When Lloyd Halverson, the longtime Camas city administrator who helped guide Camas through its transition from a sleepy mill town to desirable suburban hub in the 1990s and early 2000s, thinks back on the many trips he and his wife, Ulrike Halverson, have made to Camas’ three Polish “sister cities,” he recalls personal stories of strength, determination and resilience.
“These are people who live in a region battered by the maelstrom of history … who have lived through huge challenges,” Lloyd said of the people living in Krapkowice, Morawica and Zabierzow — Camas’ sister cities in Poland.
The Halversons were able to live in Poland with their then-teenage son in the late 1990s, when Camas’ sister cities were trying to reestablish democratic control after years of living under communist rule.
“The transition period was energizing, inspiring, dramatic and grassroots,” Lloyd said. “I returned to Camas as a better manager and a better person having learned the incredible value of hope and of the ability of people to transform their own lives … to believe they could make their lives better after 45 years of communist oppression.”
In the years since then, Camas and its Polish sister cities have enjoyed cultural and educational exchanges — sending students, teachers and government officials back and forth to further the cities’ relationships and promote better cultural understanding and empathy toward others’ way of life.
“Something that really touched and moved me was when, within a day and a half of September 11, 2001, we Camas officials received letters of solidarity from the mayors of two towns that became sister cities (in Poland),” Halverson said. “These are quality people.”
More recently, when Poland agreed to shelter more than two million Ukrainian refugees fleeing a Russian military invasion, the city of Camas, through its Camas Sister City Organization and supporters like the Halversons, helped raise $15,000 to send to its three Polish sister cities to help feed, clothe and shelter the refugees.
The Halversons also had a chance to visit the Polish sister cities recently and met with several Ukrainian refugees.
“Poland and Ukraine have had their differences in history,” Lloyd said, “but now the Polish people are so generous with the Ukrainian refugees.”
Camas residents and visitors will soon have a chance to learn more about Camas’ Polish sister cities.
The Camas Public Library will host a special author event at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, to discuss Lloyd’s new book, “Silesian Stories: tales of resilience, history and connection with America,” and the library’s Second Story Gallery will kick off its October show, “Silesian Stories: Sister City Stories and Art,” featuring Ulrike Halverson’s Poland-inspired watercolors and keepsakes the Halversons have collected during their frequent “sister city” trips to the Polish cities Krapkowice, Morawica and Zabierzow.
The Second Story Gallery will host an opening night reception for the “Silesian Stories” show from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in conjunction with the Downtown Camas Association’s monthly First Friday event.
Both Ulrike and Lloyd said they hope people who show up to the Camas library’s art show and author event will gain a greater understanding about the people who call Camas’ Polish sister cities home.
Ulrike Halverson, a native of Vienna, Austria, said her father’s family originally hailed from Silesia, the historical central European region that lies mostly within Poland.
Like her husband, Ulrike said she has always been moved by the Polish people’s resilient spirit.
“They have overcome difficult times,” Ulrike said, adding that she is always struck by the Polish people’s “generosity, hospitality, friendliness and ability to listen” when she and her husband travel to Camas’ sister cities.
“We saw this firsthand when we visited with the Ukrainian refugees this summer,” Lloyd added.
Both the Second Story Gallery art opening this Friday and the Oct. 12 author event featuring Lloyd Halverson’s “Silesian Stories” book and question-and-answer session, are free and open to the public. The Camas Public Library is located at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas. The Second Story Gallery is located on the library’s second floor. For more information, visit cityofcamas.us/library. For more information about the Camas Sister City Organization, visit “Camas Sister City Organization on Facebook.