Drones, unfortunately, have been rather a common site in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine in recent weeks and months, targeting civilians and infrastructural installations as part of the Russian war effort against Ukraine. Now, Kyiv hosts a conference on drones for their positive usage as the ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative conducts an EU funded workshop for architecture and engineering students on UAV data in Jewish cemetery and heritage preservation.
The workshop is co-organised by drone experts, Germandrones and DroneUA, and the Faculty of Land Management at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences Of Ukraine, where the event will take place in person as from Wednesday, November 16 .
Katharina von Schnurbein, EC Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism, stated that “While the atrocious aggression against the Ukrainian people remains our number one concern, also cultural heritage of Ukraine has been subject to unscrupulous destruction and looting by the Russian invaders.”
“It is a blatant example of the symbolic role that culture and heritage play in societies. The EU has strongly condemned the Russian aggression and fully supports Ukraine. We are convinced that the protection of cultural heritage is crucial for keeping the memory of the past alive, learning for the future, and also, in the times of conflict, support recovery.” she added.
During the two-day workshop, participants will receive a crash course on hardware, data processing, and the application of drones in the field, equipping them with the grounding they need to start a career in the field of UAC technology, while also providing an introduction to Jewish heritage research. The event will end with a creative competition with the top five entries receiving a small prize.
ESJF Chief Executive Officer Philip Carmel said: “I am delighted that this conference is going ahead because drones today are a key tool in the preservation of heritage, as we learned through our mass survey work of Jewish cemeteries. It is phenomenal that we are holding this event in Ukraine at the current time, a country that has for so long been a centre of our activities and which once hosted the largest number of Jewish communities in the world before the Shoah”.
“The desire and commitment of our Ukrainian partners and the European Union to hold this event in Kyiv is itself testimony to the resilience of the Ukrainian people and we could not have thought of a more appropriate city to host this conference. Drones have done so much damage in the country recently, hopefully, they can also be used widely in the future for positive benefit to all,” he added.
The workshop is organised within the framework of the EU funded preparatory action “Protecting the Jewish Cemeteries of Europe”, which is undertaken by a consortium led by the ESJF together with the Foundation for Jewish Heritage and Centropa.
The initiative builds on two previous ESJF led pilot projects also funded by the EU, which focused on surveying and mapping over 3000 Jewish burial sites across eight countries including Ukraine, using cutting edge drone technology. The results of this research can be found online through an open access database, and revealed the perilous condition of Jewish burial sites with 44% needing urgent protection. Most of the communities which owned these cemeteries were destroyed in the Holocaust, so the cemeteries often remain the last physical witness to centuries of Jewish community life in these areas.
By focusing on raising awareness of Jewish cemeteries and developing interest in the preservation of Jewish heritage at the local level, the project will support the EU in promoting tolerance and countering harmful antisemitic narratives as well as preserving the memory of the Shoah.