Ukraine’s War Museum during the Russian Aggression
On 29 and 30 September, the massacre at Babyn Yar (Babi Yar in Russian), near Kyiv, Ukraine, took place. In our first podcast episode, Typewriter in Transit, we tell part of the story of Babyn Yar and talk about an important writer on the subject, Anatoly Kuznetsov. The podcast features Kuznetsov's typewriter, now in the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, and while making the podcast, we were kindly assisted by curator Oleksandr Pasternak. For EHRI, he has written an article about his museum during wartime.
The National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War is one of the largest museums in Ukraine and Europe. For more than 40 years, it has been a leading research, educational and cultural center that preserves the memory of the largest military conflict in human history.
The collection of the Museum consists of about 400,000 objects, which vividly reveal the multifaceted dimensions of the Second World War in Ukraine: military operations, strategies of survival during the war and post-war periods, the Holocaust and other genocides, the struggle for independence against two totalitarian regimes, demographic transfers, and the historical memory of the Second World War. Since 2014, the Museum has been highlighting not only the events of the Second World War but also the Russian-Ukrainian war.
On February 24, a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began. At around 5 AM Kyiv time, Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” for the so-called “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. At the same time, missiles and airstrikes hit across Ukraine including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro and other cities.
The Museum started an emergency evacuation. In a short period, the most valuable artifacts were transferred to safe places, and a large part of them was preserved in the museum storage.
After the war began, seven members of the Museum team joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine, some of the women with children evacuated to the Western part of the country or abroad, others actively joined the volunteer initiatives.
At the same time, from the first day of the war, the museum workers began to document the full-scale invasion of Russia on the territory of Ukraine and highlight the military aggression through the museum’s projects.
Thus, as early as in the first month of the Russian invasion, the Museum already created the first photo exhibition dedicated to one day of the defense of Kyiv and presented it at the World Centre for Peace, Liberty and Human Rights in Verdun (France).
Once the battle of Kyiv was over and the Ukrainian army liberated the settlements of Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, museum workers went on expeditions and witnessed the brutal crimes of the occupants. The most distinctive material evidence of the Russian atrocities was collected and brought to the Museum.
This is how the exhibition “Ukraine – Crucifixion” appeared, the world's first stationary exhibition dedicated to the ongoing war in real time. With the help of original artifacts, photos and oral testimonies of eyewitnesses, the exhibition reveals the terrible realities of the full-scale Russian invasion.
For the last 6 months of the Russian invasion, the museum has launched 22 exhibition projects. The Museum’s international traveling exhibitions were presented in 10 countries: France, the Republic of Korea, Germany, Montenegro, Sweden, Turkey, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania.
Dozens of thousands Ukrainian and foreign visitors have already got acquainted with the newly created Museum’s exhibitions. Among them are numerous international military delegations, representatives of the diplomatic corps and the higher establishment of foreign countries.
The information about the exhibitions was highlighted and published by the world's leading mass media, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Haaretz, CBC, etc.
The multi-vector approach in the work and modern socio-political situation turned the War Museum not only into a place of preserving the memory of tragedies of the past and present, but also into a place of consolidation and unification of Ukrainians around the idea of fighting against external expansion for their freedom and independence.
We kindly invite you to become a partner of the War Museum and use your websites and other channels to tell about the ongoing war in Ukraine, the biggest and bloodiest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
Visit us at warmuseum.kyiv.ua