December 6, 2023


Lviv’s historic old town has survived many conflicts, but officials in the western Ukrainian city now say they need help preparing for the threat of Russian bombs.

The city center was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998 owing to its mix of architectural styles and medieval churches which make it a well-preserved hub of European culture which is popular, in peacetime, with tourists.

“The Russians have attacked nuclear power stations, so we are not sure whether they are clever enough not to attack the world heritage monuments here,” said Lilia Onyschenko, the local council’s head of monument protection.

While cities such as Kharkiv have come under heavy shelling from Russian forces in recent days, Lviv has so far escaped the bombardment, becoming instead a base for diplomats inside the country and visiting journalists just 80 kilometers from the Polish border.

Speaking to media on Monday, Onyschenko said her team are working with restorers at Poland’s Institute Polonika to source materials and funding to safeguard the city’s history. “We need mainly fireproof materials, that’s the number one,” said Onyschenko.

This week, workers started fixing metal meshing over church stained glass windows in the center of Lviv while statues are being wrapped in foam and artworks moved to secure storage facilities.

As her team prepares for the worst, Onyschenko is urging countries to boycott a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee set to be held in the Russian city of Kazan in June.

“As long as all the world is thinking about closing the sky above Ukraine, we are thinking about protecting our monuments,” said Onyschenko. “We are protecting world heritage, not just Lviv heritage.”


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