, women of Stalingrad, salute your undefeatable courage and inspiring sacrifice, and pledge ourselves to play our part to the full until our common victory is won”.

Coventry was not the only place in Great Britain which raised raise aid and donations for ruined city of Stalingrad, as you can see from this exhibition, and we share in this history between our two countries acknowledging the struggle that Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, and the UK endured together against Fascism. We hope to continue to assist in preserving this history of British-Russian friendship and co-operation and to help to promote the development of friendly contacts between the civil societies of our two countries.

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