The Mission: To Get to Know and Understand. Artists, Creators and Social Activists In the Process of Building International Neighborly Relations (report)

The active participation of artists, creators and social activists in the social life promotes a common dialogue and understanding between neighbours. What is their role in building friendships between nations? Is there a special responsibility that they bear, which consists, among other things, of counteracting prejudice and discrimination? This is the topic that was discussed during the second day of the XII Europe-Ukraine Forum by an international group of panelists representing the cultural and scientific community.

The panel began with a presentation of Ukrainian Culture Festival in Gdańsk whose originator and co-organizer is Tetyana Yermak. She presented the concept of cooperation with local entities and cultural institutions, she also expressed hopes that such a cooperation policy will result in the popularization of Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian artists in Poland and in the world. It is important that our festival is based on the philosophy of openness and cooperation with the cultural institutions of Gdańsk– she said. She also thanked for activities promoting Ukrainian culture and heritage in the world Ms. Jarosława Khortiani, the chairman of the European Congress of Ukrainians from Hungary. The participants of the panel, which began just after the presentation were: Weronika Marczuk, president of the Polish Business Center, Polish-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, Olena Leonenko-Głowacka, singer, composer and actress, she is cooperating with many Polish theaters, Jarosław Kinal, PhD in humanities, media specialist, Deputy Dean of the Sociology-History Department for Promotion at the University of Rzeszów, Jarosława Khortiani, president of the European Congress of Ukrainians from Hungary and Wiktor Kusznirenko, President of the Pidhirtsi Castle Foundation. The moderator of the discussion was Leonid Bytsiura, Deputy Mayor of Tarnopol City.

Jaroslawa Khortiani argued how important element in building international relations is presenting nations and societies through the prism of their creativity, history and culture. She commended the openness of the Hungarian government in the area of supporting the aspirations of the Ukrainian diaspora by presenting a record label containing Ukrainian folk music, which was financed by Hungarian government.

A dynamically functioning diaspora creates informal diplomacy. I am glad that in this way we support official diplomatic efforts, that we finally left the ”ghetto”. We support, strengthen and share ideas with each other- she said.

Jarosław Kinal, asked by Leonid Bytsiura for an academic perspective on the subject, pointed out that cultural heritage is an inseparable part of science.

At the university, we try to create a pattern of a universal humanist who understands other cultures, does not reject them. Both on sociology and journalism or communication, we show students that in spite of different historical optics,  it is the present that shapes our common future – he said.

He also talked about the openness for foreign students, about creating space for the presentation of other cultures during the International Day, when students from different countries have the opportunity to show their identity. He emphasized that this is particularly important since the Rzeszów University that is situated in the Carpathian Region consistently builds the image of a student-friendly institution.

Wiktor Kusznirenko shared his opinion from a point of view of a person associated with a cultural institution, because, as he emphasized, the Pidhirtsi Castle is a great historical treasure of Ukraine. The castle could not function as a tourist object, but a large number of exhibits was digitized, the first exhibition was available in 2018. It was also mentioned that in 2008 the castle was on the New York list of World Monuments Watch as one of the 100 valuable monuments in the world that are slowly being destroyed.

We have not renovated the castle entirely, but we are consistently making further steps in this direction, we are looking for partners, we are cooperating with Poland, Great Britain and the United States – he said.

The moderator congratulated President Kusznirenko on including the local community in this project.

Olena Leonenko-Głowacka described culture as a universal solution and warned against its use for propaganda purposes. She also mentioned her participation in the Ukrainian theater project. The main goal was to counteract the drama of exclusion, especially painful, because of it affecting children of the streets. It is very difficult to reach these children, overcome their fears, create a willingness to live, to resocialize. She also thanked Dean Kinal for creating a space shaping tolerance among young people at the university:

Show where you come from, where you are from. It’s your treasure – she concluded.

Weronika Marczuk shared her opinion as a creator and film producer. She talked about personal experience in the matter of changing the Poles’ attitude to Ukrainians over the past years.

Poland and Ukraine are trying to implement common projects, but these are individual examples, we have not developed any common system– she said.