What is the problem?
In Bucha, which was under occupation for more than a month from February to March 2022, more than three thousand objects were damaged or destroyed. This is mostly housing, educational buildings, industrial and other infrastructure. So far, almost 900 objects have been restored, with the priority being the reconstruction of housing and social infrastructure.
However, objects of the cultural sector were also affected by the occupation, particularly the Bucha Children's Art School, named after Levko Revutsky. The blast wave damaged its windows and doors, a part of a Russian projectile flew inside, and the enemies with their tanks destroyed the facility's water supply and sewage network.
What is the solution?
In August 2022, the Ukrainian Charitable Fund BGV and the Department of Culture, Nationalities, and Religions of the Bucha City Council concluded a cooperation agreement. According to it, the foundation and German donors — the non-profit organizations #WeAreAllUkrainians and the help alliance from the Lufthansa Group — are restoring the Bucha Children's School of Arts named after Levko Revutsky. The project's total financing, which takes place in several stages, reaches more than ₴10 million.
How does it work?
Three stages of charitable assistance
It all started with music: on June 18, 2022, the Concert For Tomorrow musical event occurred at the Munich Philharmonic. It was a charity performance by the Munich Symphony Orchestra and Ukrainian musicians. Among the Ukrainian artists were refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. The concert not only demonstrated solidarity with Ukraine but also raised funds for the restoration of the Bucha Children's Art School.
In August, the main sponsor of the initiative — the national air carrier of Germany, Lufthansa — joined the charitable project thanks to the donations of passengers on their flights.
After signing an agreement with the Bucha City Council, the benefactors began to implement the renovation of the school, and the work was divided into three stages.
- As part of the first stage, at the beginning of 2023, the benefactors completed the school's comprehensive repair and installed a super-powerful generator.
The funds bought and gave 40 laptops to teachers of the institution, as well as musical instruments — seven modern electronic pianos, four guitars, six modern synthesizers, two cellos, three violins, and an accordion. With the funds of benefactors, additional rooms for music classes were equipped.
In addition, the BGV Charitable Foundation and German donors carried out some work to arrange an inclusive space and organize an appropriate learning process to ensure barrier-free access to all types of activities for children with disabilities. Children were also paid 100 annual educational scholarships.
- In the second stage, in addition to renewing the facade, the benefactors continued to work on the inclusiveness of the children's music institution. They organized a number of trainings and educational courses for school teachers.
- The third stage is planned to be implemented before the new academic year. The creation of an orchestra class, the purchase of musical instruments for the brass band, the provision of sound amplification equipment for the concert hall, and the provision of the necessary equipment for art classes are foreseen.
A match between sponsors and Bucha
"Today, we have a vivid example, when patrons from Ukraine and Europe, particularly Germany, identified the art school as the center of their assistance," Anatoliy Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, at the opening of the renovated facade of the schools. "We see the result; we understand how important it is for children, parents, teachers, and Ukraine as a whole. Thanks to patrons, donations, support of the team, and builders, this event is actually a renewal, a second birth of our art school."
Fedoruk thanked the benefactors on behalf of himself and all Bucha residents and presented the project's donors with a special commemorative coin created from bullets collected around the city.
The Church of Andrew the First-Called was engraved on the coins, on the territory of which there were mass burials of the townspeople during the occupation, and a tree symbolizing the infamous Yablunska Street due to Russian atrocities.
"We put our heart and a lot of volunteer work into the project"
The fund was established in March 2022. The renovation of the Bucha School of Arts is one of the first project works with foreign donors and sponsors.
"We put our heart and a lot of volunteer work into it," says Polina Aldoshina.
The art school did not cease to be important for the locals even during the occupation. Although it could not unite the students within its walls, it united them with the very idea.
Stories about war and art
"I couldn't listen to music for several months"
Lyubov Matereva, director of the Bucha children's art school, lives in nearby Vorzel. She spent the entire time of occupation with her husband and daughter at home, mainly in the cellar.
She remembers when there was still electricity and gas supply, and they even set up heating in the cellar. When the electricity disappeared, it became more difficult, but mutual aid saved: all neighbors shared what they had. Thanks to the generator, people from two streets collected water from the well.
