Projects - 21 March 2024

War in Ukraine: Taking Long-Term Action!

In February 2022, the Russian army launched a large-scale offensive against Ukraine. Soon after, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF) mobilized to deploy its tools in schools, refugee reception centers, and health facilities across Europe to help preserve the access to culture and education of millions of displaced Ukrainians. Two years later, more than 50,000 people have benefitted from our actions.

A meeting with our team and partners in Ukraine, who testify to the essential role of libraries during wartime.

In Ukraine, BSF currently operates seven Ideas Box libraries and nine Ideas Cubes in Lviv, Drohobytch, Vinnytsia, Bucha, and Dnipro. These spaces offer families the opportunity to escape the challenges of daily life; to continue to hope, and to rebuild despite the difficult situation. Here, they find a reassuring place with books, board games, a television, and creative materials from which they can draw the energy needed to not just survive, but to live.

“The importance of culture and education in Ukraine cannot be overstated. At a time when Russia seeks to destroy Ukraine’s cultural heritage, to erase its identity, and to deny its right to independence and democracy, BSF’s tools remain vital to the preservation of the country’s spirit. Culture and education are a source of comfort and distraction from the daily dangers of war, thus contributing to the resilience of the Ukrainian people.” Olha Teteruk, BSF Field Technical Advisor in Ukraine.

In the Kharkhiv region of northeastern Ukraine, the village of Kapytolivka was occupied by Russia for around a year. In the fall of 2023, BSF installed a micro-library and an Ideas Cube, a digital library that provides access to thousands of educational and cultural materials without the need for an internet connection. Yuliia Kakulia-Danyliuk, a librarian in Kapytolivka, tells us:

“Many buildings were almost completely destroyed during the occupation. The library was certainly not spared. During this period, most children could not attend school, so the library staff regularly organized activities for preschool-age children in the less damaged part of the building.

Since the village was liberated by the Ukrainians, some repair work has been done and we have continued to offer enrichment activities thanks to BSF’s educational tools!” Yuliia Kakulia-Danyliuk.

Every day, “several generations gather there” to enjoy novels, comic books, and children’s books selected by our teams in Ukrainian and English, to play board games, to draw, to watch movies, or simply to rest. “The library has now become one of the major centers of the village—a symbol of unity in a time of conflict,” she continues.

Similar effects can be seen in Pavlohrad, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, where BSF also deploys an Ideas Cube and a library in a community center to “promote informal education for displaced and local youth,” explains Inna Bezverkha, Head of the Center for Public Activity of Western Donbas.

“During war, it’s very important to maintain a certain stability, a regularity, among our communities. This micro-library helps us create a reassuring and comforting place for young people where they can continue their routines. Sometimes, some of them take books home with them, especially during air raids. Others bring their own books to share with the community.” Inna Bezverkha.

Given that the Russian army frequently targets the energy infrastructure, Inna also highlights the essential role of BSF’s digital tools in case of power outages and internet disruptions.

“During power outages, many come to enjoy the library: to watch videos on tablets or movies, to read, or simply to be together. Moreover, thanks to the energy autonomy of the Ideas Cube, they have access to offline content, allowing them to continue with their lives and activities.” Inna Bezverkha.

In Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk region, at the YaMariupol center, an Ideas Box is deployed for displaced children and adults who fled Mariupol. Every day, the center’s facilitators organize a wide range of activities for all age groups:

“For older individuals, a book club is set up every month. Computer literacy workshops are also regularly organized at the center. Some, more advanced, are introduced to Photoshop or video editing. During air raids, this space becomes a shelter, a refuge.” Oleksandra Novik, Coordinator of Cultural Projects at the YaMariupol Center.

For the past two years and for the first time in its history, BSF and its partners have had to adapt to the uncertainties of a country at war. Naturally, this also entails considering the psychological consequences and trauma inflicted on the population, especially women, for whom numerous actions are carried out throughout the country.

“Far from their homes and husbands on the front lines, most women find themselves isolated and vulnerable. For them, integrating into this new environment is not always easy. This is why the work of BSF and its partners, creating safe spaces and securing access to information, is essential. Here, they can meet new people going through similar situations and share their experiences.” Irene Martes Sanchez, BSF Project Coordinator in Ukraine.

For survivors of sexual violence, our teams will soon deploy Ideas Boxes to contribute to their care, well-being, and recovery, in partnership with the United Nations as part of our agreement signed in the fall of 2022. Following a recent needs assessment, new content will also be added to enrich our Ideas Boxes and Ideas Cubes in coming months with resources on psychosocial support, mental health, and care for adults with disabilities.

In 2023, over 22,450 people benefitted from our actions in Ukraine, of which 18,000 were under 15 years of age. In 2024, this number continues to grow. As long as the war continues, BSF and its partners will do everything possible to offer support to victims of the conflict, to help them regain their dignity and hope for a better future.

Bibliothèques Sans Frontières empowers vulnerable populations by facilitating access to education, culture, and information. In France and in more than 30 countries, the association creates innovative spaces to live and shelters that allow people affected by crises and uncertainty to have fun, create connections, and build their futures.


Written by: Gustavo Romero