WEST CHICAGO – The city of West Chicago has a sister who lives on another continent.
While they only see each other about two times each year, their bond is strong, as they learn from their differences and celebrate them.
This sister is named Taufkirchen (Vils), and it is a German village with more than 8,500 residents.
“To be welcomed by people that are strangers and different customs and different language is just really powerful,” said President of West Chicago Sister Cities Sandy Buckles.
Sister Cities International was founded by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 as a way to foster peace by creating bonds among people from all over the world, according to the organization’s website.
An official sister cities relationship was established between West Chicago and Taufkirchen in 1999, thanks to the efforts of two brothers who live in the respective towns.
In 1997, Bodo Gsedl, of Taufkirchen, met with his brother Uwe, a West Chicago resident, and approached the city of West Chicago and its local Chamber of Commerce about creating a Sister Cities relationship.
A group from Taufkirchen visited West Chicago in 1998, and on Oct. 7, 1999, delegates from both cities signed an official proclamation in Taufkirchen that established their bond.
With that, the West Chicago Sister Cities organization was born. It is made up of West Chicago residents who support activities and visits between the two towns.
Dave Sabathne, who served on the West Chicago City Council when the sister cities program was established, spoke Feb. 6 at a meeting of the organization.
Sabathne, president and CEO of the Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce, has visited Taufkirchen three times since 2001. He also has hosted his German brothers and sisters on several occasions throughout the years.
“They are like family to us,” Sabathne said.
Since 1999, a group from West Chicago and a group from Taufkirchen have visited each other’s communities almost every year, Buckles said. However, individual residents and families have put together their own trips as well.
Visitings groups from both cities have included people of all ages.
“One of the things I would hope that some of these parents would understand is this is really an opportunity for their kids to be involved globally, starting at a young age, to really get involved with what’s happening in other countries,” said Buckles, who joined West Chicago Sister Cities in 2003 and has served as the organization’s president for about a year.
To participate in an official sister cities visit, West Chicago residents must join the organization. The group meets the first Thursday of each month.
While there are many differences between West Chicago and Taufkirchen – from the communities’ sizes and ages to the family dynamics, education and laws in each town – the sister cities have found value in the ways they diverge, just as actual siblings do.
“I don’t want to be them, but I sure love that they’re part of our life,” Sabathne said.
Visit the West Chicago Sister Cities website at www.westchicagosistercities.com.