The historic old town of Lviv has survived many conflicts, but officials in the western Ukrainian city now say they need help preparing for the threat of Russian bombs.
The city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 due to its mix of architectural styles and medieval churches that make it a well-preserved European cultural center popular with tourists in peacetime .
“The Russians have attacked nuclear power plants, so we don’t know if they are smart enough not to attack world heritage monuments here,” said Lilia Onyschenko, the local council’s monument protection officer.
While cities like Kharkiv have been shelled by Russian forces in recent days, Lviv has so far escaped the shelling, instead becoming a base for diplomats inside the country and visiting journalists at just 80 kilometers from the Polish border.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Onyschenko said his team was working with restorers from Poland’s Polonika Institute to find materials and funds to safeguard the city’s history. “We mainly need flame retardant materials, that’s number one,” Onyschenko said.
This week, workers began attaching metal lattices to stained glass windows in central Lviv churches while statues are wrapped in moss and artworks are moved to secure storage facilities.
As his team prepares for the worst, Onyschenko is urging countries to boycott a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to be held in the Russian city of Kazan in June.
“As long as the whole world is thinking about closing the skies over Ukraine, we are thinking about protecting our monuments,” Onyschenko said. “We protect world heritage, not just Lviv’s heritage.”