33 Years as Sister Cities - in birch trees
On November 18, 2021, we observed the 33rd Anniversary of the signing of The Treaty of Friendship in Archangel. On that date in 1988, four Mainers led by Westbrook Mayor Philip Spiller traveled to Archangel to formalize our relationship; also on that trip were Founder Daniel Glover and Committee Members Beatrice Loynes and Lisa Hayden
As a result of the signing of the Treaty, the first exchange of high school students took place in April 1989. Ten Archangel high school students and two teachers visited Gray-New Gloucester High School for nearly 4 weeks; during the same time ten Maine high school students and two teachers visited Archangel School 6.
The highlight of the Maine student's visit in Archangel was the planting of 12 white birch trees on Voskresenskaya Street near the Historic Center of the City. Everyone took part in planting the birch saplings and a small ceremony was held.
Maine teacher Jean Souliere remembers that Sunday vividly; and he writes:
"The white birch holds a very special meaning. It is considered a sacred tree by the Russian people. In poetry and literature and ancient songs, it is a symbol of Spring, light and purity. Planting young birches is a symbol of new beginnings and growth."
Jean recalls that their host families brought them all to the location, that the small trees were already in the holes with a pile of soil next to each, and that each visitor shoveled the soil onto the root ball of each sapling. After the planting, Jean was interviewed by Mr. Bogomolov, a reporter from the local Pravda Servera Newspaper.
Twenty five years later, the Greater Portland Archangel committee decided to dedicate a white birch tree to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the treaty.
Largely through the leadership of Committee member Dennis Marrotte, a white birch sapling was planted in Westbrook's Riverbank Park on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.
Attendees included Jean Souliere, Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton, Philip Spiller, Jr. (the son of the late Westbrook Mayor Philip Spiller), Archangel Vice-Mayor Vladimir Garmashov, and Archangel City Councilor Dimitri Akishev.
A memorial stone was placed below the tree and inscribed with the words
"This White Birch Tree Celebrates and is dedicated to the 25 Years of Trust, Friendship, and Peace between the People of Archangel, Russia and Greater Portland, Maine, USA."
Now, in November 2021, Archangel has responded in a similar way.
Largely through the leadership of Archangel City Councilor Dimitri Akishev, a memorial stone has been placed below the now very large birch trees on Voskresenskaya Street. Attendees included Archangel Vice-Mayor Svetlana Skomorokhova, City Councilors Dimitri Akishev and Andrei Baleevsky, and several members of the local Archangel media.
The Archangel Stone is inscribed with the words, that this "Avenue of birch trees, planted in April 1989 by the representatives of Greater Portland symbolizes trust and friendship between the residents of our cities."
These beautiful trees and memorial stones will continue to inspire all of us to ensure that our Sister City Relationship will grow and prosper for many years to come.