Saving Ukraine's libraries: what to do and how to help?
On the occasion of Ukraine's National Library Day, we explain how everyone can help libraries that suffered from russia's full-scale invasion recover. From donations to clearing debris, we share cases and remember the libraries in the rear that also need support.
What is the problem?
russia destroys Ukrainian libraries and books
russia is at war, not just with the people of Ukraine. It consistently and persistently destroys the Ukrainian idea, culture, and books. For six months in a row, russian troops have been raiding theaters, cultural centers, and libraries. During the full-scale invasion, the russian occupiers damaged 221 and destroyed more than 100 libraries in Ukraine. One hundred one libraries have lost a significant part of their collections, and 21 libraries haven't preserved any documents.
According to Ukraine's Ministry of Culture, 33% of the affected libraries are located in the Donetsk region, 24% are in the Kyiv region, and 9% are in the Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions.
- Even at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the russians bombed Chernihiv's historic building dating to the end of the 19th century, where a library for youth was based. The russian army dropped three high-explosive 500-kilogram bombs on the book depository.
- Another historical monument, the Korolenko Regional Universal Library, was also shelled.
- In the Kharkiv region, a fire broke out in Barvinkove after russian shelling, resulting in the local library burning down. In Izium, a rocket struck a building where libraries for children and adults were located.
- In Nikopol (Dnipropetrovsk region), part of the building of the children's library, which celebrated its 75th-anniversary last year, was destroyed by cannon artillery.
- In Mariupol, the russians burned books from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher library at the behest of the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. Some unique copies of Ukrainian-language publications are currently lost forever.
- Dozens of libraries were destroyed in local cultural centers and schools. Hundreds more Ukrainian libraries are currently under occupation.
What is the solution?
Saving Ukrainian libraries
russians destroy—we rebuild. They try to wreck and rob—we return. Invaders burn and maim—we rescue. Library workers and volunteers carry books from destroyed libraries. During the occupation, librarians refuse to cooperate with the occupiers.
Our soldiers not only beat the enemy on all fronts but also save books. On the eve of the occupation of Lysychansk, Ukrainian defenders, fighters of the Ukrainian army's 1st separate special operations brigade, Yevhen Olefirenko and Stanislav Koval, saved part of the Ukrainian books that were in one of the city's factories from being destroyed by the enemy. Yevhen Olefirenko died in battle near Bakhmut. Nevertheless, as the boys had dreamed, the rescued books from Lysychansk did add to the book collection. Stanislav Koval, together with the relatives of the fallen comrade and the battalion commander, donated them to Kyiv's Shevchenko Central Children's Library.
Western partners also help Ukrainians preserve and restore libraries. Poland and the Baltic countries want to help rebuild libraries in Chernihiv. The UK will also participate in restoring libraries in Ukraine.
Books reflect our history, our code and treasure, and the truth. So that our children can continue to read books in Ukrainian, just as we donate money for drones for the army, we can contribute to preserving and restoring our libraries after the ruscist invasion. Every Ukrainian can join.
How does it work?
Several ways to help libraries
- Save Ukrainian Culture is the name of the website, developed with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy. On the platform, you can see photos and descriptions of each cultural monument destroyed by the russian army, information about the extent of the damage, and the amount of money needed for its restoration.
In addition, with the help of the website, people are encouraged to help the preservation of Ukrainian cultural heritage financially. Donations are collected in an account opened by the cultural ministry in the National Bank; the authorities will direct them to the security efforts, evacuation, protection, and preservation of cultural values and support for the activities of cultural institutions, art, and libraries affected by hostilities.
It will cost a lot of money to rebuild and return libraries to Ukrainians. But it is necessary. 132.6 million hryvnias are needed to restore only two libraries—the Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky Chernihiv Central City Library and the Korolenko Kharkiv State Scientific Library. Nowadays, Ukrainian cultural heritage and national identity are one of the enemy's primary targets. After all, our history and the idea of Ukraine's European choice, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state are unacceptable in russia's understanding.
- But you can help not only with money. For example, at the beginning of August in Chernihiv, volunteers began collecting and taking away the books they got from under the rubble of the library bombed by russian aircraft. Previously, it was impossible due to the threat of the building collapsing. Of the 60,000 books in the library before russia's full-scale invasion, about 30,000 have now been evacuated.
Workers and caring people are currently evacuating books and other materials of great cultural value to the Chernihiv Regional Library for Youth, which is also ruined, albeit from the blast wave. Windows are broken, the roof is leaking, and the walls are damaged. The library urgently needs to replace windows or purchase new glass because, as they say, "winter is coming." The volunteers say the work is far from over, but unfortunately, there are not enough people because they don't know that their help is needed here and that everyone willing can be of great benefit. If you are currently in Chernihiv, join!
