Projects - 8 March 2023


Libraries Without Borders has deployed Ideas Box across Ukraine, with one each in the cities of Lviv, Drohobych, Vinnytsia, Butcha, and Dnipro. These pop-up libraries offer displaced families a moment of escape from their ordeal, and provide them access to educational and cultural resources to help them rebuild their lives. One year since the start of the Russian invasion, we met with Hilb Lobanov, coordinator of Child friendly space Parasolka in Drohobytch, and Anastassia Moldovan, director of the Kvadrat Regional Youth Center in Vinnytsia, who have each made use of an Ideas Box in their respective cities. They’ve both acknowledged the essential role of these pop-up libraries in times of war, which have already helped more than 2,000 citzens and displaced persons in these cities. 

On February 24, 2022, Russia began its full-scale attack on Ukraine. One year later, the number of victims is staggering: nearly 300,000 deaths, 5.7 million displaced persons within Ukraine, and 7.5 million Ukrainian refugees throughout Europe.

Since the start of the invasion, BSF has acted to help the population within Ukraine and throughout Europe. In order to prioritize access to education and culture during this conflict, our teams have implemented a vast action plan to protect and support Ukrainian citizens, internally displaced persons, and refugees, especially the youth. The plan is currently assisting people seeking asylum in France, Belgium, Italy, Moldova, Poland, and Ukraine.

“The war is like a deep earthquake, a big misfortune for every Ukrainian. The people, especially the youth, are the driving force of development, progress, and reconstruction of the country. That is precisely why we need to work tirelessly with young people, highlight their talents, develop their skills, and create new ways to get back on their feet.” Anastassia Moldovan, director of the Kvadrat Regional Youth Center in Vinnytsia. 

Anastassia Moldovan, Vinnytsia
© Oleksandr Piliouguine
Hlib Lobanov, Drohobytch
© Kathryn Moskalyuk

For example, BSF has deployed an Ideas Box in the Child friendly space in Drohobytch, managed by the NGO People in Need. From Monday to Friday, children ranging from 6 to 14 years old can come with their families from as far as Kiev, Kherson, Donetsk, and Kharkiv. After the school day ends, they can come here to read children’s books and novels, play board games, paint or draw, dance, watch movies, or simply rest. Above all, they get to enjoy a social space full of activities at their disposal.

“Ideas Box has made my life, the children’s lives, and the lives of their loved ones brighter and more colorful. The kids can be creative. They can discover and experience new things at this library. For them, Ideas Box is place to celebrate. It’s a miracle, a gift, a treasure. These colorful cubes let them laugh, imagine, dream, and feel like adventurers and superheros!” Hlib Lobanov, coordinator of Child friendly space Parasolka in Drohobytch, part of the Czech NGO People in Need.

In Vinnytsia, BSF fosters that same space for the community. In the Kvadrat youth center, located in the basement of an air raid shelter, an Ideas Box serves the youth and their relatives. Every day, employees at Kvadrat organize activities including board games, 3D modeling, introduction to graphic design, literary evenings, art therapy, English classes, etc.  

“One day in December, we welcomed more than 500 children and teenagers from the occupied territories around Donetsk. On that day, the Ideas Box reached its full potential. It allowed the kids to have fun, be social, and enjoy meaningful interactions with culture and technology.” Anastassia Moldovan. 

Drohobytch © Kathryn Moskalyuk
Vinnytsia © Oleksandr Piliouguine

By creating safe and welcoming spaces, BSF gives displaced families the opportunity to temporarily escape their psychological suffering and become re-energized in the process. With Ideas Box, refugees have a chance to not just survive, but live a lot more. 

“Working and interacting with these refugees is a constant challenge that requires attention, gentleness, patience, and empathy. Some of them are closed off, tired, others feel isolated. Often the children feel trauma from the bombings they’ve survived. Sometimes they hide under a table, or don’t want to talk much.

There’s this one 9-year-old boy who was initially silent and shy when he first came to the Ideas Box a few weeks ago with his parents. In order to connect, we would use puppets. I would put a parrot puppet on my hand and he would put a zebra or a giraffe on his. Sometimes we’d make jokes, other times we’d talk about more serious things… This boy kept coming back often, and over time, he started to talk, to make friends. The puppets we used allowed him to express himself more freely.” Hlib Lobanov. 

Three other Ideas Box are being deployed throughout Ukraine. In Lviv, in partnership with the city’s library network, BSF has set up an Ideas Box that accompanies the daily work of librarians in the Multiplex children’s library on the south side of the city. In Dnipro, in partnership with the Marioupol town hall and YaMarioupol network of centers, BSF has set up another Ideas Box to serve the displaced children and parents from Marioupol. Finally, in Boutcha, an Ideas Box is supporting the displaced people in the area, as well as students and teachers from two schools that were looted and ravaged by Russian forces during the Russian occupation of the city. 

“Since the arrival of the Ideas Box, we’ve enjoyed every moment with the children. We cherish every drawing, every clay animal, every story they create. We enjoy  birthdays together, perform and watch theater, dance, celebrate every smile, every little victory. This library reminds us that education and culture are fundamental resources during war. They give a direction, a broader horizon. They are the resources that help these people grow and become healthier, happier, and more inspired participants in society.” Hlib Lobanov. 

In addition to the basic needs during humanitarian crises, access to knowledge for victims of these situations must be a top priority. When faced with an emergency, BSF gives refugees the means to face the difficulties they encounter and to create solutions to these challenges in order to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Translation: Luca Richman