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Preserving Cultural Heritage Amid Conflict: Ukraine Marks 70th Year with UNESCO

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By Veronica Uy

Amidst the turmoil of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine stands steadfast in its commitment to preserving its rich cultural heritage, marking a significant milestone as it celebrates 70 years of membership in UNESCO.

Despite the challenges posed by the conflict, both UNESCO Ukraine and its counterpart in the Philippines are unwavering in their dedication to safeguarding cultural treasures and promoting international cooperation.

In May 1954, Ukraine joined UNESCO, embarking on a journey of collaboration in education, science, and culture. Now, seven decades later, the country reflects on its enduring partnership with the influential international organization.

“The celebrations of UNESCO National Heritage Month in the Philippines and the 70th anniversary of Ukraine’s membership in UNESCO in 2024 are testaments to their ongoing dedication to these values,” said chargé d’affaires Denys Mykhailiuk, of the Embassy of Ukraine in Malaysia.

Cultural preservation lies at the heart of UNESCO’s mission, and both Ukraine and the Philippines actively engage in safeguarding their respective heritages.

In the Philippines, efforts focus on protecting sites like the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras and the Historic City of Vigan.

The Bell Tower of Saint Sophia Cathedral: Dating back as far as the XI century, St. Sophia Cathedral preserves one of the world’s largest ensembles of unique mosaics and frescoes of the first quarter of that century.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, iconic landmarks such as the Saint-Sophia Cathedral and the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra are meticulously preserved. These sites not only symbolize the nations’ histories but also serve as beacons of cultural identity.

The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra: An outstanding monument of Ukrainian and world culture, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is an Orthodox monastery founded in 1051 by monks Anthony and Theodosius near Kyiv. In the XI century, the monastery became the centre of Christianity in Kyivan Rus.

Despite the challenges posed by conflict, Ukraine remains resolute in its commitment to cultural preservation. The ongoing conflict with Russia, particularly in Crimea, underscores the importance of UNESCO’s support in protecting territorial integrity and heritage sites.

The most recent site listed was the Historic Centre of Odesa, in 2023. The site was immediately listed as endangered because of the 2022 Russian invasion, the sites of Kyiv and Lviv were added to the endangered list as well later in the same year.

The Historic Centre of Odesa: UNESCO World Heritage Centre

“An important component of Ukraine’s cooperation with UNESCO is financial support and emergency aid in conditions of military conflict,” said CDA Mykhailiuk.

Through collaborative efforts, Ukraine receives vital assistance, ensuring the continuation of cultural endeavors even in the face of adversity.

Intangible cultural heritage, including traditions and languages, is also a focal point for both countries. UNESCO Philippines and Ukraine actively promote traditional practices, ensuring that these invaluable assets are passed down to future generations. Moreover, Ukraine’s dedication to preserving its language and folklore highlights its commitment to cultural diversity and identity.

Petrykivka decorative painting, Ukrainian ornamental folk art, Inscribed in 2013 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

As Ukraine navigates through turbulent times, its partnership with UNESCO remains instrumental in fostering resilience and promoting cultural diplomacy on the world stage. Despite the challenges posed by conflict, the preservation of cultural heritage serves as a beacon of hope, reaffirming Ukraine’s enduring spirit amidst adversity.

“Thanks to cooperation with UNESCO, Ukraine received a significant positive impetus for the development of education, science, and culture, which contributes to its integration into the international community and strengthens its role on the world stage,” said CDA Denys Mykhailiuk, The Embassy of Ukraine in Malaysia, Head of the non-resident Mission of Ukraine to the Republic of the Philippines.

#УкраїнаЮНЕСКО70 #UkraineUNESCO70 #PhilippinesUNESCO

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