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Hope & The Hallmuir Ukrainian Chapel

It is not often WWII prisoner of war camp buildings find new value in society. The horrific events in Ukraine have offered an unexpected lifeline to a Ukrainian place thousands of miles away in the South of Scotland.

Until recently, this was a site, like so many other places of WWII cultural significance, left in disrepair, abandoned, used for storage, fenced off or vandalised. After a change in ownership, the Chapel is in a sorry state. Thankfully though, its future looks a little more encouraging. It has become a place of contemplation, donation and acknowledgement during this desperate time of war and suffering. The location has new meaning and its past has resonance again.

In UNESCO terms, I suppose it has developed new (whilst surfacing latent) values. Meaning, that it positively contributes to the international cultural and the social fabric of humanity, I can imagine it would meet at least one of the ten selection criteria just as the Italian Chapel on Orkney might.

These sites dotted around Scotland, hidden in forests (Fife), fenced-off on golf courses (Haddington, East Lothian) or left in disrepair (Lockerbie ) are amazing nuggets of history, overlooked and underestimated. They represent an aspect of war and humanity that is so important. They are sites of cultural, social and educational importance for the Scottish and the Italian, Ukrainian and German people who spent time there. They are sites with meaning that reaches much further though, they touch all of us, they speak of resilience, incarceration, violence, adaptation and the need for peace.

The Hallmuir Ukrainian Chapel was a place of worship and cultural significance to 450 resettled Ukrainians after the war. These men were spared Soviet firing squads or Siberian labour camps and offered a new life in the South of Scotland where they found employment, a new home and in doing so established the Hallmuir Ukrainian chapel of worship.

Over time and despite the rest of the camp falling into disuse, the men were permitted to use the chapel as an active place of worship where the services were held in Ukrainian. However, now it requires Love and Attention – It requires support so that it can authentically establish its place in the community again and offer support to those rallying to aid those suffering in Ukraine.

Let us find new value for more buildings with significances overlooked for so long.

Re-using buildings is socially healthy, environmentally critical, culturally enriching and builds beautiful layers of narrative within your community. Frazer


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