How art historians want to preserve the cultural heritage of Ukraine | culture | DW


“We can count the days without shelling on both hands,” says the deputy director of one museum in badly damaged Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. The museum itself was badly damaged by the explosion in the building opposite. Until February 24 118 people worked here, she continues. Currently there are only nine of them. Reports like this show the extent of this problem war in Ukraine not only for the people, but also for the country’s cultural institutions.

Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, art historians and employees of museums and cultural institutions from Germany have been constantly meeting their colleagues from Ukraine on the Internet. “Initially, the goal was to get first-hand information: What happens to the objects, colleagues?” Kilian Heck, an art historian at the University of Greifswald, told DW. Heck initiated the meetings, the first just a week after the invasion – also to counter his sense of powerlessness: “There was complete confusion that you wanted to channel.”

Sandbags protect the statue in Mykhailivska Square in Kyiv.

Everywhere in Ukraine, sandbags are supposed to protect monuments from damage – like here in Kiev

Transportation of support on site

For a long time, the participants met weekly, recently every two weeks. Two participants translate into both languages ​​at meetings. After the first meetings were mainly characterized by descriptions of the situation, concerns and offers of help to fleeing colleagues, attention soon shifted to the active organization of an aid vehicle.

“It has been proven that not so many people leave the country, but they need help on the ground to protect objects, cultural values ​​and infrastructure,” says Kilian Heck. Since then, the purpose of the meetings has been to directly agree on the necessary tools and material resources. The result was die initiative “Ukrainian Art Help Center”, which, despite its German name Netzwerk Kulturgutschutz Ukraine, should not be confused with the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Culture and Media, as well as in March. created an association of the same name.

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The private network promises “uncomplicated assistance to Ukraine’s war-torn museums and cultural assets” and has long been largely supported by private donations, especially big donors. Experts gathered in the network work on a voluntary basis. The meetings sometimes have an enthusiastic atmosphere, some of the participants are from Ukraine to spread confidencethat the aggressors will ultimately lose.

 Kilian Heck, art historian at the University of Greifswald

Art historian Kilian Heck initiated online meetings and a support network

War against Ukrainian culture

The lists of needs for cultural institutions were long: fireproof blankets, packing materials to transport objects to less contentious areas in the west of the country, air conditioning units to protect cultural values ​​from humidity or heat. With an uncertain winter, the latter are in high demand again, as are scanners and 3D printers to digitize stocks – even if they are destroyed.

Because Russia’s attack is clearly aimed at Ukrainian cultural heritage. It is about the targeted shooting of cultural institutions Website created by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine at the beginning of September, more than 500 war losses to cultural objects were recorded. Photographs show bullet holes or bomb hits on the facades of museums and churches. It is said that Russian soldiers transported cultural values ​​from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia.

Criticism of the term financial aid

In order to protect cultural values, the network has already organized more than twenty relief goods transfers, now with the support of state funds. The federal government has allocated 1.5 million euros for measures to protect the cultural heritage of Ukraine at risk of war. As DW has learned, there is criticism – also at the political level – of linking the funds to the current budget year. The amount must be “spent” by the end of 2022, according to the authorities.

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