History, Healing, and Hope Tour

History, Healing and Hope is a 12-day tour for Ukrainian teenagers through southwestern Ukraine and southeastern Poland.

Objectives of the Tour:

  • To educate tour participants about their shared history and to facilitate mutual understanding between Ukrainian and Polish youth.
  • To provide a safe and nurturing environment for Ukrainian youth traumatized by war.
  • To give the young generation the opportunity to build connections on a personal and community level.
  • To empower young people to make responsible decisions in the present, so they can build and influence the future for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nations in the years and decades to come.

(Read more about our vision and motivations on the About page)


Up to 15 teenagers from the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine, including those displaced from the eastern regions of Ukraine. Also, Polish youth from specific regions such as Sanok and Krakow.

The partner organization in Ukraine will be the Zhytomyr Community Foundation, a registered non-profit organization. This partner organization will be responsible for the selection and transport of the young people selected for the tour. The selected participants will be:

  • Children from internally displaced families
  • Children from one parent families
  • Children of Ukrainian military families
  • Children from the rural areas

The Zhytomyr Community Foundation will assist the selected teenagers in obtaining travel documents, obtaining all necessary permissions from their parents, and assign chaperones (accompanying adults) for the tour. After the trip, with the help of a partner organization, the participants will give a presentation about their visit to their peers in Ukraine.

Read and watch some of the life stories of the applicants.

Dates: There will be several editions of the tour. The first will be in the second half June 2023. The number of tours each year will depend upon the funding obtained through donations.

Organizers: In addition to Polish-Ukrainian Origins Foundation, PolishOrigins, a licensed genealogy and history tours operator in Poland, will be responsible for organizing and guiding the trips in Poland. Our partner organization in Ukraine, Zhytomyr Community Foundation, will be responsible for selecting tour participants, obtaining travel documents, and transporting students to the Polish border.

Financing: Will be solely from Individual and institutional donors wishing to support the Polish-Ukrainian Origins Foundation mission and projects.

Total cost of the tour: USD $30000
Cost per one teenager: USD $2000

Contribute: If you want to help make the History, Healing, and Hope tour become a reality, please use the donate button below:

Contribute to the History, Healing and Hope Tour

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like to contribute with your skills or in any other way to the Foundation’s mission.

Total cost includes all expenses, specifically:

  • Transportation from Zhytomyr through Poland and back. Total about 2000 km (about 1240 miles).
  • Accommodations in hotels and hostels.
  • Two meals daily: breakfast, dinner, plus on each day an optional lunch.
  • Two tour tutors from Ukraine with pedagogical and psychological education and experience.
  • One tour leader throughout the entire tour in Poland.
  • Local guides in Sanok, Bieszczady, Zakopane, Kraków.
  • Entrances to all planned attractions.
  • All taxes and administration costs.
  • Full insurance of all participants and the tutors.
  • Small pocket money for teens.

NOTE: None of the organizers, including PolishOrigins, add overhead to these costs; none of them make a profit. If there is a surplus in collected donations it will be used to cover the operating costs of the foundation and for subsequent editions of the tour.

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/FfsMWfWMUWXTTB5w9

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the historical importance of the locations the teens will be touring? 

Lviv has been a place where Polish and Ukrainian history and culture have coexisted and intertwined for centuries. The history of Lviv dates back to 1250 when it was founded by King Danylo Halytskyi of Galicia-Volhynia. Throughout its history, Lviv has experienced numerous wars that have changed its political affiliation several times, but it has always remained culturally diverse due to the influx of different ethnicities. The city itself is full of architectural wonders that reflect both Polish and Ukrainian influences from various eras throughout its long existence. Architecture, cuisine and entertainment are a fascinating mix created by Poles, Ukrainians, Jewish people and other ethnic groups over hundreds of years – all of which are still relevant today.

In the Bieszczady Mountains, we learn about the history and current life of the region once inhabited mostly by Ruthenians (an ethnic group who are the precursors of the Ukrainian people and who spoke a language similar to Ukrainian). The Ruthenian people were resettled from Ukraine to western Poland in the 1940s.

In Sanok, we visit the largest open-air ethnographic museum in Poland. Skansen is a unique museum in the Polish-Ruthenian region, preserving and exhibiting artifacts from both cultures. It is hard to find a better way to learn history than by entering original houses and listening to the stories of their former inhabitants. We also visit Sanok Castle which is a museum with exhibitions of this Polish-Ruthenian region.

We stop in Trzcinica to see the Carpathian Troy, an open-air archaeological exhibition showing the first settlements in this area. It is still in the Polish-Ruthenian region, about 20 miles north from the old settlements of the Lemkos who are a sub-group of the Ruthenians. 

Traveling in Zakopane region, we enter Dunajec castle from the early XIV century in Niedzica. In the evening, we attend one of the Zakopane cultural restaurants with live Goral band music. This provides a taste of the culture and history of this region of Western Galicia.

Arriving in Kraków, there will be a guided tour of Old Town with a local English-speaking guide, and entrance to Wawel Castle. Kraków is a fine example of a medieval historical town rich in Polish history and culture. 

Przemyśl is one of the two largest towns of the Cherven Gords (Red Fortresses). Cherven Gords played a central role in the history of the early medieval Polish-Ruthenian borderlands. The area is first mentioned in 981, when Vladimir the Great conquered it during his campaign of expansion to the West.

For more details on the daily flow of the tour, see the tour itinerary.

How might knowing and experiencing these historical locations promote mutual understanding and respect?

