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Sister city relationship offers opportunities

Fort Dodge, Gjakova come together

A sign bearing the words Fort Dodge Lane and the familiar logo of the city marks the start of a walking path in a sprawling park.

That sign and that walking path are not in Fort Dodge, however. They are not even in the United States.

Fort Dodge Lane is the longest of multiple paths that go through the central park of Gjakova in Kosovo. That path got that name because Gjakova and Fort Dodge are sister cities, and have been so since 2016. Mayor Matt Bemrich, of Fort Dodge, joined Mayor Adrian Gjini, of Gjakova, to unveil that sign in the fall of 2019.

A sister city relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. Historically, sister city relationships were developed for diplomatic, cultural and educational collaboration. More recently, such relationships are also used to work on economic and community development issues.

So how did a city in the American Midwest get connected with one in a new nation in the Balkans region of eastern Europe? About 20 years ago, the Balkans were in an upheaval as the states that made up the former Yugoslavia continued to splinter. International peacekeepers were sent there, and among them were soldiers of the Iowa Army National Guard. Iowa soldiers deployed to what is now Kosovo in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. Some of them were on duty there 13 years ago this month, when the nation of Kosovo was created after declaring independence from Serbia.

Fort Dodge and Gjakova became sister cities in2016.

Since then, Fort Dodge has hosted delegations of both officials and youths from Gjakova. Local leaders have traveled to Gjakova twice and some teenagers have gone to Kosovo. The teens split their time between a big summer camp called Camp TOKA and Gjakova where they helped to create a mural with the theme of giving back to the world.

As the world fights its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sister city relationship will continue to grow.

We urge Fort Dodgers to take advantage of any opportunities the sister city relationship offers to learn more about Gjakova. We believe that will be interesting and fun. And it will also promote, in a small way, more unity in a world that needs it.

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