Ukraine War: Irpin's library is an oasis of calm amid harsh conditions
Irpin in the north of Ukraine has paid a high price for its resistance to Russia's invasion which began over a year ago.
It was directly in the path of Russia's advance on Kyiv and for months endured relentless shelling and attacks. But life is slowly resuming.
Within the still heavily damaged city, the public library is a symbol of Ukrainian resilience.
Hit by a shell during the partial Russian occupation of the area, it has now been restored to its former glory.
Locals now use the building as a meeting place for the community.
"We have a social coworking space here. Everything here is free, there’s free internet access for people. The space, light, heating, everything is free. This is a great help to people", says the director of the library, Olena Tsyganenko.
For many residents facing a continued lack of key services, it provides a space where they can retain a semblance of normality.
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One resident said, “with this tough situation with electricity, I need a place where I can charge my laptop and internet for my connection. I want to work every day so I come here."
"I think it's very important. It supports the economy in Ukraine. I earn money and I spend it in Ukraine. And I also make donations to the army. It's also a part of this resistance.”
Amid the daily struggles of war, one may think that academic or literary pursuits wouldn't be high on most people's lists. However, the very fact that war is raging, makes it all the more important.
"This place is the spiritual centre of the community. Where we talk to people and help them choose a book. Books also provide psychological help, it’s book therapy", Olena adds.
"Books can be a distraction or a way to learn new things, to study. All the Russian books were removed from the shelves. We have Ukrainian literature to learn about our history, our art, and our culture. It’s our spirituality.”
While Russian troops no longer occupy half of Irpin or any zone in the north of Ukraine, they are fears that they could try to attack the region once more. Inside the four walls of Irpin's library, however, a sea of calm prevails.