Birmingham looks at twin city Zaporizhzhia as Ukraine celebrates Independence Day

Birmingham is joining forces with a Ukrainian community organisation to celebrate the city’s strong affiliation with its twin city Zaporizhzhia, to mark Ukraine Independence Day today (24 August).

Birmingham City Council and the NEC Group have come together with community-based partner Centrala, to shine a light on Ukraine’s sixth largest city, as Birmingham’s efforts to host Eurovision 2023 gather pace.

Zaporizhzhia has been twinned with Birmingham since 1973. Taking a deep dive into Zaporizhzhia’s rich history and heritage, here’s a celebratory snapshot of the different things that symbolise and represent both cities and their communities.

Food and culture

Combining both Ukrainian and Slav traditions, there’s a rich selection of dishes on offer in Zaporizhzhia such as borscht (a kind of filled dumpling) and deruny (potato pancakes). Their cuisine also consists of meat, dairy, red beet and cabbage.

Brum is the culinary birthplace of the famous Balti, invented all the way back in the 1970s when the city’s Pakistani residents created a fusion dish inspired by traditional Kashmiri recipes but cooked in a way that was more appealing to western tastes.

The Glinka Philharmonic concert hall in Zaporizhzhia has a varied programme and dedicated following, especially the concerts by the resident Academic Symphony Orchestra. And of course the recently renovated Symphony Hall in Birmingham hosts the internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Like Birmingham – known as the ‘city of 1000 trades’ – Zaporizhzhia is known as an industrial city. It does, however, produce the odd star or two with names such as Alyosha who represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2010, where she finished 10th with 108 points in the final.

We all know them well; our very own Black Sabbath was formed in 1968. 50 years later, the heavy metal band – fronted by Ozzy Osbourne – made a surprise reunion to headline the Closing Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games which celebrated its diverse music scene. This followed that other famous Brummie band Duran Duran at the opening ceremony.

Zaporizhzhia boasts a real-life railway operated by children! Created to educated future railway drivers, signal operators and conductors, the train clatters along a track for almost ten kilometres. The young, budding railway operators dress up in uniform and take charge of every job, from managing the throttle to selling tickets!

As all Brummies know, the city is a major transport hub, due in part to its central location. We’re well connected not only by rail, road and water, but by air with close links to Europe via Birmingham Airport.

The name Zaporizhzhia literally refers to the position of the city located ‘beyond the rapids’. Birmingham may not have a river, but as we like to remind people, we have more miles of canal than Venice!

Landmarks and places

Khortytsia is arguably the heart of Zaporizhzhia and one of the most famous places in Ukraine. It is the largest island on the River Dnieper and is a major part of the national reserve (the Dnieper Dam) which is popular with residents and tourists alike.

Did we mention canals? Birmingham has 35 miles of them, enjoyed by walkers, cyclists, and narrowboat owners and they are a reminder of a unique industrial history. During the Industrial Revolution the canals were busy waterways transporting coal, iron and other heavy goods. They played a crucial role in the development of Birmingham and the Black Country. And we should give a name-check to Spaghetti Junction – AKA Gravelly Hill Interchange.

Zaporizhzhia sits on the Dnieper River in southeastern Ukraine. It’s home to Khortytsia Island, a former Cossack stronghold with the Khortytsia National Reserve and the open-air Museum of Zaporizhian Cossacks. It also has Faeton Retro Cars Museum, The Sich, Soborny Avenue – the longest street in Europe.

Birmingham is vast – it is the UK’s largest city outside London –and is home to more than 1.1m people from myriad backgrounds and communities, ranging from Bangledeshi and Somali to Chinese and Ukrainian.

It is a sporting city that hosts a wide range of top-flight sporting clubs and major events including Edgbaston Cricket Club, Aston Villa and Birmingham City football clubs and of course Alexander Stadium, which played host to the athletics programme and opening and closing ceremonies of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Edgbaston is one that’s internationally renowned for its cricket ground, whilst we have a Chinese Quarter, the Jewellery Quarter and an array of destinations for culture and entertainment. See the blooms of The Birmingham Botanical Gardens, indulge in a spot of history at the Black Country Living Museum or get your thinking cap on at Thinktank Science Museum to name but a few. And when day turns to night, get ready to party, with countless bars and restaurants for whatever takes your mood. There are even two world-class arenas to choose from, which welcome some of the world’s biggest stars.

So, our two wonderful cities have loads in common, sharing great culture, landmarks and most importantly people. Happy Independence Day Zaporizhzhia and Ukraine!

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