By Olha Kosova and Isaac J. Martin
Lviv, Ukraine, Mar 13 (EFE).- When Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, Andriy Salyuk took on a special mission to protect Lviv’s endangered Old Town, listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 1998.
“We have seen that the Russians are targeting administrative buildings with bombs. These types of buildings are very close to the monuments in Lviv, so an explosion can damage them,” Salyuk, the head of the Society for Protection of Monuments in Lviv, tells Efe.
From making nonstop phone calls, to leading dozens of people who have selflessly dedicated themselves to the task, Salyuk is usually swamped all day supervising groups of volunteers doing everything in their power to cover buildings and statues to protect them from the worst scenario in Lviv, still one of the safest locations in Ukraine and a transit point for refugees heading to Poland.
The historic Lviv Old Town was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site for its urban fabric, architecture, and for being an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of Eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany.
With money from his NGO, churches’ stained glass windows were top of Salyuk’s mission of protecting the city’s most vulnerable assets, but then he realized that other monuments in Lviv needs more attention, such as the Boim Chapel.
Methods of protection used include barriers made from several materials as well as fire extinguishers placed in and around the city’s historical monuments.
“We have purchased fire extinguishers and placed them in each church to protect the frescoes and iconostasis, and we intend to add other reinforcements for added protection,” he explains.
During a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Bialystok Cathedral, which dates back to the 14th century, the expert describes how members of his team covered up all the statues as they go against the clock to protect the inside of the building.
Furthermore, the protection mission includes the Boim Chapel — built in the 17th century as a tomb for the Boim family — whose value lies in the stone carvings on its facade.
Salyuk and his NGO aim to create a movement of awareness among citizens of Lviv so that they can offer a helping hand in the effort to preserve their city heritage in case it became a target of Russian aggression.
“Something has to be done and it has to be done now. It is our homeland, it is our national identity, and what the Russians want is to destroy it,” he stresses.
Andriy Poshekva, a well-known specialist in restoration who has volunteered for the task, explains to Efe that the destruction they witnessed in Ukraine due to the Russian military operations needed a quick response to preserve Ukraine’s artifacts.
Poshekva supervises a group of volunteers, who are working effortlessly to cover parts of the Bialystok Cathedral with metal sheets as reinforcement against potential Russian shelling.EFE