From a Lviv Bunker, Ukrainians Plan for their Country’s Future

Application deadline: 
October 2, 2023

Ukrainian civil society met in late September to discuss how Ukraine’s post-war recovery should look, even as air raid sirens warning of continued Russian attacks sounded above.

More than 150 Ukrainian civic activists, urbanists, architects, ecologists, city council members and journalists gathered in Lviv September 18-20 for Unlock Ukraine to discuss their country’s recovery.

Organised by the Prague Civil Society Centre in cooperation with the International Renaissance Foundation and Lviv Media Forum, Unlock Ukraine was a chance for participants to think big and imagine a post-war future that is transparent, inclusive and sustainable—and one that they can start building right now.

Participants held a blitz pitching of their projects and ideas, and then formed working groups around shared topics of interest, including: the role of public art and historical memory, green spaces, safe streets, sustainable public transport, gender sensitive approaches to infrastructure planning, transparency and the role of civil society in post-war reconstruction.

“We cannot wait until the war stops”, said Otar Dovzhenko, one of the journalists in attendance. “We have to rebuild the country now, and we have to do it better”.

The programme featured trips around Lviv and meetings with local NGOs and initiatives, including a visit to “Unbroken”, the new medical rehabilitation centre serving the thousands of Ukrainians disfigured by Russia’s war who are in need of prosthetic limbs and trauma care.

Discussions were solutions focused, and participants joined diverse workshops lead by experts. For example, a session on anti-corruption monitoring, or a talk with Prague Civil Society Centre Senior Advisor Igor Blaževič from Bosnia on life after war.

“Unlock Ukraine Ideathon in Lviv was the most inspiring event in the last 1.5 years for me”, said Oksana Savchuk, coordinator with Ukrainian House & co-founder of VATAHA Foundation. “It was incredibly heart-warming to see so many hard-working activists, initiatives and NGOs. While the Ukrainian army is protecting our freedom, Ukrainians are building stronger civil society for a more fair and democratic future. They’re fighting corruption, developing culture, reintegrating IDPs and soldiers, and creating more environmentally friendly rebuilding strategies”.

Among the international guests was Fulko Treffers, an architect and urban planner from the Netherlands and co-founder of the Ro3kvit coalition, who shared his experience working on urban planning in Ukraine.

“I was in Mariupol December 2021 talking about a new project and plans. And now I have had to reset my mind because the town is a ghost town. People live there but there is so much pain and suffering that happened”, said Treffers. “It is hard, but we have found a way as a Ro3kvit team to develop a new perspective, to find new meaning”.

Another project focused on Mariupol presented at the event was Portraits of Mariupol, which sets out to preserve the collective historic memory of the port city through individual stories and experiences retold in a documentary film and a traveling exhibition.

Unlock Ukraine attracted interest from local media, with half a dozen outlets in attendance interviewing guests and staff from the Centre.

Participants said they especially appreciated the opportunity for unrushed conversations and to dream about the Ukraine of the future together.

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