It has been almost a month since Russia started the war in Ukraine, and Lithuania has already welcomed thousands of refugees. Refugees need everything. From a safe home, essential household items, the possibility to study or work, to safe and cosy places to spend time. To communicate, meet brothers and sisters in fate, find new contacts, and create or immerse in art, which is one of the best medicines for the soul.
Kaunas Cultural Centre on Vytauto pr. 79 has been remodelled to Ukrainian Registration Centre. It houses all the most essential services and is operated by dozens of volunteers. Social and accommodation services are provided, as well as children’s playrooms, lounges and dining areas.
But this is just the first stop. It is important to know that Kaunas and the people of Kaunas welcome Ukrainian people staying in our city for short or more extended periods with open hearts and open arms. In this article, you will find many cultural initiatives to make Ukrainians feel welcome, safe and as relaxed as possible in their new location.
For people based in or passing through Kaunas, the Kaunas IN Tourist Information Centre, located in the Kaunas 2022 office at Laisvės al. 36, is ready to provide the essential information about the city and its cultural, historical and other attractions, user-friendly illustrated maps in several languages, other publications presenting Kaunas and Lithuania, information about events and excursions – all free of charge.
On 17 March, CulturEUraine, a cultural-creative space to make sense of time, build connections and share culture, opened at Kaunas Central Post Office. It is not only a space for relaxation, conversations, meetings, work, getting to know the support and charity initiatives operating in Lithuania, but also a space full of freedom and the spirit of art that helps to brighten up gloomy thoughts.
“The European Capital of Culture is not just a famous title; it is a privilege to spread the message. The war in Ukraine closed the door to culture, so in Kaunas, we are opening CulturEUkraine - a centre for public debate, art therapy, time with children and artist residencies,” the team behind Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 team announced at the opening of the centre.
Kaunas IN invites Ukrainians to free tours of the Old Town. “Kaunas Old Town and its secrets” is an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with all the most outstanding architectural monuments in the city. The Russian-speaking guide will share the history of Kaunas and Lithuania, dating back to the Crusades. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the first church in Kaunas, built by Grand Duke Vytautas after the events at the Vorskla River (Ukraine) in the 15th century, and learn about other secrets and legends of the old Kaunas. The first tour on 27 March has attracted a lot of interest and is already full, but you can find out about future ones by following the It’s Kaunastic Facebook account.
Many cultural and artistic institutions in Kaunas, whether public, municipal or private, invite people from Ukraine to visit and use their services free of charge. So, for some cultural pastime, one can start with the Kaunas Photography Gallery, special Ukrainian-language screenings for kids at the Cinamon cinema in Mega mall, and the Kino Pavasaris festival in Forum Cinemas Akropolis.
For Ukrainians staying in the city, tickets for performances, art festivals, events and concerts will be shared by Kaunas dance theatre Aura, Kaunas Santaka Collective, Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra, Kaunas Artists’ House and the Chamber Theatre, as well as by the soon-to-be-opened Romuva cinema.
The doors of Kaunas City Museum and its departments (excursions and events will be free of charge, too), Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum and its departments, National M.K. Čiurlionis Art Museum and its departments (Kaunas Picture Gallery, Devil Museum, Historical Presidential Palace, A. and P. Galaunė House Museum, J. Zikaras House Museum) will be open to the guests from Ukraine.
The Lithuanian Museum of the History of Education invites Ukrainians to visit free of charge, and the little ones coming to Lithuania from Ukraine to take part in a well-being programme.
Even though it’s not hosting public events at the moment, the Kaunas Cultural Centre offers educational activities, workshops, camps, movement laboratory classes, art groups, and other entertaining events.
Libraries are eager to provide free reader’s passes to people fleeing the war in Ukraine and invite them to join educational activities and non-formal education programmes. The Panemunė branch of the V. Kudirka Library in Kaunas already has a Ukrainian-language reading room, and plans are underway for other departments.
More activities for Ukrainian children are being held. On Ukrainiankids.lt, you will find information about Sunday day camps and clubs in Kaunas. From photography secrets to karate and football, you can continue your Ukrainian hobbies and discover new ones. You can also make friends!
Kaunas Education Innovation Centre invites Ukrainians to take part in the free training course “Finding solutions for psycho-emotional and social well-being” and learn the Lithuanian language. Information about new groups will be announced here.
In Kaunas sports schools, excellent conditions for active leisure time and sports training await. Both experienced athletes and beginners will be welcomed. The institutions themselves and their communities are willing to provide the necessary equipment for children who want to participate in sports.
The most important information for Ukrainians and Lithuanians who can help them is available on the Kaunas City Municipality website in both languages.
Title photo by A. Aleksandravičius