Culture at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin 

The cultural programme has become an important part of the Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2024), which takes place in Berlin on 11-12 June. The conference aims to consolidate sustained international support for Ukraine’s recovery, reconstruction, reform and modernisation

Culture plays a key role in rebuilding and reconstructing cities, creating conditions for socially attractive infrastructure and relying on people- and place-based strategies

About the cultural programme  

The cultural programme of the URC2024 presents the efforts of Ukrainian cultural diplomacy during the war and includes exhibitions that immerse participants in the war experience and show how it affected the lives of Ukrainians. At the same time, there are also projects about Ukraine’s recovery in the face of a full-scale invasion. 

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska attended the cultural programme of the conference: Cultural diplomacy creates additional platforms for the presentation and development of Ukrainian culture in times of war. It ensures the integration of Ukrainian culture and the involvement of professional experts in European contexts and shows the resilience and potential of culture for the country’s recovery. This, in turn, preserves the Ukrainian cultural heritage, which is an integral part of the world’s heritage and is currently under constant threat of destruction.

One of the most emotional moments of the conference was the exhibition Postcards from Ukraine organised by the Ukrainian Institute with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which reminded the guests what our ‘Mriya’ plane was like and what is left of it after Russian missiles. It showed the Palace of Culture in Mariupol, which no longer gathers young people, and the Skovoroda Museum, which preserved the memory of the prominent philosopher, and has now become a memory itself.   

The Palianytsia exhibition from the Kaleidoscope of (Hi)stories project, created from river rocks in Transcarpathia, symbolises not only traditional Ukrainian bread but also, with the beginning of the full-scale invasion, became a symbol that helps distinguish friend from foe. Heartfelt stories of Ukrainians who were forced to give up their main profession and become volunteers or soldiers at the outbreak of the war were presented in the exhibitions Cities and Their Heroes and Ukrainian Jazzmen at War.  

URC2024 also picked up the torch of the Peace Formula in Children’s Art exhibition launched by the Lviv Children’s Gallery with the support of Olena Zelenska. The exhibition conveys Ukraine’s desire to live in peace through our children’s visual language. The children’s drawings reveal the world in their memories, thoughts and dreams captured on canvas or paper and make it possible to see their past through children’s eyes, feel their present and understand how they want to see their happy future. 

The conference paid special attention to the resilience and courage of Ukrainians. Projects such as RE:Ukraine Villages and RE:Ukraine Community Hub, #LEGOwithUKRAINE, Superhumans are full of light and new simple dreams – to get back on your feet, to have a home again, to hold your child’s hand again, to visit the Khan’s Palace in Crimea again, to take the first step again.   

The performance by Roman Hryhoriv, who performed the song Voice of Hell’s Arrow on a Uragan MLRS missile, was a highlight of the cultural programme. The missiles became musical instruments. The sound of the rocket under the bow was particularly sharp and piercing, but playing them became a symbol of the victory of life over death and our common victory.  

Discussion on the role of culture and science in rebuilding Ukraine

On 11 June, the conference hosted a podium discussion on the reconstruction in the fields of science and culture. Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute, spoke about the role of cultural diplomacy and the potential of culture for the restoration and reconstruction of Ukraine. 

“The recovery of the cultural sector is extremely important, as the development, resilience and intellectual capacity of the entire Ukrainian society depend on it. This is not a luxury or a secondary task, but a primary need. Equally important is the investment in cultural diplomacy, which helps Ukraine build dialogue and understanding with other countries and overcome the effects of Russian propaganda and disinformation. This is one of the factors of Ukraine’s successful integration into the EU,” said Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute. 

The discussion participants were Anna Bartels, Commissioner for Foreign Cultural Policy at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, Johannes Ebert, Secretary General of the Goethe Institute, Robert Schlegel, President of the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung, Oleksandra Antoniuk, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Mathematics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Johannes Nathan, Member of the Steering Committee of the UAAC. The meeting was moderated by James Waterhouse, BBC Ukraine correspondent.  

The cultural programme of URC2024 is organised by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology of Germany, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Institute, the Embassy of Ukraine in Germany, and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.