ICOM UK and Solidarity Projects for Ukraine: training for post-conflict recovery

This article was written by Maria Blyzinsky, ICOM UK Trustee.

ICOM UK and Solidarity Projects for Ukraine: training for post-conflict recovery

In 2022, ICOM UK hosted Heritage in Crisis, a pilot series of online talks which focussed on Ukraine. One of our contributors, Mariya Saluk, spoke about her work as a conservator in Ukraine restoring and preserving wooden churches and religious icons. Mariya came to the UK in 2022 to escape Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine and found work with Kiffy Stainer-Hutchins & Co, a fine art conservation studio based in Norfolk. 

In 2023, Mariya was accepted onto an international summer school on Post-Conflict Recovery, organised by ICCROM, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. Out of 20 participants, Mariya was the only Ukrainian to take part. The course, which consisted of a week of online discussions followed by a 3-day workshop in Rome, aimed to equip participants with fundamental tools to work in post-conflict situations. 

Mariya approached ICOM UK for advice on possible funding to help cover the course fee and travel expenses. ICOM UK was delighted to contribute £330 which had been raised through voluntary donations made during the Heritage in Crisis talks. The opportunity to support training in post-conflict recovery seemed like a perfect fit. 

Mariya is now back home in Lviv and says that she is ‘extremely grateful’ for our help. She wrote,   

‘The Post-Conflict Heritage Summer School at ICCROM has been an important step in preparing for future heritage recovery in Ukraine. During the course, I had the opportunity to learn about the impressive example of the reconstruction of the city of Mosul in Iraq. We also got to know the key figures involved in this process, received concrete advice and effective methods, familiarised ourselves with the main works written on this subject. We discussed not only issues of technical reconstruction, but also deeper aspects such as trauma, community recovery, its context, and the creation of new values.

‘Since returning to Ukraine, I actively communicate with colleagues from various fields of monument protection. We try to use the knowledge we have gained and adapt it to local conditions. I have also met numerous outstanding professionals who not only shared their experience but were also interested in contributing to the restoration process in Ukraine. We have become close friends and I turn to them for advice or support on various issues. This course not just provided me with valuable knowledge but also created a network of interested professionals. I am confident that this collaboration will bring extraordinary results for the recovery of Ukraine’s heritage in the future.’

Preparing for post-conflict recovery is an important step towards the protection of cultural heritage under threat. ICOM UK has been involved in a number of initiatives to support the protection of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. These include producing Heritage in Crisis, a series of online talks about the protection of Ukrainian cultural heritage; commissioning a series of articles by a Ukrainian heritage professional about the impact of the war on Ukrainian culture; collaborating on a shipment of conservation and digitising equipment; and a partnership project to develop a new Ukraine-focussed guide to decolonisation for museums. 

Heritage protection and decolonisation are central parts of the work for both ICOM and ICOM UK. At ICOM UK, we very much value contributions made by our members towards these themes. Please do let us know if you are a member working on either theme or you would like to make a suggestion.