Regular International Inter-religious Youth Seminar for Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish students “Ark 2013” was held in Bilshivtsi village (Ivano-Frankivsk region) on June 30 – July 7. The seminar was organized by: The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Lviv, The Federation of Polish organizations in Ukraine, “Tkuma” (“Revival”) Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies, Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Lviv City Palace of Culture named after Khotkevych. The project is implemented with the support of Foundation “Pomoc Polakom na Wschodzie”, The Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany “Claims Conference”, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee “Joint” and The Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund “Dutch Fund”.
This year, “Ark” was held at the Center for Peace and Reunification of the Parish of the Roman Catholic Church of the Visitation of Elisabeth by the Blessed Virgin Mary (Bilshivtsi). In a year when we celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor, 70th anniversary of the tragic events in the Warsaw Ghetto and the 70th anniversary of the tragedy in the Volyn region, the seminar program has received eloquent name “Wounded World - Responsibility Before God”.
The opening of the seminar was attended by Yaroslav Drozd, the Consul General of Republic of Poland in Lviv; Consul Jacek Żur; Prof. Myroslav Marynovych, Prorector of Ukrainian Catholic University; Emiliya Khmeleva, the head of the Federation of Polish organizations in Ukraine, co-author of the idea of the seminar “Ark 2013”; Dr. Ihor Shchupak, “Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies; Ihor Martunenko, director of Lviv City Palace of Culture named after Khotkevych; Grzegorz Tsymbal, abbot of Bilshivtsi monastery; Volodymyr Brodovuch, First Deputy Chairman of the Galician RSA and Orest Trachyk, Galician mayor.
The idea of inter-religious and interethnic seminar belongs to Dr. Aharon Weiss, who was born in the city of Boryslav in Lviv region; during the Second World War he was rescued by Ukrainians and Poles and became the Holocaust researcher. Prof. Myroslav Marynovych and Emiliya Khmeleva, the head of the Federation of Polish organizations in Ukraine joined this idea.
“The word “Arka” in Polish means both the boat, and the architectural detail of an arc shape, - said in his welcoming speech Yaroslav Drozd, the Consul General of Republic of Poland in Lviv. – This ark for youth of different nationalities, and first of all for those present here, should be full of unification.”
According to Yaroslav Drozd, “In Europe, all the people talk about the unification on the basis of common values. But if we want to implement this, we need to meet.”
Prof. Myroslav Marynovych also gave a kind of comparison of peaceful coexistence according to his personal experience of being in the Ural Soviet labor camps, where there were people of different nationalities from all over the former Soviet Union.
“And we had to learn how to understand each other, how to understand the mentality, religion, language, feel the pain, sympathize and help – said Myroslav Marynovych. – And now we teach young people at these seminars. Now it’s 30 girls and boys, but tomorrow it will be 30 small epicenters of tolerance, new thinking and perception.”
Prof. Myroslav Marynovych said that every nation has its own grievances and insults, his large and small national problems. There are many of them, but we must be above them in order to understand the meaning of the history. It should be perceived in the vertical dimension.
The Jewish part was represented by Dr. Ihor Shchupak, “Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies director. He said: “We understand that we have common history and different roles in it, but there are some figures, which unite us, for instance Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, and still we have one God. And it is the most important thing. No matter how different we are, some things we have in common.”
The representatives of the Galician authorities also spoke about their vision of international problems.
“Unfortunately, some politicians, scientists and public figures are the reminiscent of doctors to whom the patient came with an almost healed wound – figuratively Volodymyr Brodovych, the first Deputy Chairman of the Galician RSA. – But instead of not to touch a wound, they begin to harrow it. Yes, and frighten the patient saying that it is a big wound. In the relations between the two nations we also have healing wounds, and we should not harrow them. Let’s leave them for narrow circles, scientific conferences, and not for the general public”.
After the official opening the seminar started.
During the week, 30 young people Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish nationalities from all over Ukraine learned to overcome ethnic stereotypes and find a common language for constructive discussions on the most pressing and controversial issues of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations.
Young people who will soon be forming a new Ukrainian elite, together with well-known scientists, thinkers and community leaders discussed the complex and ambiguous in its interpretation topics relating to the past and present of the three nations, looked for ways to overcome historical conflicts that don’t allow to build inter-ethnic dialogue even today, as well as looked for new possibility of joint development of the three nations.