Matereva, director of Levko Revutsky Buchan Children's Art School, spent occupation in the nearby Vorzel. Photo from the archive of Lyubov Matereva
Throughout the occupation, the headmistress was concerned about the school's fate. Somehow, when there was still the Internet, she came across a photo of the establishment on fire. She called the teachers from Bucha and asked them to come and see what was going on. Despite the Russian tanks on the streets, they checked on the school and reassured Matereva that everything was fine.
After the de-occupation, Matereva immediately came to school but did not touch the door herself and called demining specialists to be safe.
"The specialists arrived, opened the door with a key, and said: 'You know, the presence of children is still in the air here! There were no occupiers here.' Indeed, the laptop was on the table, and the TV was in its place. Even the flag of Ukraine, which hung on the school building, has been preserved," the headmistress told Rubryka.
Returning to music was actually difficult.
"I am a musician, and I teach playing the guitar, but I could not listen to music for about half a year after the occupation. Although I love it and always listen to it, something switched in me," says Matereva.
"Someone was communicating from the shelters, and someone was dancing on the street"
Hanna Mulyar is a native of Bucha and has been teaching choreography for 30 years. She has been working at the art school since its opening on the current premises in 2005 (the school was founded in 1999) and manages the exemplary children's choreographic group Fantasia.
Mulyar left with her daughters on the second day of the occupation to nowhere, but, fortunately, she was sheltered by good people. When they recovered a little, they contacted all the children to find out everyone's whereabouts. Many did not have reception, but they managed to reach everyone within a month.
"There are sad moments in our team: unfortunately, a mother of two students died, she was a volunteer, and the father of one girl also died — they were killed on Yablunska Street," says Mulyar. "Many parents are now serving: some are military by trade, some just volunteered in the early days of the war."
Many children who survived the occupation were in Bucha and nearby villages. Hanna Mulyar recalls: it was difficult, but she understood that children needed support. So we set up an online connection and started working:
"We were in different places, but in our community, and this preserved a piece of peaceful life. We danced and did other things because physical movements and music is a psychological technique that calms the children down," Mulyar told Rubryka. "Someone was communicating from the shelters, and others were dancing in the street. We talked a lot, remembered how it was, and said it would end soon. We supported each other."
Then Mulyar returned, the children began to return, and classes resumed. Over the past year, the team had many concerts and competitions, and soon Fantasia will go to Montenegro.
The war also damaged their choreography class: broken windows, torn doors, broken cups, and other team awards. "But it's okay, we'll get new ones," the teacher is confident.
"These kids have such talent! We are here for them"
Tetyana Shevchenko has lived in Bucha for 36 years, and her granddaughter Polina studies at the art school.
A few months before the full-scale invasion, the daughter's family moved to Bucha from Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region. They all left Bucha together on March 10. Before that, they were hiding in the shelter of their apartment building, but it was horrifying, says Shevchenko. They returned home already in May 2022.
"When they started turning off the electricity in the fall and winter, my granddaughter immediately started saying to me: 'Grandma, do you remember when there was no light, when there was no water, and it was very, very cold in the apartment? Do you remember when we went down to the basement, and it was very, very cold there too, and you could hear gunshots?' She remembered it all very well. This is a very difficult experience," says Shevchenko.
She is very grateful that there is a place to take her children and grandchildren where the little ones can do what they like. The granddaughter has been participating in the junior group of Fantasia for a year. The children perform at various competitions and have won multiple awards.
"Unfortunately, one of my nephews died under Bakhmut, and the other is now standing under Bakhmut and protecting us. When we send him photos of the little one, he says: 'These children have such talent! We are standing here for their sake,'" says Shevchenko.
"I wanted to show more Ukrainian culture"
15-year-old Anastasia Mishchenko has already mastered folk choreography at the Bucha school and even plans to enter university to become a choreographer.
