A quadruple Sister City relationship: Esch-sur-Alzette and Diekirch — North Kansas City and Liberty, Missouri
The late Robert F. Schaeffer was born on November 7, 1930 in Esch-sur-Alzette, the second largest city in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. After studying in Paris in the late 1940s, he received a Fulbright scholarship to the University of Kansas — an event that would forever change his life, as Robert stayed in Kansas and never went back, recently passing in 2014 in Liberty, Missouri. Yet despite his permanent relocation to the Midwest, Robert never forgot his native country and his home town.
In 1972, the Luxembourg Government appointed Mr. Schaeffer as Honorary Consul with jurisdiction over several States in the Midwest (including Kansas and Missouri) and promoted him to Honorary Consul General in 1983. During his 30 years as an Honorary Consul, Robert worked tirelessly to raise awareness for Luxembourg, and it was at his initiative that both North Kansas City and Liberty became Sister Cities with his home town Esch-sur-Alzette as well as with Diekirch, a town in the northern part of Luxembourg.
The City Councils formalized the twinning projects in 1985 and 1986, when H.R.H. the Grand Duke and then Crown Prince Henri stopped in Liberty while on a trade mission to the U.S. Here, on behalf of Diekirch, they officially accepted the invitation to join in a Sister City program, and thus sparked the beginning of lasting friendships across the Atlantic.
Soon after that, Esch and Diekirch began collaborating to organize trips for several hundred Luxembourgers to travel overseas to meet their “twins” in the U.S. It was for many their first trip to America, and all came back overwhelmed by the notorious hospitality of the Midwest. The twinning and visits also led some residents in Kansas and Missouri to start digging into their own family history, in search of Luxembourgian roots. And a few surprisingly found some, the result of many Luxembourg immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. Others had long been aware of their Luxembourger heritage and were keen to meet the visitors to hear real “Lëtzebuergesch” again for the first time in decades.
At the time, both Liberty and Diekirch had female mayors (Glenna Todd in Liberty and Marie-Thérèse Boever in Diekirch), who were instrumental in implementing the new partnership as well as forging strong personal bonds. Ms. Boever vividly remembers her trips to the U.S. alongside the visits from American friends to Diekirch. To this day, she still fondly recalls a beautiful concert by the Liberty Choir performed in the medieval church in Diekirch.
With the perpetuation of the strong connection between the cities, it is fair to say that the late Robert F. Schaeffer has achieved his goal of linking the places dearest to his heart in a structured friendship across the Atlantic. May his spirit of building bridges prevail at a time when some, in Europe and in the US, tend to look inward rather than reaching across borders!
This story is part of the #SisterCitySunday series on Medium. Each Sunday from October 2, 2016 to May 7, 2017, new stories from the 28 European Union Member States will be published. Stories will also be shared on social media using #SisterCitySunday.
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