Two Cent Bridge Kotlas - Waterville Area
Sister City Connection
P.O. Box 1747
Waterville, ME 04903-1747
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Kotlas Connection Celebrates 20 Years of Sister City Ties

1990 delegation from Kotlas

In June 1990, the then-mayor of Kotlas led a four-person delegation to Waterville. During a six-day visit, he and Waterville mayor David Bernier signed a proclamtion formalizing sister city ties. Here the Kotlas delegation poses in front of the Samantha Smith statute outside the Maine State Museum in Augusta. From left to right are Nikolai Sheptyakov, a reporter; Vyacheslav Chernykh, a shipyard engineer; Jane Smith, mother of Samantha; Zina Egorova, an English teacher; and Viktor Zverev, mayor of Kotlas. Zina Egorova, now retired, is also a member of the anniversary delegation.

Motorists coming into Waterville over the Waterville-Winslow bridge are familiar with the sign proclaiming Waterville the sister city to Kotlas, Russia. Visitors to Head of Falls will see birch trees, most dear to Russian hearts, with a dedicatory plaque to the sister city relationship. How many observers know the story behind the sign and the birches?

In the early 1980's, during the Cold War, several residents of the Waterville area began to explore ways to establish friendly communications on a personal level between the United States and the Soviet Union. They decided to pursue a relationship with the city of Kotlas because of its similarities to Waterville, that it was located on a major river, had a railroad junction, and had industries similar to those of Waterville at that time.

In 1989, after five years of persistent effort, three Americans were invited to Kotlas Natalia Kempers, Peter Garrett, and his 14-year-old daughter, Jessica. While skeptical at first, the people of Kotlas soon warmed to the sincerity of the first Americans to visit their city, and agreed to send a delegation of their own to visit Waterville. On June 20, 1990, Waterville Mayor David Bernier and Kotlas Mayor Viktor Zverev signed a proclamation declaring Kotlas and Waterville sister cities. This June, we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of that event.

The Kotlas Connection has scheduled a series of special events to commemorate this anniversary. Earlier this spring, the Kotlas Connection sponsored a five-week adult education course in contemporary Russian cinema. Taught by Sheila McCarthy, emeritus professor of Russian at Colby College, the class viewed four recent Russian films, each exploring a different aspect of contemporary Russian life. The final class meeting was a Russian dinner and a discussion of the films.

Also during the spring, Kotlas Connection members visited classrooms in Waterville, Winslow, and Oakland to present lessons on contemporary Russia and Russian culture. Pupils of all ages were pleased to partake in this portable version of our perennial Russian Sampler.

Later, we organized two Russian-themed exhibits at The Center on Main Street in Waterville The first, "The Russian Tea Table," went up in mid-April. The third week in May, "Russian Arts and Crafts" replaced it. A third exhibit of Russian artifacts went on display at the Winslow Public Library in mid-May. The exhibits showcase Russian costume, art, crafts, and folk art. All exhibits have since closed.

From June 18 to June 28, we hosted a ten-member delegation comprising the mayor of Kotlas, other municipal officials, and members of that city's sister city committee. During their ten-day stay, the delegates toured downtown Waterville, Colby and Thomas Colleges, and the capitol complex in Augusta. They also enjoyed a lobster bake, a cookout, a day at Acadia National Park, and individual activities with their host families.

To conclude the celebration, the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF), which ran July 9-18, showed two contemporary Russian films, Alexandra and A Room and a Half. A reception with Russian snacks followed one of the showings. The Kotlas Connection thanks Ken Eisen and the board of Railroad Square for their support.