Mansfield woman relives fond memories of Mansfield's twinning with Ukraine

Events in Ukraine have reignited old memories of Mansfield’s twinning with a small Ukrainian town called Styri.

Monday, 14th March 2022, 4:29 pm

A former councillor and Mansfield District Council chairwoman, Sally Higgins has shared her pictures and memoirs, from the 1990s, when reciprocal visits were made between the towns.

Although retired from council work, Sally, who is 70, and served Mansfield District Council for more than 24 years, remembers an incredibly “interesting time” during the towns’ cultural exchanges.

Although there hasn’t been much connection between Mansfield and Styri recently, the current mayor Andy Abrahams has written to Stryi offering “Mansfield’s solidarity and support”.

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Ramon Shramovat Mayor of Stryi and sally Higgin chair of Mansfield District Council sign the twinning agreement in 1997

Mansfield's old Town Hall has been illuminated in blue and yellow, and a minute’s silence marking the loss of life in Ukraine, was held at the full council meeting, last Tuesday, when the mayor sent a message to the current Stryi Mayor.

Sally attended the meeting, as a member of the public, to show her respect.

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Remembering her experiences, Sally, who lives on Welbeck Street, described her “excitement and trepidation”, after receiving her council chain of office, in 1997, after finding herself immediately on route to Styri, a small town near Lviv, in western Ukraine.

Former MDC chairwoman Sally Higgins with the mayor Ramon Shramovat Mayor of Stryi during the twinning visit

Sally described its relationship and distance to Lviv, as being much like Mansfield to Nottingham.

She said: "It was a huge surprise, just four days after being made chairman, I had to go to Stryi. It was an adventure! I was excited, a bit nervous, and had no idea what to expect.”

The twinning was formally signed in 1997 and created after members of a Ukrainian club approached the council to make the link.

Sally said: "Twinning was the rage then, all the councils were doing it, we even had a link with a suburb of Moscow, and other countries.

Sally Higgins (in pink) pictured with Ramon Shramovat Mayor of Stryi and others during the twinning

“Sadly, over the years our Ukraine links faded, as some of the people involved got older or have died, or others moved on.”

“Our visit coincided with independence day celebrations, on May 25. I remember being taken here and there, we saw some stunning, places, I was struck by the immense beauty and rural nature of the country.

"There were hardly any people about once you left the towns, you’d see people with carts loaded with hay, there were not many facilities, the western world hadn’t had any impact.

"The food was beautiful, so tasty, we had lots of courses, I especially loved their mushroom soup, it was delicious.

Sally Higgins Mansfield District Council chairman (1997/98) and others during a ceremony marking the twining agreement with Styri and Mansfield

“When the Ukraines visited us, they were not so impressed by English food, especially not fish and chips! They preferred their own flavours, they had their own traditional dried fish dish.

"The people were so welcoming, generous and fascinated by how we spoke, we shared our ‘eh up mi ducks’ with them!”

The twins also discovered a bond through Robin Hood.

Sally said: “We were taken into the Carpathian Mountains to a beautiful lake, they gave us a picnic, it was a feast.

"We were shown a cave with a legend about a Ukrainian-type Robin Hood.

"When they came here, we showed them our Robin Hood, the Major Oak, Sherwood Forest, they were intrigued”

Mansfield Old Town Hall lit up in blue and yellow in 'solidarity and support' for Ukraine

With a sigh she added: “Seeing everything going on with Ukraine now, has brought back memories of happier times.

"You can’t help but wonder and hope the people of Styri, will be be OK.”

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