The project to send reclaimed windows to Ukraine began in Poland, which is the largest exporter of windows in the European Union. “We found out that Ukraine has no facility producing window glass and that before the war 75% of it was imported from Russia and Belarus,” said Kyiv architect Petro Vladimirov.
He co-founded Okno Projekt (Project Window) with Polish activist Zofia Jaworowska in July 2022, when a wave of Ukrainians began returning home from Poland to liberated areas around Kyiv, Chenihiv and Kherson oblasts. It works with local Ukrainian non profit groups, including the Ukranian Metalab Foundation, Unity and Strength, and Svoi Lydu, which are working on rebuilding bombed homes.
“Winter was coming and it was necessary to help with repairing houses as soon as possible – in the first two months alone we managed to collect nearly 700 windows from across Poland send two full trucks to Ukraine,” said Jaworowska. By August 2023, they had sent 1217 reclaimed windows in total to Ukraine.
On the first day alone, people in Warsaw brought 30 windows to a collection point. The city, through its Dom Odbudowy Ukrainy initiative, helped out by designating a warehouse for free storage, and large businesses contributed. The project received 215 windows when the 1990s Atrium office block in central Warsaw was dismantled. Those windows, which were the same size as the ones in ordinary homes and apartments, have already been installed in Kherson and the village of Kamianka, near Kharkiv.
“This project came to life straight from our hearts – from the need to support our Ukrainian neighbors and friends in rebuilding homes and public buildings destroyed during air raids and home invasions,” said the BRDA Project. “Thanks to you, hundreds of windows reached Kyiv without a scratch. There are currently hundreds of Ukrainians who can look outside their homes, wave to their friends, communicate with the world through unshattered glass. A window from Lisków might have landed in Bucha, a window from Radom might have been installed in Irpin, Wieliczka met Chernihiv… it’s a beautiful thing.”
Then the scope of the project broadened as Windows for Ukraine became the basis of the prize-winning Polish exhibition, the “Poetics of Necessity”, at the London Design Biennale this past summer. The project by Jaworowska, Vladimirov and Michał Sikorski touched upon the theme of ‘remapping collaborations’, exploring Polish-Ukrainian partnerships amidst war and attempting to describe relationships, objects and processes which emerge during crisis.
The Polish pavilion featured an installation of 30 windows, donated by citizens of London and UK enterprises between April 10 and May 10, which subsequently joined the windows sent to Kyiv, Kherson and Kharkiv from Warsaw. The goal was to promote knowledge of grassroots reconstruction of Ukraine and to engage Londoners in a socially impactful project.
“Through their actions, the authors of the exhibition show how current and important solidarity is. On the other hand, the crisis and lack of materials force creative thinking and looking for new solutions. I am extremely glad that this project was appreciated by the jury in London, because behind it is an extremely important and current idea,” says Barbara Schabowska, director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which organized the exhibit.
“I have the impression that the times of emphasizing individualism and accumulating things for the sake of our own comfort are behind us,” said Jaworowska. “War, climate change, and growing instability make us increasingly seek support in the community and look for new ways of distributing knowledge, goods and tools. Our team, in Polish-Ukrainian cooperation, found a sense of solidarity and motivation to look differently at architecture, our surroundings, priorities and our work. In the exhibition “Poetics of Necessity”, we show this by exploring the potential of reusing building materials.”
“Who would have thought that there was one object that could talk about alliance, empathy, solidarity, help, crossing bridges and creating new cooperation?” said a member of the London Design Biennale jury about the winning Polish project, The Poetics of Necessity. “Who knew that object could be a window?”
Polish Pavilion wins 2023 London Design Biennale Medal. Culture.pl, Jun. 9, 2023
Warsaw volunteers win praise for their windows for Ukraine campaign TheFirstNews, Oct. 2, 2023