Since April 1, 2009, the Armenian Foundation KZKO, in cooperation with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe from Lviv, the Non-Governmental Organization of the Polish Scout Troop of the Rivne Province in Ukraine, the Witold Dynowski of Warsaw "Etnography Workshop" Association and the Armenian Cultural Society "Arewik" from Chernivtsi has taken part in the project called “Multi-Cultural Memory and the Continuity of Traces. Chernivtsi in the Bukovyna.” The project is a part of the GESCHICHTSWERKSTATT EUROPA program, organized by the German Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” and the Institute for Applied History in Frankfurt an der Oder.

North Bukovyna, currently situated on the territory of West Ukraine, with Chernivtsi as its capital, is an area which has almost always been the borderline or periphery of various state organisms. Numerous changes of borders and a mosaic of cultures contribute to the uniqueness of this region. However, the peripheral and border location of this region increased particular political and military violence, which put at risk the continuity of religious and ethnic communities. After the traumatic events of the 20th century, Bukovyna became a physically inaccessible reference for communities, a place available only in their mass memory, since, as a result of World War II, these communities were exterminated or forced to resettle. For them, Bukovyna constitutes an important source of reference and identity. After 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain, there was a restoration of communities, to a great extent thanks to the former inhabitants of these areas, who kept a peculiar “memory culture” alive in Israel, Canada, Poland and Germany. These processes, which might be associated with globalization, are often connected with the influx of memory, which contributes to the “recognition” of the past by the current inhabitants of Bukovyna, the past forgotten or hidden by the historical policy of the Soviet Union.

Also religious communities that due to the World War II events did not suffer as much as Jews or Armenians experienced violence from the Soviet authorities, who insisted on the policy of atheism. The Greek Catholic Church, which was closed down in 1945, is an example of such a religion. For almost 50 years, the congregation of the church was deprived of temples and of most priests. By keeping the community alive, the congregation brought down on themselves the threat of repressions from the authority. The purpose of the project “Multi-Cultural Memory and the Continuity of Traces. Chernivtsi in the Bukovyna.” is to find the continuity of social memory and experiences of the current inhabitants of Chernivtsi in the context of Ukraine’s historical discourse as well as to determine the influence of emigrants, the former inhabitants of Chernivtsi, who left the town as a result of the events of World War II. For them, the history of the region ended symbolically along with the Cold War division of the world.

The project is an attempt to initiate a dialogue with a wider audience on the subject of the importance of Chernivtsi’s and Bucovyna’s cultural heritage for Ukraine and EU countries. It is supposed to support the discussion concerning the role of memory in the development of current Europe as well as the discovery of the consequences resulting from the “globalization of memory” – a phenomenon which is reflected in the influx of memory “frozen” by the historical policy of the USSR and driven away by the narratives of nation states.

The twelve-person team working since April 1, 2009 till October 31, 2009, consisting of volunteers, specialists as well as history, anthropology and philology lovers took part in various activities (they conducted narrative interviews with the inhabitants of Chernivtsi and neighboring towns and with the “Chernivtsi emigrants”; they also collected and documented family files and mementoes), the result of which is a full-dimensional image of memory. An important element of the project is the creation of the “topography of memory” capturing memories that refer to a particular urban space of Chernivtsi. On the basis of the collected video and photographic documentation, a photo story and memories that were written down and compiled, a three-language publication and an exhibition will be prepared; the exhibition will be shown in Chernivtsi, Lviv, Poland and Germany. The course of the project can be traced at www.chenivtsimemory.net.

Józef Markiewicz

 

Print