Country coordinators

Interpret Europe's country coordinators take responsibility for the development of heritage interpretation and of Interpret Europe in single European countries. At present there are seven country coordinators leading their own teams:

Country Coordinator Austria:
Claudiu Silvestru

Since completing my architectural studies in Graz, I had a broad interest in the connections between heritage interpretation and architecture. Through my diploma project I proposed a new infrastructure for the archaeology park of Sarmizegetusa Regia, increasing the readability of the Dacian development stages. In 2014 I received my PhD from the Vienna University of Technology with a thesis on the interpretation of the medieval heritage of Vienna.

I am a trained architect and worked with several architectural offices, gaining a vast experience in dealing with protected sites and the reuse and extension of historical buildings. In parallel to my architecture practice I found my way to heritage interpretation on detours by researching the role of cultural heritage in urban development and for the contemporary society. In my architectural practice I use the know-how and network built through my research activity and initiate interpretation programmes on the historical buildings within my projects. As such I included the World War II air-raid shelter under the Viennese historical post office in the Open Heritage Days programmes in 2015 and 2016.

Country Coordinator Belarus:
Valeria Klitsounova

I am Chair of the Board of the Agro- and Ecotourism Belarusian Association, “Country Escape”, and an active member of the National Association for Interpretation.

I actively promote nature and culture interpretation ideas and sustainability principles in Belarus. I was one founder of the Rural Culture Museum “Dudutky”, which is the first museum in Belarus based on heritage interpretation principles.

I studied heritage interpretation in the USA through the Fulbright Scholarship Program at George Mason University and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (2013/2014). After my return to Belarus I launched the innovative course, "Nature and Culture Heritage Interpretation”, as associate professor of the Belarusian State University (international tourism department). This course combines theory, a lot of creative practical activities and discussions with students.

I am also an author of the very first book on interpretation in Russian, “Heritage Interpretation in Tourism: New Approaches in Experience Economy Era”. The book describes the interpretation philosophy and ideology, main principles, creative techniques and the best international and Belarusian practices in this field.

Country Coordinator Bulgaria:
Margarita Kaisheva

I am a graduate in Cybernetics (M.A.) from the Moscow Polytechnic University and holds PhD in strategic management. I was responsible for numerous projects related to tourism, regional development, entrepreneurship, business growth and institutional development. I had research tasks and trainings in management subjects at UCLA (USA), IIASA, (Laxenburg, Austria), Center for Management Development (Brussels, Belgium), Bocconi University, etc. and in Tourism in The Netherlands, Ireland, etc.

In the early 1990s, I became responsible for the Senior Advisors programme of the Dutch Ministry of Economy (for 17 years) and provision of expertise to communities and businesses in various fields. I worked in Bulgaria and internationally and accumulated intersectoral and cross-cultural experience and knowledge.

I was a chairperson and a member of the Managing Board of the Association for Alternative Tourism and a member of the Board of the Authentic Bulgaria Association. I was part of the USAID team which developed and applied the “Authentic Bulgaria” quality certification model for tourism establishments and introduction of the quality mark “Rose for Distinction”. I was the author of the “Delicious Bulgaria” concept for promotion of gastronomy heritage. I was also part of the environment conscious “Green Lodge” certification model of ECEAT in Bulgaria.

My involvement in heritage interpretation started in 2008 with the establishment of the People and Nature Association, an NGO, dealing with interaction between people and nature and activities related to ecology, biodiversity, agro-diversity and cultural diversity. In 2011, I founded the Center for Heritage interpretation (CHI), an NGO in private use. Both organisations work consistently in the mentioned fields, initiate and implement projects on topical issues for the society.

I am dedicated to work on inspiring world civilisations through modern tourism, linking heritage to economy, biodiversity, regional and local performance, by using the art of heritage interpretation. I have special interests in ancient civilisations and immaterial heritage.

Country Coordinator Croatia:
Dragana Lucija Ratkovic Aydemir

I was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1969. Having finished studies at Zagreb’s legendary Educational Centre for Culture and Art, I enrolled in the study of comparative literature and art history at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. I was employed at the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments at the Ministry of Culture in Zagreb, and then in Poreč (Istria), where until 2004, I worked on the safeguarding of cultural heritage. In 1997, I was awarded a six-month UNESCO scholarship for professional training in the field of the conservation and restoration of cultural assets in Poland.

In 2003, after the successful installation of a permanent exhibition of sacral heritage in Rovinj’s Franciscan Monastery, the Town of Rovinj (Istria, Croatia) employed me for the 'House of Batana' project. I successfully led this project until 2013 and it became the first ecomuseum in Croatia. This project was a turning point in my work and served as a case study for professional training at the Marcel Hicter Foundation in Brussels. In this European programme of education, I gained a European diploma for management in culture and cultural tourism in 2005.