- Mariupol's Korolenko Library was filled with thousands of books. The fund had about 120,000 copies, which impressed not only residents but also visitors to the city. Just half a year ago, there were many ideas, projects, and events for visitors of all ages. Today, the city is left with ruined buildings that have no life. Technical equipment, furniture, and part of book editions were looted. The main issue is destroyed book funds. All these are the crimes of the occupiers. It is currently unknown how many parts of the library funds survived and where they are. It was impossible to evacuate them.
Today, despite everything, anyone willing can help the Mariupol Library named after Korolenko to resume the work "from scratch." Now the institution continues its activities in Dnipro. Employees have already started collecting electronic versions of books by authors from the Azov region and creators from other parts of Ukraine. They are now appealing to all concerned Ukrainians for help filling the fund with books, which will become the basis for resuming the work of libraries in Mariupol, Ukraine, after our victory. Contacts for sending copies are here.
- The collection of books is just now starting for the Irpin city library. The library, which suffered from russian aggression, doesn't have the opportunity to replenish the book fund at the expense of the city budget. "You can donate Ukrainian-language books from your libraries. This way, you will give your books a second life and bring pleasure to readers," said Olena Tsyganenko, director of the city library. Books can be brought from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Shevchenka Street, 3-A, Irpin, Kyiv region.
- Books In Hands is a new initiative in Lviv aimed at collecting books for Ukrainian children and youth who lost their homes due to the war and, having settled in a shelter, currently don't have access to books and reading. The project organizers collect children's, adolescent, and youth literature in the Ukrainian language. Books can be brought on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Lviv, Institute of Cultural Strategy (6/7 Mitskevycha Sq.) and Sensoteka (22 Ulasa Samchuka St.). The first collections will go to kindergartens in Kryvyi Rih and Zaporizhzhia to the Mria Charity Fund, which deals with the issues of internally displaced persons.
- Library in any city may need help. Visit the nearest one, and ask if they need support. Believe us—they will be thrilled to have you. After all, libraries, even in peaceful cities, are not going through the best times. The full-scale invasion of russian troops into Ukraine stopped all the initiatives of the Ukrainian Institute of Books, and the funds allocated for the support of book publishing, libraries, and the promotion of reading were sequestered and redirected to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and our joint victory. You can find libraries in your city here.
Even more helpful solutions!
How do libraries help the country today?
Libraries not only ask for help but also help too. From the first days of martial law in Ukraine, librarians have helped the Ukrainian defenders and the civilian population using their knowledge and skills. Public libraries in Ukraine's cities and villages contribute their share of work to the approaching victory: librarians weave camouflage nets, package humanitarian aid, take an active part in informing IDPs, and help collect food and necessary things for them.
- In Zhytomyr, the city libraries help to apply for aid from international organizations. Migrants don't need to wait in line at the bank. They can also check the status of the application there.
- Also, in the Zhytomyr camp of book lovers, which operates in LITTERA libraries, children learn to provide first aid and how to deal with found ammunition.
- The Oles Honchar Poltava Regional Youth Library plans to hold yoga classes, a play library, film screenings, group excursions, and master classes for children.
- In Kropyvnytskyi, the Malaniuk Library became a participant in the VilnoHub project and helps teenagers who have moved from areas where hostilities are taking place. Since August, they have held 13 events for children and youth from families of internally displaced persons. The program covered a total of 266 participants.
- In the summer, the #ART_attack project held a book fair in Dnipro. Everyone had the opportunity to buy symbolically priced books that belonged to the funds of the city libraries. The book fair was held under the slogan "Come to the fair and help the Ukrainian forces!"
- In Vinnytsia, city residents are invited to the libraries to write letters to the front-line soldiers. The event organizers are sure that the Letters To The Front project will help support the fighting spirit of our soldiers and strengthen the ties between the front and the rear. Anyone can write a letter and take it to any of the city's 24 libraries.
- In the Kirovohrad region, the librarians of the Ketrysanivka community collect herbs for the military. They collect linden, mint, thyme, St. John's wort, jasmine, and rose petals. "The territory in our community is ecologically clean because there are almost no cars," said Tetiana Tkachenko, director of the Public Library. So hot, fragrant tea will warm our soldiers in the autumn trenches.
- Across the country, libraries are being purged of anti-Ukrainian literature. russian books will be turned over to waste paper, and the collected money will be used to buy new books from Ukrainian publishers or send them to help the Ukrainian Armed Forces.