“Russian bombs hit cultural institutions, not by chance”. Who saves Ukrainian museums during the war?

shotam.info – https://shotam.info/rosiyski-bomby-vluchaiut-u-zaklady-kultury-ne-vypadkovo-khto-riatuie-ukrainski-muzei-pid-chas-viyny/


by Boichenko Anastasiia

Translation: Halyna Vyliika 

When it comes to saving Ukrainian museums during the war, it is not only about the evacuation of exhibits and collections. It is important to support their employees as well – people who have dedicated themselves to preserving culture and history. Olha Honchar, founder of the Museum Crisis Center and director of the memorial museum of totalitarian regimes “Territory of Terror”, is convinced of this.

Olha told ShoTam why Russian bombs do not accidentally hit cultural institutions, what is the role of a museum in wartime, and how “Territory of Terror” teaches us to remain human in times of disasters.

The Museum crisis center emerged from a Facebook post

From the first days of the full-scale war, many opportunities appeared for Ukrainian cultural figures who were leaving for abroad: various residences, scholarships, financial support, and employment. And I received many offers in the mail as well, they said, leave your country, you would have a job, we would rent an apartment for you. However, it became obvious to me back then that my team and I are staying in Ukraine. And there were a lot of such people like us.I was thinking: how can you support representatives of the cultural industry, which always ends up on the margins of state funding? What do we do with those who stay? I wrote a Facebook post about it on March 3, and my friends responded. This is how the Museum Crisis Center initiative was born.

Photo: Olia Klymuk

The individual financial support of museum workers is our priority

It all started with the fact that my colleague and friend Olesya Milovanova did the first monitoring of museums in the Luhansk region. She is the director of the Luhansk Regional Museum of Local Lore, which was evacuated to Starobilsk after the Russian occupation in 2014. 17 branches of the museum are under her control. Olesya asked her colleagues what they needed most. And first of all, they lacked money for basic needs: water, food, and medicine. Many museum workers have not been paid since February 24, and this situation remains the same today.Compared to other cities, in Lviv, at that time, everything was generally fine. We felt that many resources were passing through us, and Lviv became a huge shelter. We are mediators who connect those who want to help and those who need this help. Individual financial support to museum workers who found themselves in difficult life circumstances, who remain in the occupied territories and are in hot spots is our priority.

Olha Honchar and Olesia Milovanova

All team members are professionals in their fields, so-called “museum kitchen”

The Museum Crisis Center exists based on two public organizations: “Insha Osvita” and “New Museum”. Nowadays, the tools possessed by NGOs have proven to be very effective. All public institutions are serviced through treasury accounts, but in the conditions of war, it is impossible to quickly resolve issues, unlike the opportunities provided by public organizations.

For me, all the team members needed to be from the cultural sphere because in our activity it is important to understand the so-called “museum kitchen”, the availability of specific knowledge and competencies. People from our team are in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhhorod, Kyiv, Chernihiv Oblast, and Vinnytsia, some have gone abroad. Thanks to the experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are well coordinated remotely on various issues.

Photo: Nazarius Shore

The Museum Crisis Center has a monitoring group. They contact our colleagues who need support. Often, those who have already received help pass on our contacts. We do not publish the Google Form for applications because it is primarily a matter of security and personal data. However, the mass media write about us – and that’s how people learn about our initiative. Sometimes I receive requests for help by email. In that case, I refer them to the monitoring team, and we decide whether they are appropriate for our activities.Currently, we receive many requests to provide money for the arrangement of the premises, for repairs and even for the creation of a museum. We do not deal with such cases, but if we know funds that can help, we pass on their contacts. So, we connect museums and organizations so that requests are fulfilled.

Europe knows catastrophically little about Ukraine

It takes a lot of resources to help our colleagues. They are found, in particular, thanks to our active communication work and cooperation with mass media. Therefore, my job is to always be in touch, redirect the flow of resources and information, to coordinate processes in different languages and with the help of all possible channels. I report on the situation with Ukrainian museums to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, UNESCO, international partners, and donors.

Recently, I gave a speech at the Museum of World Cultures and Art during the “Ukrainian Days” in Hamburg. The unity around Ukraine can be sensed from the moment of crossing the border with Poland: many volunteers provide help to Ukrainians. It is the same in Germany: there are many humanitarian centers, and our flags are everywhere on a par with the German ones.

Photo: Antonina Sievierova.

National Literary and Memorial Museum of Hryhorii Skovoroda after being hit by Russian shells. May 2022. Photo: press service of the Kharkiv civil-military administration

Regarding attitudes towards Ukraine: many not only government officials, but also ordinary Europeans are on our side. The only thing is that they know catastrophically little about Ukraine. It is necessary to tell them about our culture, about the fact that we are not part of Russia, but our history is much older and more interesting. The international cultural diplomatic front is as important as any other. There is still a lot of work to be done there, but there is interest and openness to learning something new about us.

