Talismans that helped to withstand the most difficult times

A photo of the daughter that motivated to survive the war and return to the family. An icon that helped the family to come back to their homeland after deportation. A prayer book that saved the soldier from enemy shrapnel. Those simple, at first glance, things became a source of moral strength for their owners in the most difficult moments of their lives.

The museum exhibition “Wartime Talismans” presents the objects that encouraged people who found themselves in the midst of the bloody social and political cataclysms of the XX and XXI centuries. On May 8, 2023, on the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, the museum workers drew a link between generations. Between those who struggled and experienced the hardships of the Second World War, those who went through the horrors of the Nazi occupation and Stalin’s repressions, and those who are now fighting against the Russian aggressor for freedom and dignity, for independence and state sovereignty of Ukraine. A significant number of artifacts from the museum’s collection, which help visitors not to lose faith in people and justice, are displayed for the first time.

Without knowing it, Liana Dakhnenko became a talisman for her father. When Hryhorii was drafted into the Red Army, he took a photo of his beloved daughter with him. Every year on April 11, on the daughter’s birthday, he wrote short wishes to Liana and noted his location on the back of the photo. “...1942 – Belgorod direction, 1943 – Stalingrad, 1944 – Belarusian front, 1945 – Pomerania...” During this period, the father had no information about his child. Communicating with her through a photo turned an ordinary picture into a powerful talisman for him. In 1945, they finally met on the doorstep of their home. Today, 93-year-old Liana Dakhnenko keeps a photo of her father as a talisman. She shares her feelings with him, asking for emotional support. Liana told that story at the presentation of the project.

“The stories of the heroes of the exhibition have further continuation”, – said Svitlana Datsenko, the project’s curator. The exhibition displays Rosaliia Potych’s embroidered shirt, which became a talisman for her and her husband Fedir after the forced resettlement from the Boyko region to Donbas. The hard conditions of the transfer, survival in unequipped places, and lack of money took a lot of strength and health. The woman believed that it was the family talisman and the sacred symbols embroidered on it that gave her the strength and wisdom to create and protect a large and united family. Nowadays, the Potychs have lost their safe home again. They had to scatter throughout Ukraine but still hope to reunite as soon as possible.

Yuliia Pavlova met the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in Boyarka, Kyiv region. Yuliia witnessed the air raids of the occupiers’ aircraft and heard the thunder of the Ukrainian artillery and air defense. To handle her anxiety, she made “motanka” dolls, an ancient talisman of Ukrainians, a symbol of well-being, embodiment of ancestral spirit, and unity of family ties among many generations.

The artist Anton Logov prepared the artistic design of the exhibition. He created a symbolic installation “Reflections of Stories”, where among the intertwined human destinies you can see yourself in the spiral of historical events.

According to the Deputy Director General of the Museum Liudmyla Rybchenko, the exhibited objects, although collected in different times and circumstances, today serve as an attempt to protect and spread the power of the Talismans as far as possible - to our Defenders who are fighting bravely against the enemy.

We invite you to see the artifacts that helped Ukrainians balance on the edge of the abyss of history displayed at the exhibition “Wartime Talismans” in the Lower Moscow Gate.

Mon - Fri: 10 am – 7 pm

Sat - Sun: 10 am – 8 pm

Entrance fee: adults – UAH 30, students and children – UAH 20.

Guided tour per group: adults, students, and children – UAH 50, tours in English – UAH 100.