Barrie, Ont. Mayor Jeff Lehman and the lord mayor of Zweibrucken, Germany, Barrie’s twin city, have exchanged letters of support as the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Thinking of our sister city during these times,” Marold Wosnitza, Zweibrucken’s lord mayor, wrote to the city of Barrie.
“Currently in Zweibrucken, your sister city, we are putting our differences beside, we are working together in a way I have never experienced before.”
Wosnitza goes on to write that knowing Barrie, he’s convinced it’s also experiencing a “feeling of community” during the challenging times brought on by COVID-19.
Lehman responded in a letter, thanking Wosnitza for his regards.
“Our twinning partnership with Zweibrucken is a vibrant one,” Lehman wrote. “It goes back over 25 years since the first exchanges took place between our citizens.”
In an interview with Global News Tuesday, Lehman said the relationship began during the Cold War, when the Canadian Air Force had a base in Zweibrucken.
“There were Canadians who served there for almost 30 years … before the Canadian Forces decided not to continue to have the base there,” Lehman said.
“The relationship to Barrie is specifically because there were a number of personnel who served at Zweibrucken and lived in Barrie. Even now, there are some veterans of the Cold War who served in Zwei and live in Barrie, and several of them were involved with the City of Barrie.”
In the letter to Zweibrucken, Lehman noted that Barrie residents have also experienced “tremendous changes” to their ways of life since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“We are finding ways of strengthening the bonds among our citizens as we reach out in new ways to assist each other and ensure that those in need get what is required to overcome the difficulties that they are experiencing,” he wrote.
The contemporary relationship involving Barrie and the German town is one that primarily consists of student exchanges, in addition to musical ones and trade delegations.
“For 20 years now, we’ve had large groups of high school students from Zweibrucken come over to Canada, and they stay with a family in Barrie for a month, and they get the experience of going to school here and seeing the sites and learning about Canada,” Lehman told Global News.
“Then, the kids from the families that they stay with go over to Zweibrucken and stay with the family on that end.”
In the letter, Lehman said he hopes Zweibrucken citizens stay well.
“I, too, am looking forward to seeing future exchanges between our cities,” he wrote.
In Barrie, there have been 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are also outbreaks at three long-term care homes in the city.