LIONS – The director of the largest art museum in Ukraine walked along its corridors, watching as staff collected his collections to protect their national heritage in case Russian invasion moving west.
In one partially empty gallery of the Andrei Sheptytsky National Museum, staff placed carefully wrapped Baroque items in cardboard boxes. A few meters down the majestic grand staircase, a group descended with a giant work of sacred art – Bogorodchany iconostasis of the XVIII century.
“Sometimes tears come, because a lot of work is invested here. It takes time, energy. You do something good, you feel pleasure. Today you see empty walls, so bitter, sad. We didn’t believe until the last minute that it could happen, ”museum director general Ihar Kozhan said on Friday.
The doors of the museum in the western city of Lviv have been closed since the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine on February 24, and heritage sites across the country are in danger as fighting continues. Korjan said he was called daily by other European cultural institutions to help him and his staff fight to preserve the museum’s works.
The head of the department of rare manuscripts and books Anna Navrobskaya said that she still does not know where to store a collection of more than 12 thousand items, which are packed in boxes.
The relocation process and the fear that the collection is in danger in the event of an attack on the city overwhelms her.
“This is our story; this is our life. It is very important for us, ”Navrobska said.
She went into another room and picked up a huge tome, tears welling up in her eyes. “It’s a Russian book,” she said, putting it back on the shelf. “I’m so angry.”
Like the museum, other objects in Lviv are in a hurry to protect works of artistic or cultural significance. Almost empty shop windows in the Museum of the History of Religion. Workers collect metal containers in the courtyard to safely store the remaining items before placing them in basements. In the Latin Cathedral, the sculptures were covered with cardboard, foam and plastic to protect them from possible splinters.
Among the bare walls and shrouded in statues, Kozhan lamented the empty museum that had survived two world wars.
“The museum must live. There should be people, and especially children. They need to learn the basics of their culture, ”he said.
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