CUMBERLAND — Cumberland established a sister city with Vilijandi, Estonia, on Wednesday, as Mayor Brian Grim and other city officials closed the deal via technology created in Estonia known as Skype.
Although officials from the European nation were not able to travel to Cumberland to sign the sister city agreement, Skype enabled a three-way online video feed to occur at City Hall between the mayor of Vilijandi and his staff, the U.S. ambassador to Estonia and his staff in Washington and Grim and two city officials.
Grim was joined during the Skype connection by Jeff Rhodes, city administrator, and Shawn Hershberger, economic development coordinator for the city.
“It’s great to do this kind of thing because there are new kinds of exchanges and it’s a way to exchange ideas around the globe at this point,” said Grim.
Estonia, with a population of 1.3 million, is located on the Baltic Sea, 60 miles due south of Finland.
There had been a relationship between Estonia and Allegany County in the past, according to Grim, but it had not developed. A new mayor was elected in Vilijandi and he reached out to renew the relationship.
“We saw that as an opportunity,” said Grim.
An official with the Estonian delegation in Vilijandi spoke on the renewal of the relationship.
“I really hope that this is the beginning of a people-to-people relationship that can really make a difference,” said the official.
Grim said that working with the people in Vilijandi will allow for an exchange of governmental and cultural ideas.
“Estonia is very well-developed in technology,” said Grim.
“Skype was actually developed in Estonia and today was the first opportunity to use it as a three-way call between these three sites,” said Grim.
The Estonian delegations in Vilijandi and Washington made the relationship official by signing the required documents, along with the Cumberland delegation, during the Skype call.
Estonians are considered an ancient people with an ancestry that has been traced back to 3000 BC.
“It’s really unique and it has technology supporting it,” added Grim.
Estonia’s official language is called Estonian and belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic family of languages. Translators spoke for the Estonian delegation members who don’t speak English.
“It’s great to see these folks that you only communicate with by letter and email,” said Grim.
Members of the groups from Estonia and Cumberland both said they hoped to arrange mutual visits sometime in the future.
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