THE HE-CROSS PROJECT STORY
Like all good things, the HE-CROSS story started with an excellent idea based on a good relationship between two partner Universities, who have always been willing to work in order to the develop their regions and cities.
The signing of the grant agreement and the start of project implementation on the 5th February of 2020 marked the start of an arduous journey for the two project teams who, despite all the recent setbacks, decided to carry out the objectives in their entirety.
Just after the start of the project, when everything seemed to be on track, the whole world was shaken by the SARS-COV-2 pandemic and medical emergency was declared. Under these unfavourable conditions, the project’s kickoff conference was organised and all team members on both sides of the border understood how important it is to communicate and collaborate, even if it is via electronic devices. Limiting non-computer-mediated social interactions and transferring all activities to the online environment has only increased cooperation between partners, developing both the adaptability of both team members and the ability to find solutions to achieve objectives. And as one misfortune never comes alone, the SARS-COV-2 pandemic was interrupted by an even greater disaster, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Although it seemed like an anachronistic act, totally out of place in the 21st century, we have come to experience this situation, with all its syncopations and shortcomings. The two major stumbling blocks led to the project’s planned 18-month implementation period to be extended to 40 months. Things done well take time, especially such important things as promoting cultural and historical heritage in the cross-border region, supporting the development of local culture, specific cultural identities, and cultural dialogue between the communities of Suceava county and the Ivano-Frankivsk region, as well as increasing tourists’ awareness of this heritage.
Although the project activities became increasingly difficult to carry out, the project teams managed to create an interactive map of representative sights in the cross-border area, presenting them in the innovative form of 3D tours or videos. Unique aerial drone footage provides an attractive perspective for tourists interested in the cross-border area. Not even the missiles threatening Ukraine’s security have broken the spirit of the project team members and prevented the Ukrainian partners from hoisting drones to promote the beauty of such an oppressed area. Thus, from the comfort of their own homes, any interested person can enjoy beautiful places and landscapes, accompanied by accurate and interesting information. Although there were so many obstacles, new ways were found to conduct the training sessions both for representatives of tour operators, travel agencies, tourist information centres, and offices and for students of the Suceava and Ivano-Frankivsk universities.
In parallel, three publications were produced in English, Romanian and Ukrainian: Cultural routes – Spiritual sojourns at the Foot of the Carpathians; Past for the Future. Historical Heritage at the foot of the Carpathians and Hidden Gems in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. Museums and Galleries, were distributed to travel agencies to promote the cross-border cultural-historical heritage of the two project areas.
The children’s activity book The Enchanted House was much appreciated and well received, taking the little ones through a wonderful story of talking houses worth saving and caring for. Training the youngest to appreciate and preserve heritage proved to be the ace up the sleeve. Investing in the future to keep the past alive can never go wrong.
An important objective was the renovation and introduction into the tourist circuit of the Geology Museum of the Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas, which is now an important tourist attraction due to the unique information and exhibits it offers to visitors. In addition to functioning as a tourist attraction, the museum will be a training and development centre for students of both universities.
Joint efforts and frequent communication made the bond between the members of the two teams a close one, and when the Ukrainian partners needed support, the Suceava team purchased survival kits to help their colleagues from the Ivano-Frankivsk National Oil and Gas Technical University.
Obviously, like any story, the HE-CROSS project comes to an end. However, the results speak for themselves and will undoubtedly contribute to the promotion of historical and cultural tourism in the Romania-Ukraine cross-border area, to a better visibility of the objectives and to the creation of the necessary prerequisites for a dynamic development of the region after the return to normality.