Pol­ish part­ner­ship

City of Wal­brzych signs cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional part­ner cities agree­ment with CBRM


A post-in­dus­trial city in south­west­ern Poland sim­i­lar in size to the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is now for­mally joined to­gether in a cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional part­ner cities agree­ment with the CBRM.

Wal­brzych has a pop­u­la­tion of about 120,000 and has a his­tory of coal min­ing.

A part­ner cities agree­ment sign­ing cer­e­mony was hosted by Whit­ney Pier Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School in Sydney on Fri­day.

Of­fi­cials from the CBRM, Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity, Parks Canada, First Na­tions and school stu­dents and staff spoke with their coun­ter­parts in Wal­brzych in an hour-long video con­fer­ence via Skype.

CBU po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Tom Ur­ba­niak was a driv­ing force be­hind the for­mal­iz­ing of re­la­tions be­tween the two com­mu­ni­ties. His fam­ily hails from Poland.

“The long-stand­ing pres­ence of the Pol­ish com­mu­nity in Cape Bre­ton en­sures there’s a very strong bridge already to the city of Wal­brzych so this relationship is off to an ex­cel­lent start,” he said fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony.

“It will be much more than sym­bolic and it will be much more than gov­ern­ment to gov­ern­ment. In fact, it will re­ally live as a relationship that is school to school, uni­ver­sity to uni­ver­sity, busi­ness to busi­ness, artist to artist. It will grow or­gan­i­cally and over time.”

Pol­ish im­mi­gra­tion to Cape Bre­ton, par­tic­u­larly Whit­ney Pier, peaked around the turn of the 20th cen­tury to work in the steel plant and coal mines.

The part­ner­ship city agree­ment, of­ten called a twin city or sis­ter city agree­ment, brings to­gether an air of fa­mil­iar­ity among gov­ern­ment, busi­ness and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

“It’s not a cold call any­more,” said Ur­ba­niak.

The more tan­gi­ble as­pects of the relationship will come in late spring when a work­shop is held at Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity with of­fi­cials from Wal­brzych.

Mem­bers of the busi­ness, arts and aca­demic com­mu­ni­ties will be in­vited along with mu­nic­i­pal politi­cians to speak on best prac­tices shared from both sides of the At­lantic.

Parks Canada has shown par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in the part­ner­ship as on­go­ing arche­o­log­i­cal digs at the Fortress of Louis­bourg National His­toric Site are sim­i­lar in na­ture to the on­go­ing restora­tion of Wal­brzych’s Ksiaz Cas­tle his­toric site, a medieval strong­hold dat­ing back to the 1200s.

Ur­ba­niak said tourism of­fi­cials in Poland are also in­ter­ested in “cut­ting edge” best prac­tices for at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional visi­tors to the re­gion sur­round­ing Wal­brzych, lo­cated about 30 kilo­me­tres from the bor­der with the Czech Repub­lic.

Wal­brzych’s his­tory dates back to the Mid­dle Ages when its few in­hab­i­tants were known as hunters and farm­ers. By the 16th cen­tury, res­i­dents were min­ing coal, an in­dus­try that would later flour­ish.

The city, rel­a­tively un­touched dur­ing the Second World War, merged nearby towns into one ad­min­is­tra­tive dis­trict.

In the 1990s, due to a poor econ­omy, a decision was made to close down the city’s coal mines. A mu­seum of in­dus­try and tech­nol­ogy was es­tab­lished at the fa­cil­ity of the old­est coal mine in the area, sim­i­lar to the Cape Bre­ton Min­ers’ Mu­seum in Glace Bay.

One of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wal­brzych, a re­tired coal miner and tour guide, re­marked dur­ing the cer­e­mony his “envy” of Cape Bre­ton’s world-renowned Men of the Deeps choral group.

Speak­ing of the stu­dents in their re­spec­tive rooms dur­ing the cer­e­mony, Wal­brzych Mayor Ro­man Szele­mej said he en­cour­aged cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional ex­changes among schools.

“Hope­fully they will con­tinue our part­ner­ship for years to come,” Szele­mej said.

The CBRM also has a signed 2015 sis­ter city relationship with Dalian, a port city of six mil­lion peo­ple in China’s Liaon­ing Prov­ince.

The ar­range­ment was to open doors to com­mer­cial, cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional ex­changes.

CBRM Mayor Ce­cil Clarke said the idea of part­ner cities is an im­por­tant one.

“There was thought put into what would be the best twin­ning (of com­mu­ni­ties). This wasn’t just (about) let’s sign a doc­u­ment. It was about how do we have a mean­ing­ful relationship with an­other com­mu­nity that we can build on go­ing for­ward,” he said.

Clarke noted the eco­nomic and so­cial relationship with Dalian is still grow­ing three years after sign­ing its agree­ment with the Chi­nese port city.

“Where are we at as (CBU) look at stu­dent re­cruit­ment. As we look at the uni­ver­sity’s fu­ture, we see China as a growth mar­ket,” the mayor said.

“Be­cause Dalian is north of Beijing, the prov­ince’s fo­cus has been on south­ern China in terms of the premier’s trade ef­forts, so this is a niche we will con­tinue to build on and it’s part of the mar­ket­ing ef­forts that are on­go­ing by the port de­vel­op­ers.”

The CBRM was also twinned in 2017 with Givenchy-en-Go­helle, France, the over­seas home of the Cana­dian National Vimy Me­mo­rial. The procla­ma­tion by both mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties came prior to the 100th an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge.


Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity Mayor Ce­cil Clarke shows the signed agree­ment with its new­est part­ner city, Wal­brzych, Poland, at a cer­e­mony at Whit­ney Pier Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School on Fri­day morn­ing. A del­e­ga­tion from Wal­brzych spoke live with a group of about 45 mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials, stu­dents and com­mu­nity mem­bers via Skype.


Whit­ney Pier Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School Grade 8 French im­mer­sion stu­dents Kristofer Star­zom­ski-Wil­son, left, and Le­muela Aju­won, read the part­ner cities agree­ment be­tween the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Wal­brzych, Poland, dur­ing a joint cer­e­mony in Whit­ney Pier with Pol­ish del­e­gates join­ing via Skype.

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