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Project Stories 40. Animating the Past

17 / 05 / 2024
Category: Programme News


The projects implemented under the Cross-border Cooperation Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine 2014-2020 are not just indicators, budgets, reports and payments. Although these are inseparable elements, above all each project hides the specific ideas, values and dreams of people implementing it, as well as the stories of those who benefited from their implementation.

We want to bring some of them closer to you by the "Project stories" – the cycle which presents their more human (but also animal – as in the 1st, 13th and 14th episodes) dimension of our selected projects. We invite you to read!

Once in the museum I heard someone saying "It's just a brick!". But for a historian, this brick can be invaluable evidence of historical events, proof of our city being a part of European cultural processes... Similarly, our identities are composed of multiple bricks, which are the things we know about our past.

Oksana Shtanko shares her thoughts about the role of history in the life of today’s people. She is a historian, and regards it as a vocation. She has been living in Lutsk since she was a student, and at that time she decided that studying history of this city, in particular, during the early modern era, interests her the most. However she does no t fit into the definition of a traditional scholar, because she also actively popularizes history and promotes tourism. She guides tourist groups and recently took the position of deputy director of the Tourism Development Center in "Okolnyi Castle" space established as a result of TwoTowers PBU project. Oksana was also involved in the creation of a new tourist product – a mobile application, within another PBU project – TowersMysteries.

Oksana is eager to share her knowledge of Lutsk's fascinating past with as many tourists as possible, but she sees it as equally important to address the city's residents as learning local history makes people proud for their city and creates a sense of belonging.

During the years under the Russian Empire and then in the USSR, everything related to our European history, for example, the Magdeburg law, our years of greatness and power, was erased, nullified. An inferiority complex was imposed, as if nothing significant has ever happened here... As we were reading about knights and kings in books, we were convinced it was something peculiar to France or Italy. Now most people in Lutsk would be puzzled by the question of where the Marketplace is located, and the central marketplace was a characteristic element of medieval cities. Little is said about the fact that Lutsk was not only a city of Ukrainians (Ruthenians) or Poles, but that there were many Germans and Scots and representatives of other ethnic groups, who created a multicultural image of this city.

As a person who works directly with tourists, Oksana is aware of peculiarities of perception by different groups of people. So, for example, young people are very dependent on electronic devices and social networks. Children often have difficulties concentrating for a long time, so information should be easy to grasp, with references to their previous experience, some interactive activities should be present. She is glad that the space in which she currently works is modern, interactive, and also helps to destroy the cliche of Lutsk being a city, the history of which is limited to the Lubart’s Castle.

The TowersMysteries project is a step forward in this direction, an opportunity to discover more local attractions with the help of a mobile application. And this app does not just provide information about the places. The project team decided that at each of the 10 landmarks, the visitor would be greeted by a certain character who would talk about the place and set certain tasks to be done. Historians were the first to be involved in the creation of characters – they wrote articles about each of them based on their research.

Oksana recalls how difficult and painstaking the process of creating these "cartoons" was. All the characters were real historical figures, so it was necessary not only to choose clothes for them strictly in accordance with the historical era, but also to decide how a person of that era and a certain social status would speak and move. There were long discussions and consultations with other specialists, for example, in the field of historical costume. Oksana proposed 4 heroes, one of whom is the legendary Lutsk klykun (town crier), or rather, one of the known klykuns. Characters’ concepts were presented at a joint Ukrainian-Polish roundtable meeting. Then visual images were created, which the animators had to bring to life.

It was an unusual experience, an incredibly poignant moment. We literally delved into the biographies of these people, their personalities... I feel so happy to be able to contribute to the development of my city.

The mobile application was promoted during Tourism Day 2023 in Lutsk. The City Council announced open registration for the tour-quest based on the app and it turned out that among the first who wanted to try the product were not only young people and teenagers, but also university teachers! The participants received mini puzzles with the characters of the app. The application has been downloaded multiple times, and the project team is sure that this tourist product will become as popular as the dungeons of the Okolnyi Castle and will give impetus to new creative initiatives in the field of popularization of historical heritage.

Oksana also believes that after the end of the war people from different parts of the world will discover Lutsk as a new tourist destination. There are so many interesting things to see and do in Lutsk and nearby for both connoisseurs of ancient monuments and lovers of active tourism. And as they make their journey through the ancient streets, they will be accompanied by ten characters who came to life thanks to dedicated creative work of the people who love their hometown.

More about the TwoTowers project can be found here.
More about the TowersMysteries project can be found here.

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