Mishchenko is from the village of Klavdievo-Tarasovo, in the Kyiv region, and spent the entire occupation of the Kyiv region at home with her family: "We were without electricity for almost two months, without communication for a month. My brother and I worked out, painted, and walked around the yard. It was quieter here than in Bucha, but Russians still came to our houses. Thankfully, everything worked out, and we survived."
The 15-year-old shares that because of the war, her desire to show Ukrainian folk dances to everyone grew: "I want to show our culture to glorify the Ukrainian people."
13-year-old Ivan Borodin spent the occupation in the village near Borodyanka. The family did not leave because they could not leave three dogs and two cats.
He recalls that for some reason, the dogs, which always bark when someone comes, did not bark when the occupiers walked and looked into the yard. Russian tanks drove through the village, and one even tried to drive into the alley where Borodin's family lives.
The 13-year-old also dances in Fantasia. He admits that his mother once forced him to take up dancing, but now he likes this activity.
"You can communicate here, you get awards, you show your skills to the country," says 15-year-old Vladyslav Kreiman, who has been attending dances since the second grade, and at first, it was also his parents' choice. Now the boy is even considering whether to connect his future with art. "The teachers are wonderful, friendly, and ready to help you if something goes wrong," he adds and shares that of all the dances he likes Hopak the most. The children also performed this dance on the day of the opening of the renovated facade of the school.
Kreiman lives in Bucha in a private house. Fortunately, the Russians did not enter their area, they only targeted a house nearby, but no people lived there. The boy recalls the feelings of that time: "You sleep at night and think that everything is over. And it is still going. At night, I always heard something flying at us."
"If there is a good instrument, then there is something to extract that wonderful sound from"
The young violinist Violetta Hrebennyk performed the wonderful composition "Bella Ciao" at the event on June 30 on an instrument the school received, thanks to benefactors.
The girl started practicing the violin after her brother. Ultimately, he abandoned the activity, and Violetta has been studying for five years.
"We received new concert instruments, which gave the children incredible motivation to further master the instrument. After all, if there is a good instrument, then there is something to extract this sound from," says Valeriia Slavska, Violetta's mentor and head of the string and bow department at the school.
She says that over the past year, children have achieved many victories, particularly with the help of new tools, because not all parents can afford such an acquisition.
"The children are great, and this inspires them to work on their skills. Many of them are laureates of international and all-Ukrainian contests. I think this inspires them to further work," Slavska believes. She is also a violinist, and playing music distracts her from the war experiences.
Does it really work?
"There is a demand for art education"
The people of Bucha say that the art school, which began its work in 1999, was always overcrowded. "Before the invasion, we even dreamed of opening a branch in another district of Bucha to expand the institution because there is a demand for art education," says Mykhaylyna Skoryk-Shkarivska, deputy mayor of Bucha for international cooperation.
She emphasizes the importance of inclusiveness, which the institution has acquired thanks to patrons: not only is there a ramp and the ability to lift a child with reduced mobility to the main second floor, but a navigation system has also been implemented, including Braille, and the teachers themselves are trained to work with children with special educational needs. After all, art is also a way of therapy.
The deputy mayor cites another significant plus from the renovation of the institution — it gave teachers and children an incentive to return: "Music teachers were the least willing to return from abroad because they were immediately offered jobs there according to their profile. Music does not need translation. Now we are back to the plans that the school needs expansion."
"See how you can unite the whole world?"
In the conditions of a large-scale war, 12 teachers left the school, and many went abroad, clarifies the headmistress Matereva. For example, one teacher who taught vocals got a job in Germany and housing, performs there at concerts, and has no plans to return. Ukrainian specialists are valued there, says the school director, but many teachers returned, and new ones arrived.
Last year, there was a small enrollment of children because they also moved away. More than 250 applications have been submitted for admission to various departments: fine arts, choreography, and musical instruments, the director informs. Additional entrance exams will be held in August, so there will be more students.
Matereva says that the school tries not only to teach children professional disciplines but also to expand their worldview:
"We also tell the children about our new friends, about how this project started with a charity concert. We tell them: 'German musicians and ours, who went to Germany when such a disaster occurred, helped us with their music. Then airplane passengers from different countries could also support the institution. Do you see how you can unite the whole world?"
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