In Dnipro at the Tkuma Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies, a jubilee interfaith youth seminar, “The Ark-2021,” was held for representatives of Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, and Crimean Tatar youth from all Ukraine, in particular from occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) co-organized the event.

For six days, participants attended master classes, heard lectures, had training sessions and discussions with the participation of noted scholars and civic and cultural activists, and also presented their own traditions, culture, and achievements. In this way they learned about each other’s culture and how to seek ways of understanding.

On the first day, participants went on a tour of Dnipro, guided by the head of the information department of the Tkuma Institute, Zoryana Bondar, and took part in integrational training sessions led by the assistant director of the institute and the Memorial Museum of the Jewish People and Holocaust in Ukraine, Lyudmyla Kozina.

Every day of The Ark was dedicated to getting acquainted with the history, culture, and religion of the various ethnic groups.

UCU student Daryna Kolmyk shared her impressions as a participant in the seminar: “For me, being at the interfaith seminar The Ark was a unique opportunity to look at the history of Ukraine from the perspectives of various ethnic groups. I can assure you: it’s really exciting when young people discuss themes of our historical legacy which have brought great losses to our people. It leads to one serious conclusion: ‘We are called to avoid a terrible cyclical history, and right now we must become agents of change for the better.’”

On July 16, the representatives of the Jewish group shared the particularities of their culture and history with the seminar’s participants. Among other things, they visited the Golden Rose Synagogue, had a master-class in preparing Jewish foods, and had an online meeting with Dr. Mordechai Yushkovskyi, academic director of the International Yiddish Center at the World Jewish Congress (Vilnius, Lithuania).

The Jewish representatives also shared their traditions, rituals, and music.

The fourth day of the seminar was Polish Day, held in the city of Kharkiv. Participants learned of the role of Kharkiv University for Poles in Ukraine and various tragedies of Soviet times. Together with ministers of various religious groups, the participants honored the memory of victims of Soviet terror – Poles, Ukrainians, Jews, Crimean Tatars, and others.

On Crimean Tatar Day, Roman Nazarenko, UCU professor, conducted a discussion “Unexpected Islam. The story of Aladdin: What we don’t see.” There were also another lecture, a discussion about Crimea today, and a master-class with fiery dances and painting.

The last day was Ukrainian Day. The war in eastern Ukraine was discussed, and some participants could not hold back their tears.

Later in the day, the young people had a chance to visit with UCU Vice-Rector Myroslav Marynovych, a founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, dissident, and human rights defender. He gave a lecture on the figure of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. The audience then had many questions.

Another new experience for the youth was a master-class in the culture of church singing led by a group of nuns of the Order of St. Basil the Great who have a mission in the city of Zaporizhzhia.

At the end the participants receive certificates and even watched a film chronicling The Ark-2021.