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Fife town’s fears for twinning group friends caught in Ukraine invasion

The people of Newport fear for their friends in Ukraine.
The people of Newport fear for their friends in Ukraine.

Newport-on-Tay residents are waiting anxiously to hear news of the many friends made during a 20-year link with Ukraine.

The Fife town is one of around eight across the UK to have a formal twinning arrangement with the eastern European country.

And news of Thursday’s full-scale Russian invasion has prompted fears for the dozens of people befriended in the western town of Zolotarevo.

Newport is twinned with Zolotarevo.

Fife Council sent an official message of support to the townspeople on Thursday.

And the chairman of the Newport and Zolotarevo Twinning Association said residents were very much in his thoughts.

Tim Brett said: “There will be many people in Newport who will be anxious and worried for the families who came as part of the initial twinning arrangements.

“A number of the students who came to Scotland will have gone to Kiev to study and work and there must be fears for their safety.”

Marion Heredia and Stuart McKiddie from Newport with Ukranian visitors  Myroslava Barna and Svitlana Slava in 2009. Supplied by Newport and Zolotarevo Twinning Association.

And Mr Brett, who is also a Fife councillor, said the links between the two communities were strong.

“Over the years people have come here and stayed with families in Newport and we have made return visits.

“We can only imagine what people are going through.”

Mr Brett visited Zolotarevo in 2010 and said he found people to be very hospitable.

“They were very keen to develop further links with the west and encourage their children to speak English,” he said.

“It’s clearly a very worrying time for everyone.”

Escalating situation

The Ukraine situation has escalated tremendously since the association sent a message of heartfelt support on February 6.

At that point Russian president Vladimir Putin was still denying any intention to invade Ukraine.

But as talks between the Kremlin and the west continued, 190,000 Russian troops were posted close to the border.

Police officers inspect area after an apparent Russian strike in Kyiv. AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

The message read: “To the people of Zolotarevo, your friends in Scotland wish you to know that our thoughts and sympathies are with you in Zolotarevo at this time of anxiety and concern for Ukraine and your people.

“We hope that through wise counsel and good diplomacy there will be a better understanding between all concerned and that peace will prevail.

“Unfortunately, opportunities for mutual visits between Newport and Zolotarevo have been few in recent years.

“Despite this, our fellow feeling remains and with that our hopes for a peaceful future and greater international co-operation and understanding.

“Our good wishes to you.”

‘Your support is of great importance’

Ann Patskan, who taught English at a school in Zolotarevo, has since replied to the message.

She visited Newport-on-Tay in July 2000 with 24 pupils.

And in her reply, she said: “I would like to express a great pleasure that you send the words of support to the people of Zolotarevo.

“Nowadays, when the whole world is concerned about Ukraine’s movement toward the democratic world, your support is of a great importance to us.”

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