Under the watchful eye of experienced teachers and moderators, the participants discussed the painful pages of history, to understand the important things: there is no someone else’s pain.
Among the speakers and moderators there were scholars and public figures from Ukraine, Poland and Israel: Dr. Aharon Weiss, Coordinator of Jewish Renewal Programs JDC-CIS, the Holocaust survivor (Israel), Prof. Yaroslav Hrytsak, Director of the Institute for Historical Research, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv (Ukraine), Dr. Marcin Lyubas, Director of the Institute of Sociology at the Jagiellonian University (Poland), Prof. Myroslav Marynovych, Prorector of Ukrainian Catholic University (Ukraine), Dr. Oleh Turyi, Prorector of Ukrainian Catholic University (Ukraine), Malgorzata Gosnovska Krugy, chairman of the Association “Huta Pieniacka”, Dr. Ihor Shchupak, Director of “Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies, Museum “Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine (Ukraine) and others.
As part of the program the participants enjoyed the tour to the Museum of Karaim history in Galicia, the Museum of Popular Arts of Hutsulshchyna and Pokuttya, Armenian and Jewish cemeteries in the city of Kuty. The unique atmosphere of these places is a result of centuries of mutual influence of different cultures and the peaceful coexistence of people representing different nationalities.
“The Ark” traditionally consisted of several blocks – educational, interactive, and the national and cultural presentations.
The days were full of lectures and seminars held by Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish scholars presenting different views on important and interesting problems of history and culture.
Dr. Alexandra Leonova and Vitaly Sukhovoj, research associates of “Tkuma” Institute, became lecturers at “The Ark 2013” for the first time. Traditionally, the students also worked with Lyudmila Davletova, “Tkuma” Institute educational programs coordinator, and Dr. Igor Shchupak, “Tkuma” Institute director.
Interactive debates, “round tables”, workshops, psychological training helped to clear the atmosphere of the perception of a new lecture material.
Probably national cultural presentations are one of the most striking features of the “The Ark”; they always impress and inspire participants. In the framework of the Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish days the participants creatively demonstrated the features of their national traditions and cultures, history, etc., as well as educate other ethnic communities. The participants of “The Ark” were impressed by the real fireworks of Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish folk ceremonies, dances, songs, games, historical stories, etc.
This year Ukrainian day had very rich program of lectures and workshops. The lecturers started the open dialogue, so the participants did not have time to get bored. The reports of Prof. Yaroslav Hrytsak and Dr. Oleh Turia were followed by heated debates. The day was ended with the concert program performed by Ukrainian ethno-group “Oikumena”, known for its performing talent in Ukrainian cities, and far beyond the borders of our country.
The participants were not disappointed by Polish day as well. In the morning they had an excursion to Ivano-Frankovsk –multicultural city with number of memorable places and attractions that put it on the same level with other world tourist centers. After the return to Bilshivtsi, the participants joined the usual dense schedule of lectures and discussions.
The Jewish day, organized by “Tkuma” Institute, was very successful. It was the last day of national and cultural presentations, and in some way it was an advantage. The participants (who gained the experience of active discussions, learned the positions of Ukrainian and Polish sides regarding some questions) have already formed their own position could easily express it. The meeting with Dr. Aharon Weiss was recalled with special warmth. His story, which was described and shown a lot in various documentaries and feature films, left no one indifferent.
We are grad to mention that during Polish and Jewish days the evening concert program was organized by participants themselves – talented participants showed themselves not only as youth with active civic position, but as masters of origami, capable musicians and outstanding performers.
Speaking of evenings at “The Ark”, they are worth mentioning separately. All the participants know the concept of “vatra”, when all participants of the seminar gather around the campfire to discuss the day and just to learn more about each other. It is a time when attentive and focused on lectures students become cheerful and mischievous children, when the atmosphere is almost like family one, full of warmth and understanding.
After all, the task of “The Ark” is not only to enrich the knowledge of young people and to help them to define their civic position, but also to create a platform for communication and new acquaintances for people with similar interests and intellectual needs.
After the seminar ends, young people go back home and bring the message of tolerance and understanding to others, they continue this dialogue in their schools and communicate with the participants. This is one of the most important missions of “The Ark”.