Vinnytsia as the coordinator of the Camino Podolico itinerary has been officially invited to join the European Federation of St James Way. This decision was made at the General Assembly of the Federation held on June 29-30 in Potes, Spain.
Thanks to this joining, a new cultural route of the Council of Europe may appear in Ukraine, which allows the promotion and development of local heritage at the international level and establishes cooperation between communities and with other countries.
Camino Podolico is a cultural, pilgrimage, and ecological route from Vinnytsia to Kamianets-Podilskyi via Bar based on the St James Way, which passes through the whole of Europe and leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain to the relics of the Apostle James. During the first season of functioning in 2021, more than 150 pilgrims from different cities in Ukraine passed it.
"It is the intention of this presidency to increase the number of associates to this Federation. We are at the right time for this organization to rethink its structure and dimension if it really wants to be representative of the public administrations that work in the protection, development, dissemination and promotion of the Way of St. James. I take this opportunity to express, as President of this Federation, our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people in their resistance to the Russian aggression and their struggle to maintain their sovereignty and identity” - Ildefonso de la Campa Montenegro, the president of the European Federation of Saint James Way said.
Camino Podolico was presented by Vinnytsia Deputy Mayor Andrii Ocheretnyi at the meeting of the General Assembly of the European Federation of St James Way.
"The introduction of Camino Podolico into the European Federation of St James Way is a true diplomatic victory for Ukraine on the way to our European integration. It is a great honor for me to present this project on behalf of the Vinnytsia community and our partners. In 2019-2020, together with ten communities of Podillya, Vinnytsia adopted the best experience from Lithuanian colleagues from Panevėžys and Kaunas and in a short time created a popular pilgrimage route, which can be extended to the border with the EU. We are waiting for the certification process for this route, after which the Council of Europe markings and the legendary sun shell (a symbol of St James Way) could appear on key objects. This will once again confirm that Ukraine in the current conditions continues to fight for the preservation of its history and cultural identity. We will be glad to start our cooperation with the European Federation of St James Way to spread knowledge, intercultural dialogue, and common values", - Andrii Ocheretnyi said.
Now Camino Podolico is a 250 kilometers route through the historical settlements of Podillya (Podolia). There is a website, a bilingual guidebook, a detailed map with interesting places, stands and signs along the way, a pilgrim's passport, and certificates of passage for travelers.
Despite the full-scale war and the impossibility of the full functioning of Camino Podolico, the project is one of the strategic priorities in the development of tourism for Vinnytsia, Bar, and Kamianets-Podilskyi communities. For instance, in the summer of this year, it is planned to open a space at the starting point of the way near the Vinnytsia Temple of the Virgin Mary of the Angels, as well as to attract travelers to study the intangible (in particular, gastronomic) heritage along the way.
"The uniqueness of the St James Way of Podillya is in the fact that in Ukraine this type of tourism hasn’t yet been systematically implemented and Camino Podolico has already become valuable for different regions of the country. Even before the military aggression, we held negotiations with representatives of the western regions of Ukraine regarding the extension of the route and its connection with the border to the EU. This opens up new opportunities for international and trans-border cooperation, which is now a priority for the post-war reconstruction of the country. Also, cultural routes make it possible to expand the audience of tourists including foreigners, who discover different aspects of European history - said Oleksandr Vesheleni, director of the city marketing and tourism department of the Vinnytsia City Council