News Release - City Considers 12th Sister Cities Relationship with Alytus, Lithuania

City of Rochester

News Release

(July 29, 2009) - Mayor Robert J. Duffy recommended Wednesday that City Council approve a sister cities relationship with the city of Alytus, Lithuania, establishing the 12th international connection in the city’s 51-year-old volunteer program of citizen diplomacy.      

In 1958, Rochester established its first sister cities relationship with Rennes, France, helping initiate a nationwide movement of United States citizen diplomacy intended to build international understanding and contribute to world peace.  Its activities have included international exchanges in education, culture, tourism, business and humanitarian aid.  Since then Rochester has developed a total of 11 sister cities relationships, acting through individual sister cities committees and the umbrella organization International Sister Cities of Rochester, NY, Inc. (ISCOR), run the Rochester program.     

“Rochester’s program has mobilized the talents and resources of hundreds of public-spirited volunteers from throughout the region for its sister cities committees and activities,” Mayor Duffy said.  “They make an immense contribution to the educational and cultural life of our community.”      

In 2006 a diverse group of community volunteers, led by Rimas Chesonis of Webster, proposed a sister cities connection with Alytus, Lithuania, recommending a program of activities to develop a mutually beneficial relationship for the partner communities.   The ISCOR Board of Trustees endorsed the recommendation.  It designated the group as the “Alytus-Rochester Friendship Committee,” charged to explore and develop a program that could serve as the basis for a long-term sister cities relationship.  The committee has since developed exchanges of high school students and musicians, participated in and sponsored Rochester community international events and helped develop a counterpart volunteer committee in Alytus, laying the necessary foundation for a successful relationship.     

Alytus lies on the banks of the Nemunas River in southern Lithuania, near the border with Poland. It is the historical centre of the Dzūkija region. Its population in 2007 was approximately 69,000.  Historically a notable center of commerce on the Nemunas River, Alytus was the main route for export goods from Lithuania proper. The region is noted for its beautiful landscapes, rapid rivers, lakes and forests, and the city for its festivals and parks, including the Vidzgiris forest, a 1,100 acre botanical reservation.  Its cultural life includes over 500 concerts, performances, exhibitions and other events, and many professional and  amateur arts organizations.  Alytus College caps the city’s network of general, vocational, arts and music schools.     

City Council member Carolee Conklin, ISCOR president, said “the Alytus City Council will be asked to approve the sister cities relationship following approval by the Rochester City Council.  Mayor Duffy and Mayor (eslovas Daug(la of Alytus will then enter a sister cities agreement to formalize the relationship.”      

Rochester’s sister cities program has been very active over the past several months.  Official delegations have visited from and have traveled to Waterford, Ireland, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Rennes, France, and Würzburg, Germany, to build friendships and strength existing cultural and educational exchanges and to develop business connections.    

Critical support has been given by institutions such as Visit Rochester, the International Business Council for Greater Rochester, Nazareth and St. John Fisher colleges, Rochester Institute of Technology, Eastman School of Music, the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the Hochstein School of Music, the George Eastman House  and many other groups from across the community.  SUNY Geneseo, the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce, Cornell Cooperative Extension (Mt. Morris), Garth Fagan Dance and the Frederick Douglass Resource Center have given valuable assistance in exploring a relationship in the New Juaben Traditional Territory of Ghana.       

Plans are under way for cultural, tourism and business development visits to Velikiy Novgorod, Russia, Waterford, Ireland and to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the sister cities relationship with Caltanissetta, Italy.     

Free exhibits of photographs illustrating life in our sister cities are now open to the public.  Professional photographs from Velikiy Novgorod are on display at Image City, 722 University Avenue, through August 9th, and thereafter at the City Hall Link Gallery.  A small exhibit of photographs from each of Rochester’s sister cities will be displayed at Image City from September 9th-October 4th; many will be available for sale.  Rochester will host the traveling exhibit “Visual Griots of Mali,” 40 photographs made by students from Mali. The exhibit will be housed at the Rochester Public Library’s downtown headquarters from September 24th-December 3rd by the Bamako-Rochester Sister Cities Committee for public viewing and visits by Rochester-area school children. 


News Media: For more information about Rochester’s sister cities program and the above activities, contact Michael Leach at 428-7319 or For general information and recent newsletters, visit the International Sister Cities of Rochester Web site,