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The British Towns That Aren't Breaking Up With Europe

After World War II, town twinning was an expression of European solidarity. Even as Britain exits the E.U., many in the U.K. want the tradition to continue.
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, raise beer mugs after a boat race between the twinned towns of Cambridge and Heidelberg, Germany, in Heidelberg in July 2017.
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, raise beer mugs after a boat race between the twinned towns of Cambridge and Heidelberg, Germany, in Heidelberg in July 2017.Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

In 1942, Stalingrad was in the midst of a battle that would lead to the deaths of almost 2 million people. At the time, a group of women in Coventry, in central England, sent a tablecloth to the Soviet city stitched with 830 signatures. The partnership between the two cities became official in 1944 and still endures.

“I grew up in the 1980s, when Russia was seen as the ‘other,’” Derek Nisbet, a Coventry-based composer, told me. “The relationship between Coventry and Stalingrad [since renamed Volgograd] has been a really powerful thing—it shows you how people in faraway places aren’t really so different.” Both cities were heavily bombed during World War II: Coventry was partially flattened in a 1940 German air raid, and during the Battle of Stalingrad, six months of brutal bombing descended to hand-to-hand combat in that city’s streets.