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Ukraine’s ancient sculptures under threat: Evacuation of Polovtsian statues from Donetsk’s frontlines goes on

In a risky operation, volunteers and soldiers extract the sculptures from their buried, concrete-bound state in Donetsk.
The Polovtsian statues. Source: RFE/RL/Yulia Ratsibarska
Ukraine’s ancient sculptures under threat: Evacuation of Polovtsian statues from Donetsk’s frontlines goes on

One of the oldest pieces of art in the world dedicated to women’s beauty—Polovtsian stone statues—are being evacuated from the frontlines of Donetsk to the city of Dnipro, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Currently, the Yavornytsky National Historical Museum has given shelter to nine ancient sculptures from the combat zone. These artifacts are over 800 years old, and some of them were damaged by Russian attacks. Volunteers, with help from Ukrainian military personnel and concerned citizens, have carefully transported the statues from the constant shelling zone.

“We transported the first two statues mostly by ourselves using a car with a trailer. Soldiers assisted us, and we had to manually extract them from the ground as they were buried and set in concrete,” recalled volunteer Hryhorii.

Since March 2024, nine sculptures have been successfully evacuated to Dnipro.

“These are significant historical artifacts. There aren’t many left, so they need to be saved because they represent our history and identity,” the volunteer emphasized.

He believes it is crucial to retrieve artifacts from the “gray zone” and front-line territories. The ancient monuments have survived time, snow, and rain, but Russian shells will not pity them, Oleksandr Staryk, the Acting Director of the Dnipropetrovsk National Historical Museum, explained.

“If the enemy takes over these territories, they won’t need these monuments. On the contrary, they hinder them because they don’t fit into their historical ‘realities’ and myths, which they promote on the occupied territories.

They claim that these lands have always belonged to them and were Slavic territories related to their version of Kyivan Rus. If there were nomadic peoples here, if there were Polovtsians, they wouldn’t align with their myths,” the expert said.

The Historical Museum in Dnipro has the most extensive collection of ancient stone statues in Ukraine, with 104 statues, including 70 Polovtsian statues. The sculptures from front-line Donetsk are not included in this collection, as they are here for temporary storage. They will be returned home after the territories are liberated and demined.

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