Rector represents Suffolk in trip to Italy

Published 3:44 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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The City of Suffolk and Oderzo, Italy, have been linked to each other since 1995 as Sister Cities. 

In a recent trip to the sister city, Council Member John Rector of the Suffolk Borough represented the city alongside Suffolk’s Sister Cities Commission, part of the overarching Sister Cities International nonprofit. 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the sister cities movement on Sept. 11, 1956, and aimed to have people worldwide promote peace by understanding and respecting one another. This act of “sintering” transformed into the SCI in 1967 and continues to bring together diplomats and volunteers to network with others worldwide. 

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Suffolk, Virginia, has two sister cities: the county of Suffolk, England and the commune of Oderzo, Italy. Suffolk, Virginia, and Suffolk, England’s sisterhood was first signed in 1981, while Oderzo, Italy, was linked in 1995. Rector talked about the relationship between Suffolk and Oderzo through Amedeo Obici, founder of Planters Nut and Chocolate Company and Obici Hospital.

“The relationship with Oderzo, Italy is unique because [of] Amedeo Obici, that’s where he immigrated from. So when he came to the United States and started up Pennsylvania and moved to Suffolk to establish Planters Peanuts, that’s what really established the long-term bond between our two cities.”

Reflecting on his trip, Rector says that the residents of Oderzo were “extraordinarily friendly.”

“They were very excited to see us come back. Some of the members of our delegation have been there before, so it was a renewing of old acquaintances,” Rector said. “They were very excited that the City of Suffolk sent an official representative in a member of City Council.”

Rector says they were treated like “Kings and Queens” as they were fed and cared for very well while traveling to different cities and sites. Rector also met with Oderzo Mayor Maria Scardellato, who he notes was “very pleasant” and says they talked about the importance of the relationship between Suffolk and Oderzo.

“I was very honored to be asked to participate in this delegation as the official representative for the City of Suffolk,” Rector said.

Mayor Scardellato was presented with a gift from the City of Suffolk to the City of Oderzo, a pen and ink drawing created by Suffolk Sister Cities Commission Member Dr. Doug Naismith. Likewise, to represent the bond of the two cities, she was given a can of Virginia Peanuts complimentary of Belmont Peanuts. Finally, Scardellato was given an official invitation from Mayor Michael D. Duman for her and members of Oderzo to visit Suffolk in 2024.

Also, during his trip, he and the commission visited the city of Venice, where he met with AVV Christiano Corazzari, who serves as regional minister of Territory, Culture, Safety and Support. Rector and the commission visited the Palazzo Balbi, Venice’s government headquarters since 1852, and were presented with a coffee-table book detailing the city of Venice. Likewise, they were given a paperweight displaying the symbol of Venice — a winged lion holding an open book. Rector noted that if the lion’s book is open, it is a time of peace. However, if the lion’s book is closed, it’s a time of war.

Rector also had a chance to meet with Professor Ezio Burigana, an artist designing a new version of the mosaic found in the courtyard next to the Suffolk Courthouse. Burigana is the last master of the Byzantine-era mosaic style in the world.

“Because of some issues with how that one was constructed, a new one has to be made, he said. “So I got an opportunity to meet with the artist who is doing the mosaic for the replacement one.”

Rector ended with what he hopes residents of Suffolk and Oderzo will take away from the exchange.

“A deeper understanding of each of our cultures,” Rector said. “It’s the same everywhere. Even though there might be things that divide us and are different, by and large most of what we have, we have things in common. We have the same desires, we have the same wants in life, we have the same concerns in life. We may speak a different language, but we all just want to be happy and thrive.”