It would seem like a no-brainer — or as the Russians would call it, a bez problem — to link the cities on either end of Valery Chkalov’s historic 1937 flight. But when Shchelkovo, Russia, reached out to Vancouver in hopes of forming a Sister City partnership, Vancouver said “nyet.”
In a geopolitical climate where cross-national partnerships are valued, the city of Vancouver prefers to foster one and only one Sister City partnership: Joyo, Japan. A relationship with Arequipa, Peru, began in 1961 but was allowed to lapse in 1993, two years before Joyo became Vancouver’s new sister.
Other local cities have many more siblings. Camas, for example, has five, Portland has nine and Seattle boasts 21. Even Kelso maintains two Sister Cities. Some even utilize the program to plunge headfirst into branding. To wit, Boring, Ore., has partnered with Dull, Scotland, and Bland, Australia, to form a Sister City triad known as the “League of Extraordinary Communities.”
A famous flight
Shchelkovo is famous locally and internationally as the starting point of the first transpolar flight during which Chkalov and his crew flew 5,475 miles in 63 hours. The flight concluded at Pearson Field 80 years ago. His journey is memorialized across Vancouver, including Chkalov Drive, which bears the pilot’s name, and a monument at Pearson Field. The monument, erected in 1975, was the first in the U.S. to commemorate a Russian accomplishment.
The head of Shchelkovo’s Municipal District, Alexey Valov, reached out to the city in late 2017 hopeful not only for a response but for a relationship. Valov received neither.