Tourism routes in Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine promote Jewish heritage

Jewish communities have lived on the borderlands of Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine for centuries. To promote this Jewish heritage and increase visitor numbers to these areas, cultural tourist routes which pass through 60 villages have been created. 

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Shtetl Routes synagogue interior © Monika Tarajko Shtetl Routes synagogue interior © Monika Tarajko

" “A valuable cross-border impact of the project is the activation of a number of research and cultural institutions from the three countries, to promote cultural heritage in tourism and the development of local communities. Partners managed to develop a unique tourism product improving the flow of tourists in the region. Creation of the routes, the guidebook as well as organisation of training for guides had a strong impact on Jewish culture tourism acceleration in the cross-border region.” "

Klaudyna Szczupak, Territorial Cooperation Department, Ministry of Investment and Economic Development

The Jewish communities have left lasting traces of their culture in the three countries, but local sites of memory of this Jewish culture have not been properly recognised for their European heritage value. Realising the tourism opportunity following in the footsteps of this Jewish heritage could have on the area, a unique tourism product was created with valuable cross-border impact. 

Three tourism routes leading through 20 villages in each country were created, as well as one joint cross-border route and a web-based tourist portal. Research and expeditions to the 60 locations were conducted and a guidebook of the sites was developed in five languages. Three dimensional virtual models of 15 small towns were developed and integrated into the tourism portal. 

Recording history and culture

The research visits conducted at the 60 locations looked for traces of history and sought to record the memories of those who had lived through a multicultural past. Descriptions of each town were made. Film and photographic documentation of monuments took place.   

The knowledge acquired from this research was used to develop hiking maps, a computer database and promotion desk. The routes were placed on the portal with descriptions given in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, English and Hebrew. 

Tour guides received training on the history of each site, thereby increasing their knowledge and skills in regional Jewish cultural heritage and tourism services. 

A trip back in time

Named ‘Shtetl Routes: Small Jewish Towns in Eastern Europe,’ the tourism portal was designed to work on mobile phones. Five small towns from each country were mapped with three-dimensional virtual models using graphics developed by the ‘Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre’ Centre in previous projects. These models were integrated in the portal to allow visitors to move back in time to see what the towns looked like 100 years ago. 3D computer modelling technology known as Unity was used, as well as Google Sketchup and Google Earth applications. 

Tourists can also use the portal to source up-to-date information, such as where to find accommodation and places to eat. It also gives distances between sites, transport options, tips on how to independently explore the sites, as well as information on must-see places and events. The portal is also being used by the wider community to communicate with local government offices.

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Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Shtetl Routes” is EUR 417 171, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 375 287 through the “ENPI Cross-border Cooperation Programme Poland - Belarus Ukraine” for the 2007-2013 programming period. 


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