Museums shelter people and preserve statehood

During the war, many museums in the Lviv region became shelters for other museums and accepted their funds for preservation. The Luhansk Regional Museum of Local Lore, which is our long-standing partner, now works based on the “Territory of Terror”. We helped them renew their statutory and financial documents, and now we are working with them on different programs and projects, and applying for grants. The museum is not only a shelter for exhibits but also a shelter for people: some cultural institutions in Lviv became temporary shelters for those who came to our city.Russian terrorists are carrying out the genocide of the Ukrainian people by all the world’s methodological developments known to them. One of the aspects of genocide is the destruction of culture. Bombs hit Ukrainian museums, theaters, libraries, and archives for a reason. This is the planned destruction of Ukraine. The preservation of our museums and our culture, in general, is the preservation of Ukrainian statehood. We are active components of this process, together with our army. Therefore, the importance of the exhibits and the stories they preserve is being realized even more today.

Ukrainians have not lost the most valuable thing – the human face

In the “Territory of Terror” museum, we record the stories of people who survived the Second World War. These are our elderly people who are over 80 years old. These people were deported, repressed, and spent 10-15 years in special settlements in Russia, but then returned to Lviv and started everything from the very beginning. For me, our collection of testimonies is a story about the fact that despite all life goes on, the wheel turns, the sun rises and sets. In these stories, of course, there is a lot of pain from what they saw and experienced. However, at the same time, they have a lot of firmness, love for life, for people, animals, trees, and flowers.

The difficulties we are all going through now are very scary. But the most important thing is that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we have not lost the most valuable thing – a human face, unlike our enemy. The rest can be rebuilt. I think that our museum and the stories we preserve show that no matter how much darkness thickens above us, we have mutual help, friendship, solidarity, and love for all living things. So it was and so it will be.

Photo: Olia Klymuk

Of course, our enemy will continue to live in the neighborhood. So, we have to be more responsible for our security. This should become a priority in all spheres, not only in the museum sphere. At the same time, the Ukrainian language and culture should be in the foreground. All the storytellers of the projects of the “Territory of Terror” Museum, elderly people, said that when they were imprisoned in special settlements in the Russian Federation, they constantly united in various amateur groups, sang songs, celebrated holidays, passed on oral folklore. This, in particular, prevented them from losing their identity while there. Therefore, it is also an important survival lesson for us.

After the victory, we will visit all the museums that we helped to

I think the most important achievement of the Museum Crisis Center is that we have shown that it is important to support people, not only exhibits because exhibits cannot be packed and saved without employees. Most of the initiatives are aimed at the evacuation of things, the minority – at the support of people. But since we constantly keep this issue in the information field, other projects and scholarships appeared for those specialists who stayed in Ukraine. For several months of our activity, we have made the issue of remuneration in the field of museum culture clear.

We are motivated by the fact that during this time we collected and distributed UAH 1,300,170. We helped 604 people from 98 museums. And we are not going to stop on it, although we already joke that we dream of a time when our initiative will be unnecessary. However, we understand: that after three months of full-scale war, an even more, difficult stage comes when resources run out. So now an even harder struggle begins.

Photo: Nazarius Shore 

However, we have a team and algorithms of support. We drew attention to the problem and made people believe that museums and culture in general needs help. I made an important conclusion for myself during the war: you have to do what you know how to do in your field. Many people have now been retrained, but I still believe that if there is an opportunity, you should stay in your place, because that is where you can be most effective.
After the victory, the Museum Crisis Center team and I will go to all the museums that were supported. We still want to create a publication about our activity. And then – life will show.

Як підтримати Музейний кризовий центр / How to support the Museum Crisis Center


Для платежів у гривнях:

Отримувач: ГО “ІНША ОСВІТА”

ЄДРПОУ: 40289892

р/р: UA983355480000026005053625848

Призначення платежу: безповоротній фінансовий внесок “Музейний кризовий центр”

For payments in hryvnias:

Recipient: Memorial museum of totalitarian regimes ” Territory of Terror” 

IBAN: UA888201720314201005301056443


Name of the bank: in STSU , Main Department of STSU in Halytsky district, Lviv

Id.Code: 36461987

Purpose of payment: Charitable assistance

Для платежів у доларах США/ For payments in U.S. dollar: 

BENEFICIARY: ngo insha osvita

Id. Code: 40289892 

IBAN: UA513355480000026006053637136

Legal address: Lva Zhemchuzhnikova st. 5, appt. 6, 79053, Lviv, Ukraine 




Details of payment: charity donation for “Museum Crisis Center”

Для платежів у євро/ For payments in euro:

BENEFICIARY: ngo insha osvita

Id. Code: 40289892 

IBAN: UA933355480000026008053635051

Legal address: Lva Zhemchuzhnikova st. 5, appt. 6, 79053, Lviv, Ukraine 





Details of payment: charity donation for “Museum Crisis  Center”

Для платежів через PayPal/For payments with PayPal: Annapotyomkina@yahoo.com

Details of payment: charity donation for “Museum Crisis  Center”