Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Under Threat
20 Feb 2023
Based in Athens, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, the Hellenic ministry of foreign affairs, the Romanian embassy, and local partners in Ukraine found ways to raise awareness and promote Ukrainian cultural heritage in Greece. Their project “Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Under Threat” received a grant of €23980 from the Culture of Solidarity Fund to draw public attention to the cultural heritage of the Black Sea region while also demonstrating specific tangible and intangible Ukrainian cultural elements. The collaborating partners joined forces to conceive, plan and execute a series of activities in Athens in December 2022 to spread awareness, raise the visibility of the Ukrainian cultural heritage and enhance collaboration among local communities and critical stakeholders. Giorgos, Stefanos and Sofronis from the leading partner, HFC, shared their experiences, vision and future outlook of their project “Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Under Threat.”
By carrying out a concert, an exhibition, and round-table discussions in December 2022, the collective initiative focused on tangible and intangible outcomes, illustrating the Ukrainian culture, fostering a dialogue with local cultural actors and showcasing the effects of the war. In the first place, the team envisioned introducing and promoting significant elements of the Ukrainian cultural heritage to Greek cultural institutions and the general public. In doing so, the project collaborators aimed to emphasise the wealth, the particularities, and the distinctive elements of neighbouring countries by demonstrating tangible cultural expressions, such as the Ukrainian UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, and intangible ones, like traditional and folklore music. On 16 December, the “Malva” trio, one of the artistic formations of the Odessa Philharmonic, and the Greek orchestra “Estoudiantina“ mixed folk and traditional sounds at the Goethe Institute in Athens, highlighting information about their songs, origins and historical significance. The conventional Ukrainian music concert was intended to present and interpret the relevant songs and build bridges and deepen cooperation between Ukrainian cultural actors and institutions.
By introducing the Odesa candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage Monument, the project aimed at shifting interest towards the Black Sea region to stress the importance of this region’s cultural heritage. On the other hand, by focusing on that region, the collective wanted to bring attention to the devastating results of the war on Mariupol and its cultural heritage. Such initiatives will consequently function as incentives and opportunities for dialogue between the relevant local institutions and their Ukrainian counterparts, primarily because of the effects and consequences of the Russian invasion on cultural venues and practitioners. Furthermore, while the exhibition will still be available until the end of February 2023, a digital publication will be shared across different channels and partner networks to increase outreach and echo the effects of these joint efforts.
“Decision makers in including the Odessa nomination on the UNESCO list were also our focus audience. Hosting the exhibition at the French Institute in Athens was a strategic decision due to its high number of visitors and its historical and vibrant legacy, so we can spread awareness and have better outreach. In addition, the concert was soul comforting for Ukrainians living in Athens, and they found it very emotional,” Sofronis explained the intended audiences for this undertaking.
What are the main narratives of this project?
Giorgos and Sofronis highlighted the main narratives that this effort wants to spread,
“There is a unique Ukrainian culture that everyone should be aware of. Ukrainian culture is still alive despite the war efforts of outsiders. Ukrainians are keen to expose themselves to the world, and locals become increasingly open to the Ukrainian culture because of curiosity over how aggressively somebody tries to subdue them. A culture of solidarity is an important help to Ukraine and other people. Especially for Ukraine, culture of solidarity is very timely right now! Cultural imperialism is another narrative we want to stress. It happens when countries shadow out others, and when it takes place, it creates a unique paradigm of what culture should be like and leaves out diversity and inclusion.”
A culture of solidarity
Specific general trends stem from the devastating effects of the war on culture and cultural heritage at large. To maintain those, external assistance and financial contribution are essential, as well as knowledge sharing, skills development and solidarity to rebuild historical monuments. Historical Greek presence and culture are only one part of this multicultural space in Odesa and Mariupol. In other words, the Greek heritage forms a puzzle piece of the different ethnic, linguistic and religious elements that existed in those areas historically. The grant-receiving project “Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Under Threat” clearly stated that collective action is essential to manage the positive effects of such collaborative and solidary efforts. A culture of solidarity is also a notion of dialogue to bring different perspectives closer to each other and improve understanding and respect. Cultural heritage is part of daily life, is vibrant, and offers a way to contemporary solutions.
Granted: 23980 euros