World Monuments Fund responds to the war in Ukraine with preservation initiatives

Monumental Work

World Monuments Fund responds to the war in Ukraine with preservation initiatives

The Black House in Lviv’s Market Square (© World Monuments Fund)

The Holy Trinity Church located in the western Ukrainian city of Zhovkva was under restoration in late February 2022 when Moscow sent missiles slamming into cities all over the country. Restoration halted abruptly and workers quickly covered the church in plastic sheeting; the only problem was that parts of the roof had been removed and there was the concern that the plastic sheeting might not even be enough to shield the exposed interior of the church from inclement weather for long.

But stronger, waterproof coverings will be coming to the Holy Trinity Church soon. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced it will be launching four emergency preservation projects. In addition to the Holy Trinity Church, the initial phase will also send 440 water-mist fire extinguishers to protect tserkvas, wooden churches constructed in the 16th–19th centuries for Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths.

wooden church
St. Yury Church in Drohobych (© World Monuments Fund)

The fire protection supplies will be handed out by organizations on the ground in Ukraine, including workers with the Center to Rescue Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage, the Heritage Emergency Response Initiative (HERI) and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Ukraine.

Black House, a Renaissance style building, located in Lviv’s Market Square will receive temporary structures and scaffolding to shield its darkened sandstone facade  from explosions. The ornate 16th-century building underwent an extensive restoration endeavor in 2019 to preserve its main facade, courtyard, and lobby. Stone pieces and architectural scraps from buildings around Lviv were collected for an exhibition at the museum.

Supplies will also be distributed to the green-roofed St. Sophia of Kyiv Cathedral, a church in the Ukrainian capital dating back to the 11th century. The equipment will be used to monitor the site and its surroundings, which are vulnerable to damage.

The projects make up the first phase of WMF’s Ukraine Heritage Response Fund initiative, launched in April 2022 with $500,000 donated from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. The initiative was established to help mitigate the devastating toll of the war on Ukrainian heritage.

The Holy Trinity Church is one of many cultural sites and sacred artworks across Ukraine that officials, experts, and civilians scrambled to protect; as war raged on for months, over 150 cultural sites have been partially or totally destroyed as a result, according to a UNESCO report.

charcoal ornate building
The Black House in Lviv’s Market Square (© World Monuments Fund)

The fund seeks to address three categories of critical needs, that range in precedence from short-term to long-term: immediate protection equipment to address emergencies at historical sites; documentation of damage and necessary restoration for regions where conflict has subsided; and postwar restoration.

The initiative’s first phase addresses short-term needs. The four projects were developed by working with locals on the ground, namely Ukraine Heritage Crisis Specialist based in Ukraine Kateryna Goncharova. WMF has also partnered with Ukrainian organizations, including HERI, and government organizations, such as the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

green domed church
Saint.Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv (Rbrechko/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

“We are hopeful that these first initiatives will provide much-needed support to our partners on the ground in Ukraine and set an early precedent for rehabilitation efforts in the country,” said WMF President and CEO Bénédicte de Montlaur. “We are committed to supporting local efforts and working with local partners, and we will continue to monitor the situation, so that we can lay the groundwork for swift recovery work.”