I also established Croatia’s first specialized boutique company for management in culture and tourism. This company, called Muze d.o.o/ Muses Ltd, has a special emphasis on heritage interpretation and presentation.

In 2009, I was elected as the President of the Association of Mediterranean Maritime Museums (AMMM) whose centre is in Barcelona (a four-year mandate), and from 2010 the UNDP in Croatia employed me as an expert advisor for ecomuseums in the Coast project.

Since 2012, I have been managing a pioneer project of interpretation and presentation of nature consisting of 30 investments in nature parks and protected areas in the Republic of Croatia, financed by the World Bank.

In 2016, I was involved in the establishment of the Croatian Association for Heritage Interpretation Interpretirajmo Hrvatsku (Interpret Croatia), where I hold the position of Vice President. Besides this I am a member of various professional associations such as ICOM, ORACLE and EMH.

Country Coordinator Norway:
Kristian Bjørnstad

My educational background is in Human Ecology and Education, specialising in sustainable development and regional parks. I hold Master’s degrees from Lund University in Sweden and Florida State University in the United States. At present I am attached to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Intending to research the emerging regional parks in Norway ten years ago, I instead became active in the regional parks movement. Since then I have been involved in establishing the Norwegian Parks Association and am now the Secretariat Director for this small but growing organisation. I am also building links between regional-nature parks in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe.

I became interested in heritage interpretation through planning work in the Nærøyfjord World Heritage Park on the west coast of Norway. I am especially interested in how heritage interpretation can be used in parks and protected areas to connect people with place and to create good visitor experiences.

In 2016 I participated in Interpret Europe`s CIG course and the CIG trainer course. I am looking forward to increasing the interest for interpretation in Norway and the Nordic countries.  With Swedish partners, I am organising the first Scandinavian CIG course and launching a project on forest interpretation.

Country Coordinator Switzerland:
Sebastian Bellwald

I am geographer and economist. In combining these disciplines, I have been shaping regional development in Switzerland for 20 years. Convinced that individuals are the driving force for developing their environment, I have put knowledge- and networking-management at the centre of my interest and daily business.

Unsurprisingly, these competences are also the core of my own consulting company, named PLANVAL. Together with my colleagues, I have initiated and executed numerous projects in the field of regional development and sustainable tourism. Thereby I came across the power of interpreting natural and cultural heritage to visitors and realised the still untapped potential for interpretation in Switzerland. The country has rich landscapes, cultural and historical sites, and a high diversity of folklore. However, interpreting this richness is still in its infancy.

Convinced by the power of interpretation, and driven by my spirit of innovation, I engaged with heritage interpretation in 2003. Persuaded by the creative force of networks at different scales, I became a co-founder of Interpret Europe and volunteered to become the Country Coordinator Switzerland: to be able to contribute to this international network but also to let Switzerland benefit from the experience and knowledge of IE. As Country Coordinator, I will contribute to IE and to heritage interpretation as a profession with the following actions:

  • Bring heritage interpretation to the attention of professional individuals, organisations and institutions related to heritage interpretation in Switzerland to increase the quality of interpretation-products in Switzerland;
  • Create and strengthen networks of professional individuals, organisations and institutions related to heritage interpretation in Switzerland and supporting international networking activities;
  • Strengthen the presence of Interpret Europe as an international network for the interpretation field in Switzerland; and
  • Attract new members by pointing out the operational opportunities of Interpret Europe and the meaning of heritage interpretation.

Country Coordinator Ukraine:
Nataliia Gudkova

I'm an Assistant Professor at the State Ecological Academy of Postgraduate Education and Management in Ukraine. I specialise in adult environmental education and protected area management and promote ideas and principles of heritage interpretation and sustainable development in Ukraine.

I hold a PhD degree in Biology, MSc degree in protected area management (Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, Austria), and also graduated from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Ukraine). I have been a scientific expert in the UNDP/GEF Project “Strengthening Governance and Financial Sustainability of the National Protected Area System in Ukraine” (2008-2011).

My involvement in heritage interpretation started in 2012 with activities related to conservation biology and nature interpretation within the framework of the MATRA/MAVA Project “Building capacity for biodiversity conservation in Ukraine: network and training support” of the Ukrainian Environmental Club "Green Wave".  

In 2016, I participated in Interpret Europe`s Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) course and the CIG trainer course. In partnership with the US Forest Service and the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), I have coordinated a project on nature interpretation and organised the first CIG course in Ukraine. My current interests also include arranging engaging heritage interpretation to facilitate pleasant and valuable visitor experiences.


Our mission

To serve all who use
first-hand experiences
to give natural and
cultural heritage a
deeper meaning