The Xpedition will start in Lviv, from where we take off to Lublin and eastern parts of Poland, with base camp in Sejny. From there we go further east in Lithuania, visiting Klaipeda, Palanga and the Curonian Spit (i.e. Nida). Our next stop is Russia (Kaliningrad), followed by Gdańsk. The end of the Xpedition and the sharing event will take place in the local culture of Kashubian region (i.e. Sulęczyno).
Founded in the early 13th century, the city was subsequently ruled by Poland, Sweden, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The dubious Hitler–Stalin Pact of 1939 granted control of Lviv to the Soviet Union. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine gained independence.
The Orange Revolution: Citizens of Lviv strongly supported Viktor Yushchenko during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election and played a key role in the Orange Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people would gather in freezing temperatures to demonstrate for the Orange camp.
FEMEN: An all-girl activist group and a fruit of Orange Revolution. Their debut on the Ukrainian political landscape came in summer 2008 in a form of an extremely provocative and highly original brand of political soft porn. FEMEN claim to represent a unique interpretation of feminism which blends Ukraine’s old school gender
politics with the aggressive employment of feminine sexuality as a political weapon.
Where is the river?: The main city river – Poltva – played an important economic and defensive role in 13th century. In the early 20th century the central part of Poltva River was hidden under the ground and at the end of 20th century the whole river was completely closed. Since then the river flows under a city on concrete pipes.
Drink kvas: a non-alcoholic fermented bread drink rooted in the Slavic Orthodox monastic orders. Slightly murky looking but considered the ultimate summer thirst quencher.
Sample salo: Stay away if you’re a vegetarian! It’s basically a big lump of lard. Try it on brown bread right after a chilled shot of vodka. Considered Ukraine’s national delicacy.
Facts: Lublin is a young, dynamic city in the east of Poland. Of the 350,000 inhabitants roughly 100,000 are students. For centuries Lublin has also been the centre of religious dialogue and the melting pot of cultures, which include the Byzantine, Russian, Ukranian and West European cultures. Jews continued to be a vital part of the city’s life: from the second half of the 16th century until the community ceased to exist during the Nazi Holocaust. Most of them were killed by the end of the WW2 in Bełżec extermination camp and Majdanek concentration camp established at the outskirts of the city.
Modern Lublin has become a crossroads for artists from the East and West where they can meet each other to exchange ideas and experiences. The lively cultural scene is reflected by the many festivals, artistic and cultural inititives and theatres that the city boasts.
Sejny, Kruszyniany, Waliły, Krasnogruda, East of Poland
Sejny: A little town located in the eastern part of the Suwałki Lake Area, close to the borders of Lithuania and Belarus. In early Middle Ages, the area was inhabited by one of the Baltic tribes, the Yotvingians. The multicultural character and history of this place can be traced especially in architecture: the White Synagogue and the former talmudic school, a little Evangelical church, a Catholic church – all these remind us of the historical presence of Jews, protestants, catholics, Poles and Lithuanians in this city. You can also trace here the Tatars, Karaims, the Romani people, Belarusians and Ukrainians.
Waliły: A slightly bigger village close to the border with Belarus with a population of 290. We are going to visit Leon Tarasewicz, one of the most important Polish painters who lives and works here. Born of Belarusian origin in 1957, Tarasewicz is known for his abstract, deceptively simple paintings dominated with strong colours and clear graphic shapes. He represented Poland at the 49th Biennial Exhibition in Venice in 2001.
Kruszyniany: A tiny village lost in the woods and fields of Eastern Poland. The time seems to have stopped or at least slowed down here. The total of its 180 inhabitants is a real cultural and religious mix – here the Tatars (Sunni Muslims), Eastern Orthodox Christians and Catholics coexist harmoniously.
Krasnogruda: A village close to the border with Lithuania, on Lake Hołny. The place is known for a manor house that belonged to the relatives of Czesław Miłosz – a famous Polish poet, prose writer and translator of Lithuanian origin who emigrated to the US. Miłosz was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. He used to spend his school and university holidays in the Krasnogruda Manor and returned there in 1989 with a thought of establishing the International Dialogue Centre in it.
Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit, (Nida, Palanga), Lithuania
The Curonian Spit: a 97 km long peninsular dividing the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea and a national park included into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000 as one of the most beautiful and unique cultural landscapes of Europe: continuously drifting sand dunes, pine tree forests, white sand beaches and old fishermen villages. According to the legend, the spit was formed a long time ago by Neringa, a girl giant who poured the sandy peninsula into the Baltic Sea to protect the peaceful bay from the stormy sea and create an embankment for fishermen to live.
Klaipeda: a Lithuanian city with the highest percentage of Russian population (21.3%). Until the 1970s, Klaipėda was only important to the USSR for its economy, while cultural and religious activity was minimal and restricted. The Port of Klaipėda is the most important Lithuanian transportation hub, connecting sea, land and railway routes from East to West. In the past Klaipeda has been controlled by Teutonic Knights, Prussia, German Empire, Entene States, Third Reich and Soviet Socialist Republic. In 2012 Klaipėda celebrates its 760th birthday.
