A moving general meeting

Irina Lebsack (l.) und ihre Nichte Daria Kushnirenko berichteten über die Hilfe des Städtepartnerschaftsvereins.

Town twinning association wants to continue supporting people in Ukraine in the future

Rheine. “2023 was a great year for town twinning work. The year was very challenging and led to a record-breaking number of meetings between people in the twin towns,” said Reiner Wellmann, Chairman of the town twinning association Rheine, at the annual general meeting in the town hall at the weekend. Many members attended to hear the review of the past year and the outlook for events in 2024. Board elections were also on the agenda. Those present were deeply moved by a report from 17-year-old Ukrainian Daria Kushnirenko and Irina Lebsack.

“They stand for the relationships with our city partners Borne, Bernburg, Leiria and Trakai. They are a permanent fixture,” said Deputy Mayor Fabian Lenz in his welcoming address. The association’s commitment gives people from the twin towns a face for all Rheinenserinnen and Rheinenser. “We learn a lot about these cities and what occupies and concerns the people who live there. We can get to know them and that creates closeness, understanding and friendships. Your association acts as a multiplier. And that is particularly important in these times and in the year of the European elections,” continued Lenz. Reiner Wellmann thanked the deputy mayor and the administration for their support. Without them, the work of the association would not be possible to this extent.

The review of the year was largely taken up by a look back at the numerous activities for the 40th anniversary with the twin town Borne. Gerd Cosse showed a video in which the many joint events were recalled. The school exchange with Leiria (Portugal) took place again. Six interns from the Escola Secundaria de Francesco Lobo were also guests at Rheine. The town twinning association is also active this year and supports the accommodation and search for internships. Reiner Wellmann thanked all the companies that had taken on interns. He also thanked the city of Rheine, the technical companies, the EEC and especially the district craftsmen’s association.

Last year, the town twinning association invited the “midwives” of the partnership, Nijole Miskinite and Jonas Kriauciunas, from Trakai. They had retired from active work. The city of Rheine and the town twinning association honored their commitment in a ceremony. The new mayor Sonja Ristow traveled from Bernburg with a delegation to the Rheine-Bernburg days. All in all, it was a busy year with lots of encounters.

Johann Stoffers (left) was bid farewell from the Board by Reiner Wellmann with a small gift.

There were only unanimous results in the Board elections. Reiner Wellmann was confirmed in office for a further two years. Treasurer Ingrid Brauer and the assessors Gerd Cosse and Winfried Hülsbusch were also re-elected. Ildefons Kirfel was newly elected. In future, he will be responsible in particular for student exchanges with Leiria. Johann Stoffers did not stand for re-election. Reiner Wellmann thanked him for his commitment over the past eight years in many areas of town twinning. Udo Bonk became the new auditor.

The number of members rose to 264 last year due to eleven new members. The meeting commemorated the deceased members Elfriede Erben, Herbert Büscher, Theresia Weichel, Winfried Wewer and Udo Mollen in a minute’s silence. Ingrid Brauer’s cash report showed a healthy financial structure. The association supported the youth exchange with Leiria with 3000 euros. The volume of donations for the Ukraine amounted to around 16,000 euros. This was also used to support help for traumatized and injured children directly on site.

The Ukrainians Irena Lebsack and her 17-year-old niece Daria Kushnirenko gave short presentations on what this means in concrete terms. Lebsack thanked them for all the support they have received in Nikolayev, Odessa and Kharkiv. “There are many people who did not have the opportunity to flee from bombs and missiles,” she reported. Many children were traumatized and suffered from psychological problems. She was forced to leave her home at the age of 14 because of the war, said Daria Kushnirenko. “We experienced sad moments here when a rocket hit my town and happy ones when I announced at Christmas that I had passed the central exams at my school,” she said. A large number of her friends see their future in Germany just like she does. “We are grateful to have a warm and comfortable home where we know we are safe. We are happy to have met many Germans who have a big heart and have definitely become our second family,” she continued. The room was quiet as a mouse for a long time as she continued: “All the people from Ukraine are infinitely grateful for having been given a second chance in such difficult times to save our lives from the war and start a new life where we are free and safe. The members of the association applauded appreciatively. And the town twinning association will certainly continue its targeted support for smaller projects in the future.

Bernd Weber presented the campaigns for the European elections.

Bernd Weber concluded by presenting joint activities in the run-up to the European elections, organized and carried out by the Steinfurt European Union, the Society for Security Policy and the Town Twinning Association. Among other things, a “Long European Night” is planned in pubs and cultural institutions on May 4.