Zhmerynka recently became a platform for a series of seminars, trainings and workshops as part of ‘PlanZ’, that is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, Goethe Institute Kyiv and ‘Institute of Cultural Policy’ (Vinnytsia).

The main task of ‘Laboratory of transformation’ was to help local activists create a cultural and economic development strategy for Zhmerynka, produce urban transformation projects and promote the natural desire of active citizens to make their town attractive and welcoming.
So what is Zhmerynka? Just a railroad transshipment center or prospective railway junction town with its own charm? It is so much the second as assured all who have gathered for the development of cultural and economic concept of Zhmerynka and transformation of its urban space. The expert group included Patrick S. Föhl (Germany), Irina Frenkel, Yaroslav Minkin, Irina Kats and Pavel Tretyakov (Ukraine). Community leaders from other parts of Ukraine also arrived to town to learn and share new experiences. And all that happened with the active assistance of Mayor Anatoly Kushnir, so the initiatives from ‘Cultural Agents of Change’ soon can become real.

Who are those activists? They are mainly young people, enthusiasts with glowing eyes, full of a variety of ideas to improve the space of the hometown. Among them there is always active Catherine Semes. She participates in all activities and involved in discussions always holding her 6-month old son. Her purpose is to create a modern, comfortable place for young parents with small children and, of course, she wants her son live in a renewed cultural city.

There is Irina Bulba who works in the city historical museum and makes it more interesting every day. She says about the rewarding experience of seminars and meetings that will introduce real change: ‘In fact, I already see changes. The festival ‘Suitcase. Submission. Station’ last December was the real impetus that took place in the building of historical railway station. Nothing like that ever happened there. This event shook the young creative people of the city who learned that everything is possible and started to communicate for the sake of changes for the better’.

Lubov Zhernovska engaged in youth leisure activities and organization of small concerts in Zhmerynka. She says that the citizens of the town formed a request for cultural projects and she seeks to make more cultural events. ‘It is a great honor to cooperate with the Goethe Institute and the Institute for Cultural Policy, because we want a lot, but there is no consistency, so it is useful to hear some expert advice. ‘PlanZ’ - is an excellent opportunity for our small town to become a cultural center of Ukrainian level among small cities. We already have great ideas on transforming the parks’ –she said.

The community activists from other towns of Ukraine came to Zhmerynka as it is a pilot project and its case will develop the roadmap that will push other small towns in Ukraine and help them find their path in post-industrial time based on their own cultural and human resources. Vladimir Hrynishak of Nadvirna (Ivano-Frankivsk region) talks about active communities in Western Ukraine. They learned to influence the government and implement beneficial for young dwellers projects. Within ‘PlanZ’ he is working on project ‘Cultural network of small cities’ and says that he sees the great tourist potential of Zhmerynka as it's an interesting town that easily accessible from anywhere in the country. Michael V. Semikin from Melitopol seeks to awaken social activity in his city and calls all the active youth for dialogue with the authorities for the common good. He understands that it is a cultural development that can become the platform of changes and also attract investments to the city. Alex Skobeev from Chernivtsi talks about the experience of immigrants from the east of Ukraine and his work with students from other countries. He specializes in eco-projects and these workshops and seminars inspired him to new heights.

German expert Patrick S. Föhl fascinated by Zhmerynka and its active citizens, says: ‘The topic of cultural change is important not only for Ukraine but also world wide as society is changing responding to new challenges. So the question is in the importance of cooperation with cultural managers for creating new spaces and cultural development of our cities. In fact, in all the small towns of Europe around the world we have a similar problem: people are leaving them in search of a better life instead of creating conditions for the development of the infrastructure in the place they were born. I like everything here in Ukraine, people here a truly determined to change and open to all new! And yet, it should be noted how much depends on the local authorities and the readiness to experiment. In that case the required changes will become real due to active citizens. And that is exactly the case in Zhmerynka!’About the need of change in the perception of the processes taking place in post-industrial society and the key role of cultural and human resources in the further development of small areas, stressed in her speech to the activists Irina Frenkel, the chairman of the ‘Institute for Cultural Policy’.

So, during this phase of ‘PlanZ’ activists has developed four projects and in a few months they will be implemented. Follow along and see how it will happen. For Zhmerynka it is just the beginning and the town must change for the better so as other towns of our country.