Palanga: a small sea-side town which functions as a year-round health resort known for its glorious sandy beaches.
Nida: a small fishing village and the principal settlement on the Lithuanian half of the Curonian Spit. A century ago it had a high reputation within the artistic world: there was an active art colony established by German artists-expressionists in the 2nd half of the 19th century-the beginning of the 20th century. Artists like Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, writers like the Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann, composers and actors prized its landscape and ambience.
A city located between Poland and Lithuania, approximately one-half the size of Belgium. Known as Königsberg prior to Soviet occupation, the city was founded in 1255 and remained a part of Germany for most of the time. The philosopher Immanuel Kant was born here in 1724. The town was largely destroyed during the war; its ruins were captured by the Red Army in 1945 and its German population fled or was forced out. Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 and the city was repopulated with Soviet citizens. The German language was replaced by the Russian language. Because of its strategic importance, Kaliningrad was closed to foreign visitors. After the fall of the USSR, neighboring Lithuania and former Soviet republics gained their independence, cutting Kaliningrad off from Russia. Kaliningrad has suffered more than a decade of neglect due to its isolation from the main body of Russia. As the country’s only ice-free European port, it remains strategically important to Moscow. Kaliningrad was supposed to develop in the post-Soviet era into a “Hong Kong of the Baltic” but corruption keeps most investment away.
Gdańsk and the Kashubian Region, Poland
The city of Gdańsk lies at the Baltic sea and – together with Gdynia and Sopot – forms a metropolitan area called Tricity with a population near 740,000. Gdańsk itself has a population of 455 inhabitants. Parts of the historic old city of Gdańsk, which was destroyed in 90% by the end of the war, was rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s. The reconstruction was not tied to the city’s pre-war appearance, instead its politically motivated purpose was to rebuild an idealized pre-1793 state. Any traces of German tradition were ignored or regarded as “Prussian barbarism” worthy of demolition while Flemish-Dutch, Italian and French influences were emphasized. The city has many fine buildings from the time of the Hanseatic League.
The Gdańsk docks have a special place in the Polish history. The first shots of the Second World War rang out here. It was also here that a hipyard electrician, Lech Walesa led the anti-Communist Solidarity (Solidarność) movement, which eventually resulted in the collapse of Communism in Poland and other countries of the Soviet Block. The shipyards used to employ 16,000 workers and produce 16 ships per year but now the majority of the area has been sold to overseas investors and developers and a new Young City commercial district is going to be built here. In most European cities, where industry declines, art rises in its place. The same happened in Gdańsk in 2001: the
developer offered spaces to a group of artists, who have been trying to keep the shipyard area alive by forming an informal group called The Colony of Artists. There were about 50 of them until 2008 when The Colony of Artists was officially closed down by the developer. Among them there were dancers, architects, musicians, painters, photographers, film directors and cultural animators. Their mission was to keep the memory of the people who spend all their lives working in the shipyard. Some of the artists managed to survive in the Shipyard and they struggle to maintain a small gallery and their own studio spaces.
Kashubians are considered either an ethnic or a linguistic group. In 2011, 228.000 people in Poland declared that they are Kashubs. The traditional occupations of Kashubians have been agriculture and fishing. Old Kashubian culture has partially survived in architecture and folk crafts such as pottery, plaiting, embroidery, amber-working, sculpturing and glasspainting. Since 2005 Kashubian enjoys legal protection in Poland as an official regional
language. It is the only tongue in Poland with this status. Kashubians founded the city of Gdansk and – what is interesting – they always had connections with the Serbian people. One of the Kashubians capitals in the Middle Ages was called Belgrade. During the Second World War, Kashubians were considered by the Nazis as being either of “German stock” or “extraction”, or “inclined toward Germanness” and “capable of Germanisation”, and thus classified third category of Deutsche Volksliste (German ethnic classification list). In 1858 Kashubians emigrated to Upper Canada and created the settlement of Wilno in Ontario, which still exists today.
Kashubians are considered either an ethnic or a linguistic group. In 2011, 228.000 people in Poland declared that they are Kashubs. The traditional occupations of Kashubians have been agriculture and fishing. Old Kashubian culture has partially survived in architecture and folk crafts such as pottery, plaiting, embroidery, amber-working, sculpturing and glasspainting. Since 2005 Kashubian enjoys legal protection in Poland as an official regional language. It is the only tongue in Poland with this status. Kashubians founded the city of Gdansk and – what is interesting – they always had connections with the Serbian people. One of the Kashubians capitals in the Middle Ages was called Belgrade. During the Second World War, Kashubians were considered by the Nazis as being either of “German stock” or “extraction”, or “inclined toward Germanness” and “capable of Germanisation”, and thus classified third category of Deutsche Volksliste (German ethnic classification list). In 1858 Kashubians emigrated to Upper Canada and created the settlement of Wilno in Ontario, which still exists today.