Ph.D. student to develop preservation plan for Ukrainian wooden churches

by Andrea Elizabeth

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Hans Schneider, a doctoral student studying urban and regional science at Texas A&M, has received a Fulbright grant to develop a comprehensive regional plan for preserving eight historically significant wooden churches and other historic sites in western Ukraine. He’ll travel to eastern Europe this August to begin the 10-month project.

Nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010, the eight churches, he said, are unique and exceptional contributions by the Ukrainian people to mankind’s heritage — outstanding examples of building structures and architectural design that illustrate a significant era of human history.

“The wooden churches in western Ukraine are unique architectural structures incorporating Byzantine art with local wood buildi

ng traditions,” said Schneider. “Though extensive interest exists with the local people and academia for the preservation of these churches, international interest is still lacking.”

Schneider’s grant is part of the Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. It is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide. Grants are awarded on the basis of a statement of grant purpose, support from the host country and references.

Schneider said he’ll work with professors at Lviv Polytechnic National University to develop a preservation plan aimed at drawing local and international attention to the churches while promoting local industry and tourism.

“Ukraine has the talent in skilled craftsmen and restoration experts to preserve these churches on their own, but lack organization and money,” said Schneider, detailing several problems facing the preservation project.

In Soviet times, he said, many churches and other historic sites lost state funding because they were removed from the nation’s registry of historical landmarks.

“It was hoped that with Ukrainian independence, money would flow back into the preservation of these sites,” he said. “However, the government budget for the preservation of churches throughout the country is equivalent to a mere $187,500.”

Though Schneider has been learning the Ukrainian language from a tutor and online classes, his first month in Ukraine, he said, will be spent on intensive language training.

Also, during his first four months, Schneider will research Ukrainian preservation laws and work to develop contacts among the nation’s preservation organizations, government agencies and religious organizations that worship at the churches.

His final six months in the field will be spent developing a preservation plan for the churches that addresses issues at the building, city and regional levels.

“This plan will be relevant and useful to local government, preservation organizations, and other interested parties and will serve as a template for preservation in other regions,” said Schneider.

Schneider’s doctoral dissertation will be based on his work in Ukraine, which will also help him earn a Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation from the Center for Heritage Conservation at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture.

“It does not appear that much has changed,” said Schneider, “since Alan Rabinowitz, a consultant sent to Ukraine in 1993 by the International Executive Service Corps, said ‘remaking Ukraine according to standards of more developed nations will take much time — and a whole new vocabulary for both private and public enterprises. There’s a lot of room for U.S. planners to help.’”

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