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York still twinning with France, Germany after 50-plus years

Retiree Dwight D. Eisenhower meets with a group of visitors from Arles, France, York’s twinned city, in Gettysburg in 1962. Eisenhower supported the twinning program between U.S. and European cities. This picture ran in Reader’s Digest in November 1963. Background posts: Victoria Lyles: A shaper of York Twinning, Gen. Devers longtime friend of France and Gettysburg, Pa.’s Dwight D. Eisenhower was often seen around York and Adams counties.

I’ve had two direct contacts with visitors to York County via York Twinning Association’s pairings with Arles, France, and Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany.
Fifty years after twinning was created as part of an international movement to promote understanding with others in post-World War II and Cold War-era Europe, regular connections between the twinned cities continues.
Most recently, I gave a speech at the Lafayette Club on Bastille Day to visitors from Arles.
I learned when I arrived that my address would be translated so the Frenchwoman who would have that challenge and I feverishly went over my speech… .

I spoke on the close relationship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette and added in comments made by a French envoy at an unveiling of the Lafayette statue in early 2007.
I would speak a sentence or two and the translator would then spend 30 seconds to a minute doing her work. I’m not sure about the effectiveness of my speech, but the flow of the French language in translation was beautiful. Later, someone explained to me that French is so precise that, of course, translation would be longer.
In 2004, I gave the keynote speech for the 50th anniversary gathering of French and German visitors to York, their twin.
I wondered how the evening would go with French and Germans in the same room, given the fact that the Germans were brutal invaders of France during World War II.
I asked a family from each country about common views of the other, and in both cases, they spoke with high regard.
My small sample made me think the twinning has worked, indeed.
The following is a timeline of York Twinning, published in the York Daily Record on June 27, 2004, at the time of the 50th anniversary:

• July 4, 1954 — The twinning of York and Arles, France, is inaugurated. Founder Victoria Lyles, Marguerite Eriksson and Jacob Devers represent York at a ceremony in Arles. The event is recorded in the July 5 edition of the New York Times.
• September 1955 — A delegation of six Arlesians, led by their mayor, Charles Privat, comes to York for a first visit. The event is recorded in the Sept. 12 edition of The Gazette and Daily.
• Summer of 1956 — The first of seven work exchanges, through 1969, begins when Arlesian Edmond Vensin begins a two-year exchange with the Home Furniture Co.
• October 1956 — Jean Laurain arrives in York with his family and becomes a York City School District French teacher.
• January 1957 — Teacher Margaret Boltz goes to Arles, completing the first teacher exchange. Between 1958 and 1973, 15 teachers from York and 14 teachers from Arles participate in exchanges.
• July 1957 — The first Arlesian student arrives in York.
• Summer of 1959 — Student David Stephenson is the first American exchange student to visit Arles.
• December 1961 — York dedicates Arles Playground on the corner of East King and Pattison streets.
• July 1976 — Two-hundred Arlesians visit to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial.
• July 1977 — Marguerite Eriksson becomes only the second honorary citizen of Arles.
• August 1980 — Arlesians Laurain and Jean Buon receive honorary York citizenship.
• May 1981 — Leinfelden-Echterdingen officially approves twinning relationship, a relationship that still exists today.
• May 1984 — Eriksson is killed in Arles during a mugging attempt.
• September 2001 — An official visit to Arles is canceled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
• July 4, 2004 — The York Twinning Association will celebrate its 50th anniversary.