Destroyed museums, theaters and churches: how to save Ukrainian culture?

In the Kharkiv region, the Hryhorii Skovoroda literary museum has almost completely turned to ashes. The space had been named in honor of the poet and philosopher considered one of the icons of Ukrainian culture. Another museum was set on fire, in the city of Ivankiv, near Kiev, destroying works by one of the main artists of Ukrainian folklore, Maria Prymachenko.

These are just a few examples of the barbaric attack on history and heritage. Ukrainian culture. The country’s Ministry of Culture has notified about 400 war crimes by Russians against Ukraine’s heritage. In the more than six months of conflict, about 30 museums were torn down, burned or damaged, in addition to 130 theaters and libraries and more than 130 churches.

The numbers show that culture is not just one of the accidental victims of war, but one of the main targets of the Russians.

The professor of the University of Kharkiv, Oleksander Zinenko, regrets the losses. “By erasing our history, Russia creates its own version of history, where there is no room for the Ukrainian heritage”, the professor tells the newspaper El País.

Mobilization in Kiev

In an attempt to protect part of the country’s artistic works, the director of the Maidan Museum in the Ukrainian capital, Ihor Poshyvailo, founded the Heritage Emergency Response Initiative (HERI).

In addition to helping people pack and hide art items, the group organizes hundreds of artworks, documents the wear and tear, scans objects and buildings that have been hit by missiles.

Using scanners that reproduce high-resolution images, volunteers have already detected, among others, a church in pieces in Chernihiv and the destruction of a historic barracks in Kharkiv.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro, Poshyvailo stressed that the traffic of works has increased since the beginning of the war, especially the large ndes artistic collections and material from archaeological sites. “We created a red list to guide border guards, art stores and Interpol,” he said.

A direct attack on Ukrainian culture

“Our cultural identity sets us apart from the Russians. We are very different. Vladimir Putin has clearly launched a war against our cultural heritage”, said Poshyvailo.

According to the New York Times, among the artistic works, the Russians stole gold artifacts from a museum in Melitopol, which part of the 4th century memory. As the city’s mayor, Ivan Fyodorov, declared, it was one of the most valuable collections in the country.

In a discussion on Youtube about the preservation of Ukrainian cultural heritage, the agency’s director general Mystetskyi Arsenal, Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta, highlighted that the Russians attack the history of the neighboring country in three ways: with the destruction of artifacts, with the reassignment of them – saying they are Russians – and through the illegal seizure of Ukrainian objects by the military forces.

“This Russian war in Ukraine is closely linked to culture,” warned Olesia. For her, only the end of the conflict can avoid irreparable losses to the country’s history.

International aid

Not only does Ukraine depend on internal efforts to recover and protect its culture. On Monday (), the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, declared that “the reconstruction of Ukraine is the task of the entire democratic world”.

The video was sent by the President to representatives of international institutions and the private sector from several countries who met in Lugano, Switzerland, between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal was present at the event and announced that both a “reform” and a “reconstruction” of the country will be necessary, citing the frequent orientation of Europeans to fight corruption in Ukraine and other pre-existing problems. .

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in turn, after declaring “Glory to Ukraine”, reinforced her commitment to contribute to the “reconstruction of a better country than the that existed before the war.”

Billion dollar restructuring is far from happening

The commitment, however, should weigh on the pocket of the West, given the economic crisis. According to the Ukrainian prime minister, the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure alone will cost 750 billions of dollars (more than 4 trillion reais).

To begin with, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is expected to lend to Ukrainians an amount of 100 billion euros (more than 130 billion reais).

According to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, there is also a movement involving several European and international organizations, in addition to the private sector, to collect donations to the country.

The amount is organized and distributed through a platform. “Ukraine will be in charge, because our actions will be guided by the wishes of the Ukrainian people,” Michel explained at a press conference.

The United States has also announced a specific contribution to the recovery of Ukrainian cultural heritage. “When US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared their support for Ukraine, it was not just about weapons and ammunition, but also about preserving cultural and heritage sites under attack by President Putin,” he announced. Lee Satterfield, Assistant Secretary of State for the US Office of Cultural Affairs, at a press conference.

A large-scale architectural and cultural recovery, however, has no start date. As long as there is war, there is a risk of old and new buildings being destroyed.

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