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When the 2020 Spring Festival was approaching, many Chinese citizens who were about to happily do their Spring Festival shopping were disrupted by the infamous and sudden outbreak of COVID-19.

Fairs that should have been decorated with lanterns and festive banners, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people getting ready to celebrate. All this joy, this excitement, turned to quiet and cheerless chatter. “Lockdown,” “isolation” and “face masks” became the key words of the Spring Festival. No one could have ever imagined that the pandemic would have such a profound impact on the whole world.

When the pandemic  broke out in Guiyang, we received a message of condolences from the Italian city of Vicenza, a city that has kept a friendly line of exchanges with Guiyang, the message said that they would actively prepare medical and anti-epidemic materials to send to Guiyang and aid its citizens.

In March, when Guiyang’s epidemic prevention and control work saw amazing progress and achievements, the pandemic in Italy on the contrary, suddenly intensified. The vice mayor of Guiyang Municipal People’s Government, Mr. Sun Zhiming, wrote a letter to Vicenza, asking about how the situation was developing in Vicenza.

Leonardo De Marzo, councillor for the international relations of Vicenza wrote back, saying that they were encountering huge difficulties and the city’s surgical face masks supplies were running short.

A cry for help, asking Guiyang for support and aid in facing what would become for Italy, the hardest and most trying period in this pandemic. After receiving from Leonardo a list of materials needed, I immediately reported it to Zhang Mingquan, the director of the Guiyang Foreign Affairs Office.

We felt we must provide as much help as we can since the city of Vicenza had already provided assistance to Guiyang during those difficult times.

So, that is when the Guiyang Municipal People’s Government stated that Guiyang and Vicenza would stand together and assist each other amid the difficulties brought on by the circumstances.

The whole process was full of twists and turns due to the serious epidemic situation abroad, many international flights were cancelled at the time, and although we had nailed down the list of needed materials, the whole process  was a real challenge.

The urgent situation did not allow any postponement, so both Chinese and Italian parties were trying the best to overcome these difficulties.

Me and Leonardo worked through many hurdles, most of them caused by the time difference between our two Countries. We overcame this by actively staying  in touch with each other, and many Institutional offices and logistic companies, like the  Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Milan Customs, and my colleagues and I also proactively contacted the Consulate General of the Republic of Italy in Chongqing and some logistics companies.

We worked day and night, me and Leonardo, to assure that our mutual mission would reach a successful outcome. While I filled in information and dealt with the procedures during the day, communicating with Leonardo at night, to exchange information.

We marked and “signed” each package with posters of China and Italy’s National flags, along with the phrase “Join hands to fight against the pandemic and overcome difficulty.”

Thanks to both of our efforts, the aid materials successfully arrived in the Milan Malpensa airport on April 10, and then to Vicenza on the same day.

Even though we were separated by a 6-hour time difference, and a distance of tens of thousands of kilometres, I still sensed his excitement at the thought of the accomplishment of our mission.

By the time the vehicles carrying the aid materials arrived in Vicenza in the afternoon, the Mayor of Vicenza Francesco Rucco and other municipal officials had already been waiting there for a long time.

They delivered the aid materials to local hospitals and other departments during the night, and expressed their extreme gratitude to us… just in time.

I finally felt relieved and relaxed at the success of the operation. Seeing them lifting up their self-made anti-epidemic poster featuring “Guiyang-Vicenza” cooperation and giving us a thumbs up, I was extremely happy. Looking back, I still remember the hardships of the whole ordeal.

After this “adventure”, Leonardo was hospitalized with allergies, as I was also asked to rest in bed by the doctor due to over-exhaustion during my early months of pregnancy. But both of us did not give up. Thirty days of tension, stress and busyness finally bore fruit. The aid materials we sent have since played an important role in Vicenza’s hospitals. They protected the medical staff so that they could treat more patients. This is the value that our persistence brought.

Days later, Leonardo sent me a video footage, in which 18 musicians from Vicenza performed “March of the Volunteers” and “Mameli’s Hymn,” showing the friendship between Guiyang and Vicenza, China and Italy through music. The moment I heard the national anthem, I could not hold back my tears.

I deeply felt that it is standing together through thick and thin and looking out for each other is what matters the most in the diplomacy between two countries, friendship between cities or even friendship between people.

Deeply touched by Guiyang’s active assistance during the crisis, Vicenza proposed that the two cities establish a formal international friendship between our cities.

Through mutual efforts, the two cities held a video conference in June 2020, where Chen Yan, mayor of Guiyang, and Rucco, mayor of Vicenza, exchanged anti-epidemic experience through video conference. This meeting helped to reach an  important consensus on deepening our post-epidemic cooperation, and proposed to officially initiate procedures of consolidating the international friendship city ties between Guiyang and Vicenza.

As an ordinary staff member of foreign affairs, my work during the epidemic is not even worth a mention, if you compare it to the work of the doctors, nurses, and scientific researchers engaged in the frontline of the epidemic prevention and control, but it really brings me a sense of happiness and accomplishment to have been able to do my part.

Although the epidemic has temporarily blocked the close exchanges of personnel between the two sides, I believe that our friendly cooperation will not stop.

Now, my baby is about to come into this world and I am looking forward to his arrival and to witness his growth.

I will share this unforgettable and meaningful experience with him, and expect him to contribute as I did,  to the friendly exchanges between China and Italy in the future. I also expect myself to make more miracles happen still, during my work, and write more stories about it.