A Christmas Encounter at the War Museum

On December 21, for the second time during the extensive invasion of russian forces into Ukrainian territory, a Christmas meeting took place at the War Museum. It served as a reporting event, presenting the museum’s annual activities. The event, attended by partners and friends, including heads of state institutions, directors of Ukrainian and European museums, representatives of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, diplomatic service, business, volunteer movement, and civic organizations, reflected on the eventful year coming to an end.

Before the commencement of the event, museum staff and guests were warmly greeted with a sincere carol by children from the Hope and Restoration Center, cared for by the museum’s partners - the Charitable Foundation "Modern Ukraine" and the Mutual Aid Center "Save Ukraine".

In his welcoming speech, the Museum’s General Director, Yurii Savchuk, emphasized that the ability to conduct such events and, in general, the activities of their institution, as well as the opportunity to work and greet each new day, are owed to the forces defending Ukraine. A moment of silence was observed to honor the fallen defenders.

Following museum tradition, before the presentation of the public report, the head of the institution invited esteemed guests to address the audience.

The Head of the State Treasury Service of Ukraine, Tetiana Sliuz, noted that over the year, the War Museum has undergone significant changes and has established itself as a powerful cultural institution known not only in Ukraine but also internationally. On behalf of herself and her large team, she congratulated the museum on the successful completion of a challenging year, wishing for new achievements in the upcoming one. Additionally, the head of the department presented the Museum with an artifact – a counting tool used for decades by the treasurers of the city of Starobilsk (Luhansk region).

Colonel Volodymyr Matviichuk as a representative of the Center of Moral and Psychological Support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine mentioned in his speech the collaboration with the War Museum during the preparation of the first museum music festival "Surma," which was held on the International Day of Music on October, 1st. He expressed sincere admiration for the museum staff and their professionalism.

Diplomat and Director of the Polish Institute in Kyiv, Robert Chizhevsky, greeted the Museum on the transformation of the public report into a traditional and warm "Christmas encounter."

Also invited to speak was Olena Plakhova, a representative of Nova Poshta, who mentioned numerous projects implemented in collaboration with the War Museum. She particularly emphasized the "Trident of the Motherland" project, which finally allowed the removal of the Soviet symbol from the shield of the Motherland Monument.

Olexii Dubynka, a representative of the Come Back Alive Foundation for Competent Assistance to the Army, joined in sharing memories, expressing confidence that our joint projects help the Armed Forces of Ukraine approach Victory.

A true surprise and Christmas gift for the museum and guests was the visit of military personnel who came to this meeting from the front lines. They became the heroes of the museum exhibition "Kalinoŭski Regiment." Greetings were heard from the legendary commander of The Kastuś Kalinoŭski Regiment warriors - Dzianis "Kit" Prokhorov.

However, this pleasant surprise was not the last. The All-Ukrainian public organization "Ukrainian Institute of Military History" presented commemorative awards to former directors of the Museum, Ivan Kovalchuk and Lyubov Legasova, as well as its current general director, Yuriy Savchuk. The announcement of their honors was made during the reporting event by the head of the Department of the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Oleksandr Lysenko.

During the public report, the museum’s head acquainted the guests and viewers with the overall performance indicators of the institution. The achieved results impressed not only those present but also the entire team.

The number of visitors, additions to the museum’s collection, and financial contributions exceeded not only the figures from the past but even those of 2021!

Over 10,000 artifacts have been collected and processed since February 2022, with almost all of them being material evidence of crimes committed by Russian forces. These items formed the basis of the Museum’s exhibition activities in 2023. Together with partners, the Museum presented 9 exhibitions in 7 countries worldwide and 16 in Ukraine.

A significant challenge for the entire team was the work on the exhibition "Ukraine. Crucifixion. Tribunal," presented in a 2,000 square meter space at United Nations Plaza in New York, USA. The project had a unique diplomatic mission – to inform representatives of UN member countries about the atrocities committed by Russian occupiers in Ukraine.

The incredible work of the museum staff was noticed by the international community. The Museum received several international awards, including the Museums and Heritage Awards for the exhibition "Ukraine – Crucifixion" and professional resilience in wartime, as well as the European Museum Awards from the European Museum Academy for outstanding efforts in heritage preservation and documenting events.

The Museum also made it to the shortlist for the European Museum of the Year award by the European Museum Forum (winners to be announced in 2024).

During the presentation on international activities and collaboration with foreign partners, Professor Tor Einar Fagerland from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and architect Atle Aas from Norway joined the online event. They shared their impressions of their visit to Ukraine and the Museum, during which a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Museum and the NTNU.

In total, the Museum organized 127 events! Yurii Savchuk highlighted that on average, every third day, some events took place at the Museum, including exhibition presentations, lectures, roundtable discussions, receptions for international delegations, and much more. In 2023, the Museum welcomed 32 official delegations from 25 countries around the world.

In 2023, the Museum underwent a true renovation. Through its own efforts, it created a new modern exhibition space covering approximately 300 square meters. Currently, the exhibition "Sign on the Shield" is located in this area.

With the support of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine and financial assistance from socially responsible private companies, the Museum successfully implemented the "Trident of the Motherland" project. This initiative adorned the shield of the Motherland Monument with the Emblem of the Royal State of Volodymyr the Great.

Before the completion of one project, the Museum awaited a very joyful change: the opportunity to restore the main building and observation platforms at the monument. However, the truly unique grand event was the organization and successful conduct of the first military song museum festival "Surma." "Organizing such a large-scale event," recalls Yurii Savchuk, "seemed impossible for any museum, but that’s why we wanted to do it. And it all worked out. There is still a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm that engulfed all of us during the preparation of the festival."

After the conclusion of the public report, another surprise awaited friends and partners of the Museum – a performance by the band "222," one of whose members is the museum’s lead artist, Anton Logov. The museum café, also opened this year, treated guests to aromatic coffee.

The year 2023 proved to be challenging, dynamic, and exciting for the War Museum. All achievements became possible thanks to the creativity of the general director, the coordinated work of a large team, and the comprehensive support of our partners. Most importantly, we are grateful to the Armed Forces of Ukraine for their protection and the opportunity to realize our plans!