Earlier this year, Ukrainian museums rushed to hide their collections for fear that invading Russian troops would steal or destroy the country’s cultural heritage.

In some cases, these fears have materialized. Russian troops have looted over 2,000 works of art cultural institutions in Mariupol, say local officials, while other sites in the Ukrainian port city, including the Kuindzhi Art Museum and the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Complexwere flattened by military attacks.

But today, at least one major Ukrainian art museum is bringing back its most prized possessions as a sign of resistance.

According to New York Timesthe Borys Voznytskyi Lviv National Art Gallery in western Ukraine is relocating artwork to its 18 branches, some of which are now open.

“Putin’s goal now is to turn Ukrainians into people, into nothing,” said gallery director Taras Voznyak. Time. “In order to show that we are alive, we have opened several branches.”

Voznyak said the gallery’s main museum, located in Lviv’s historic Lozinsky Palace, could reopen to the public as early as next month, and that the institution is also planning a series of online exhibitions. One day, Voznyak added, he would like to build exhibition spaces underground to allow art to be shown during times of war.

A man looks through a door of the Lviv National Art Gallery with sandbag-protected windows in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 7, 2022, 12 days after the Russia launched a military invasion against Ukraine. Photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images.

Vozniak, like other museum managers in his place, hidden important works of art belonging to the museum in secret places after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. It was no easy task: Ukraine’s largest art museum, the National Art Gallery in Lviv holds a collection of some 65,000 works of art, including works by Wojciech Gerson, Francisco Goya and Peter Paul Rubens.

Perhaps the most recent names to enter the collection are Vlada Ralko and Volodymyr Budnikov, two Ukrainian artists who fled the country earlier this year and locked themselves in an unused museum gallery for a month. There they went to work making art about the conditions of war.

The two artists eventually donated their creations to the museum.

“This art was created at that time, in that palace,” Voznyak said. “It’s living art.”

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