“Those who cannot remember the past,” warned philosopher George Santayana, “are condemned to repeat it.” Indeed, as those currently living through the devastating war in Ukraine know only too well, attempting to brush acts of human aggression under the carpet of history or whitewash atrocities in an attempt to appease despots can lead to deadly consequences. That’s why billionaire patriot businessman Rinat Akhmetov, who heads steel and mining corporation Metinvest, has made it his mission to give witnesses to the current war with Russia a platform that enshrines their testimony regarding the horrific events they’ve endured in hopes that the world will never forget. To that end, Akhmetov created the Museum of Civilian Voices.
Preserving the Oral History of War in Hopes of Enlightening Future Generations
The Museum of Civilian Voices was established in Kyiv, Ukraine, as a means to record and maintain voices of a region beset by war. It strives to become the primary source of the truth about the devastation in Ukraine. Since the project’s inception, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has sponsored a series of events and initiatives in conjunction with leading world and Ukrainian experts in the field of oral history, creating and enabling a global community dialog on the true human costs of war.
With an original goal of recording 100,000 stories, the Voices of the Peaceful project at the Museum of Civilian Voices was launched in September 2020. The online collection of oral histories sheds light on the untold tragedies and personal triumphs culled from a cross-section of Ukrainian citizens from every strata of society who have been impacted by the unlawful Russian incursion into their homeland.
In August 2023, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation announced that more than 90,000 personal recollections had been gathered for posterity thus far. “The main task of the museum is to collect, systematize, and show the world the testimonies of [those] who were in the war and are experiencing it right now. All stories are in the first person, primarily in the format of video confessions, video interviews. We believe that in this way we preserve voices from the past and present for the sake of a better future,” explained Natalya Yemchenko, a Rinat Akhmetov Foundation supervisory board member and communications director of System Capital Management.
The 90,000-plus recorded first-person experiences, which are published on the Museum of Civilian Voices’ online portal, are available for study and dissemination to those publications, media outlets, and documentarians working toward establishing an accurate historical record and calling out for justice. “I think this is an extremely important project for the future, for memory, for education, but it can also be very important for the victims themselves to tell their story,” noted historian Dr. Piotr Cywiński, director of Poland’s Auschwitz State Museum at Birkenau, while speaking at the Ukrainian Oral History Forum in Kyiv.
“People don’t live forever, and it will be extremely important for the next generations to hear about their grandparents, to see the reaction, to understand what really happened to their families.”
The Voices of the Peaceful is still seeking first-person stories of the Russia-Ukraine war to add to its archives. Those who wish to share their recollections with the project can reach out via the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s Museum of Civilian Voices portal or call the toll-free hotline number, 0-800-509-001, for assistance.