The GuardianThe Guardian

‘Our mission is crucial’: Meet the warrior librarians of Ukraine

By Stephen Marche

04 Dec 2022 · 11 min read

Editor's Note

In the war in Ukraine, even libraries are on the frontline. The Guardian reports how the country's librarians are defending the nation's sense of identity by keeping libraries open.

The morning that Russian bombs started falling on Kyiv, Oksana Bruy woke up worried about her laptop. Bruy is president of the Ukrainian Library Association and, the night before, she hadn’t quite finished a presentation on the new plans for the Kyiv Polytechnic Library, so she had left her computer open at work. That morning, the street outside her house filled with the gunfire of Ukrainian militias executing Russian agents. Missile strikes drove her into an underground car park with her daughter, Anna, and her cat, Tom. A few days, later she crept back into the huge empty library, 15,000sqft once filled with the quiet murmurings of readers. As she grabbed her laptop, the air raid siren sounded and she rushed to her car.

Thanks to that computer, Bruy could work. She didn’t return to her office; instead, she fled west to Lviv. “In all that time, from the first day of the full-scale war, I did not stop working,” she says. The library’s IT specialist lived in the neighbourhood. He kept the servers running and the employees connected. “So there was not a single day’s break in the work of the Kyiv Polytechnical Library, all this time, from 24 February.” The Russians have not shut her down. Oksana Bruy is winning her battle in the Ukrainian war. The libraries are open.

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