Our tour is designed to raise awareness of Poland and Ukraine’s common roots. Historically, we come from the same region of Europe where diverse ethnic groups (not only Ruthenians and Poles but also Jews, Huculs from Romania, Germans, and other minorities) lived peacefully for centuries. The truth is: We are not that different. Only borders, history, and sometimes radical nationalist leaders tried (with some success) to isolate and divide us. The knowledge that we have more in common than we realize, will promote better understanding, respect, and tolerance.

How will negative historical events be handled on the tour?

Our History, Healing, and Hope tour strives to educate with the facts of history and to provide Ukrainian teens respite from trauma. To fulfill both aspects of our vision, any negative historical event will be presented factually within its historical context without emotion or blame. Emphasis will be placed on the commonalities that unite us. Throughout history, individuals and countries made negative choices as well as positive choices. The question is: what kind of choices are we making on a daily basis? Do our choices divide us or unite us? By learning from history, we hope to make better choices in the present.

What non-historical activities are part of the tour, and how might these activities facilitate healing and peer connections?

According to UC Berkeley research, the awe we feel in nature can dramatically reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, exercise such as hiking done in groups has been shown to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For these reasons, we intentionally included exercise and time in nature as part of the History, Healing and Hope Tour. In the Sanok area, Polish and Ukrainian teens will spend the day hiking together in the Bieszczady Mountains. In the Zakopane region, the Ukrainian teens embark on a Dunajec river rafting experience or a boat cruise on Czorsztyn lake (dependent on the weather conditions). There is also an excursion to Morskie Oko, which is the largest and most beautiful lake in the Tatra Mountains.

Supportive social interaction, expression, and play is also known to help reduce stress. Therefore, as we journey from Sanok to Zakopane, we stop to visit the “chocolate factory” in Korczyna, and on the way from Zakopane to Kraków , we visit the Gubałówka Hill to ride down the gravitational slides. From Kraków , we depart for a full day excursion to Energylandia the largest amusement park in Poland, offering 123 attractions located on 70 hectares – a good way to play, relax, laugh, and be a teenager!

What experiential activities will be done to facilitate dialogue, personal expression, and understanding?

In addition to touring excursions, there will be some daily activities included in the schedule to deepen what was learned and promote discussion of the day’s experiences. Some of these activities include: daily journal writing so the teens can record their personal learning, feelings, and reactions to the day; “ice-breaker” activities that quickly facilitate inter-personal connection in a playful way; daily group gatherings facilitated by the adults on the tour to encourage discussion and sharing of experiences in a safe environment; and some basic learning about the human stress response with some simple relaxation techniques that can be used to help manage it. 

Who are the tour guides and what are their qualifications?

There will be an overall tour guide/leader, Zenon Znamirowski, who will be present throughout the tour. For details about Zenon’s qualification, go here. There will also be a specialized tour guide for the first days of the tour covering the areas of shared Polish-Ukrainian history, Piotr Zelny. For details about Piotr’s qualifications, go here. There will also be several local, nationally certified tour guides in places such as Lviv, Kraków, Przemyśl, and at some attractions like museums, castles, etc. 

How many adults will be accompanying the teens on the tour, and what will be their roles?

Adults who will be part of the entire tour include: the tour leader, a teacher from Zhytomyr, a psychologist from Zhytomyr, and a bus driver. (Also, a specialized guide previously mentioned will be part of the tour for the first week.) The tour leader, Zenon Znamirowski, is responsible for all aspects of the tour and the well-being of those participating in the tour. The teacher and psychologist from Zhytomyr will design and facilitate the inter-personal activities such as group discussions, “ice-breakers”, teaching of relaxation techniques, journaling time, and other expressive activities. Additionally, the psychologist is available for any tour participant who may require individual help or attention. All adults on the tour will be there to care for the needs of the teens and help to create a safe container of love, acceptance, and understanding.

How will the Ukrainian and Polish teens be selected to participate in the tour, and what will be expected of them after the tour is completed?

Ukrainian and Polish teens between the ages of 14-17 will submit a written application plus either a 1-2 page written essay or a 1-3 minute video that answers the questions: Why would you like to be part of this tour? What are you hoping to gain from it? 

Applications from Ukrainian teens will be submitted to our partner organization, Zhytomyr Community Foundation for processing and selection. All paperwork, travel documents, permissions, and transport to the Polish border for the Ukrainian teens will be done by Zhytomyr Community Foundation. 

Applications from Polish teens will be submitted to the headmaster of their local school for processing and selection. All paperwork, permissions, and transport to the appointed meeting locations in Sanok and possibly Kraków will be done by the local Polish schools.

After the tour the teens will be expected to give a presentation to their classmates and teachers at their local schools about what they learned/experienced on the tour, what effect the tour has had on them personally, and if/how the tour affected their outlook for the future. 

At what points in the tour will Ukrainian teens be with their Polish peers and what activities will be done to promote mutual understanding and respect?

Currently, we plan to have two separate groups from two Polish schools (one being an art school). The first group of Polish teens will meet the Ukrainian teens on the first evening in Sanok for facilitated “ice-breaker” activities. Then, the entire next day (Day 3) they will hike together in the Bieszczady Mountains. Time for personal journaling will be set aside on the bus ride back to Sanok. Later that evening, a group discussion will be facilitated by the tour leader, teacher, and psychologist to share what they learned and experienced and perhaps to do a simple expressive art project. 

The next day in Sanok, (Day 4 of the tour) a second group of Polish teens will be introduced through facilitated “ice-breaker” activities. After introductions, all of the teens will attend the Skansen open-air museum and the Sanok Castle museum. Time for journaling will be set aside on the bus ride back to Sanok. Later that evening, a group discussion will be facilitated by the tour leader, teacher, and psychologist to share what they learned and experienced.