Belarus cultural heritage dance music Pavieł Hančar performing arts



// Pavieł is based in Minsk, Belarus. He often documents cultural events in his home country and this time has shared a series on the ShtetlFest, an exploration of Jewish cultural heritage in area where it has long been forgotten.

In his working life Pavieł heads an IT company, and photography provides a much needed creative outlet for him. “My goal is to see and convey with my photography beautiful moments of everyday life of people in Belarus.”

Like his favourite humanist photographer Edouard Boubat, a French photojournalist and art photographer, Pavieł looks at the world through his camera viewfinder instinctively, practicing a type of spontaneous documentary photography.

“Only those are truly dead who have been completely forgotten”

 This, according to Paviel, is a Jewish saying not about art, but related to the results of the ShtetlFest project

What draws you to the arts?

“I have always been amazed at how art can provide amusement and joy without the slightest need from a pragmatic point of view. This is truly what makes us human beings created in the image of God.” 

What impressed you most about the Belarusian ShtetlFest event you have documented?

“The strongest impression from the expedition was rather sad – there are almost no people left alive who can talk about the culture of the people who a hundred years ago made up half the population of Belarusian towns.”

Pavieł joined an event that tries to revitalise former Jewish culture in Belarus. Expeditions to the former Jewish townships of Belarus and Poland were organized by the participants of the ShtetlFest international project (‘Research and revitalization of urban folklore as the main element of festivities in former Jewish townships‘) in July 2021. This transnational project, which is supported by the European Union, is implemented in partnership with the State Institution of Additional Education “Children and Youth Creativity Center of Barysaŭ District” (Minsk Oblast, Belarus) and the “Teatr Latarnia” Foundation (Podlaskie Voivodeship, Poland). The ShtetlFest project idea is to create an international Belarus-Poland touristic route along six former Belarusian-Polish Jewish shtetls, small Jewish towns or villages in eastern Europe, to promote tangible and intangible Jewish heritage. As an annual event, the project has planned the “Shtetl Folk Fest” in the former Izabielin shtetl in Belarus.

The Belarusian part of the journey included Ziembin, Liubča, Izabielin and Navahrudak. The Jewish history of these places was forgotten for a long time. The events of the 20th century, everyday anti-Semitism and state politics led to a mass emigration of Jews, who before the war accounted for about half (in some places up to 80-90%) of the population. The ShtetlFest-project team chose a research method that intertwines ethnography and creativity, to dive into the common past and identity. Not only historians and ethnographers, but also musicians and artists were invited to the group. The volunteers talk to the local population, meet local historians and ethnographers, take photos, collect stories, sing and dance. During the festival, there were Yiddish singing workshops. A collection of impressions of the expedition participants, atmospheric photos and videos, archival photos, analytical materials and information for travelers has been placed into a Media Manual.

Pavieł´s photography pays tribute to the joy of the folk music and dance event that took place with the group “Žydovačka“. It looks like it was a very fun and energetic event.

Click on the photos to see the full image.


To see more of his photography visit Pavieł´s Instagram page. We have previously featured his photography in an article about Belarusian folk art.

P.S. The SthetlFest is an initiative supported by the European Union under the Cross-border Cooperation Programme PL-BY-UA 2014-2020.

Further links:

Instagram: @ shtetl.fest
Facebook: @ shtetl.fest

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