Lviv is ready to welcome tourists, despite the dangers | War in Ukraine
Crowds walk past the famous Lviv Opera House building.
Ukrainian leaders say: one of the best ways to support the economy of their country, which has been damaged by the Russian invasion, is to come and visit it, despite the dangers that this represents.
If you are brave, welcome to Lviv, says Mayor Andriy Sadovy, stretching out his arms to show his magnificent city.
The mayor met with The Canadian Press in his office at the x27;city hall, in the heart of the old town.
The place is relatively safe compared to the rest of the country. The streets are illuminated with twinkling lights from the entrances of independent shops and bustling restaurants. People stroll past neo-Gothic and Renaissance buildings.
This charming vision is interrupted by the signs of war that can be seen on every street corner. The air alarm sounds almost every day, although the population pays less attention to it. The curfew was imposed under martial law, slightly stifling nightlife.
The monuments are surrounded by jute bags, plastered and protected by anti-tank obstacles against possible enemy shells. Sandbags are stored along the windows of the cellars so that they can be used as shelters. The army has installed checkpoints at the entrances to the city.
Anti-tank structures protect public spaces by blocking access to possible enemy vehicles.
On this sunny February Sunday, on the main street near the Lviv Opera House, a boy is playing a carnival game. He shoots a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin with a very realistic toy gun.
Despite the wishes of the mayor, the municipality cannot openly encourage tourists to come to Ukraine. There is no guarantee against a Russian missile, agrees Khrystyna Lebed, who runs the local tourist board.
Canadian government warns Canadians against the temptation to go to Ukraine because of the dangers caused by the Russian invasion. Travel insurance is difficult to obtain and very expensive.
It may sound strange, but we invite tourists who would not be afraid, says the CEO of a railway company, Oleksandr Pertsovsky. The economy is struggling and tourism could become a source of income.
Mr. Pertsovskyi agrees that it's up to the visitor to decide if they feel comfortable enough with danger. He points out that going to Ukraine could be one of the best ways for Canadians to support the war effort.
“We believe that as soon as the situation stabilizes a bit, people, and Canadians in particular, will be able to come and visit at least western Ukraine. ”
—Oleksandr Pertsovsky, CEO of a railway company
His company even created a scenic route for tourists from Moldova to Kiev called The Train of victory. Each train is decorated to represent territory occupied by the Russian army.
Structures have been installed on the walls of the Lviv train station to protect them from the statues that are there.
The Lviv Tourist Board has made efforts to point out the relatively low number of rocket attacks in the region compared to other sectors of the country, to indicate that the city is located far from the front lines, about a distance equal to that between Montreal and Washington.
The agency also reports that hotels have their own air-raid shelters.
Mayor Sadovy assures that the population has found innovative ways to adapt to the difficult circumstances. They carry within them resilience, bravery and an immense love of the motherland.
When the Russians destroyed the energy infrastructure, restaurants and hotels bought generators to continue their activities. They can be seen lining the sidewalks outside almost every business in the heart of the city.
New restaurants have opened in various cellars around the city. city. Some establishments are run by restaurateurs from the occupied territories who are rebuilding their lives in Lviv.
Every day we have a new idea to demonstrate our resilience, says Mr. Sadovy, who is mayor for 17 years.
He says he has consulted other tourist centers in countries that have already been confronted with war, such as Croatia or Israel, on the art of balancing the desire for peace. #x27;attracting tourists with war-related security considerations.
The windows of churches and monuments have been covered to protect them in case of bombardment.
And in exchange, these places can also learn from Lviv. Today in Ukraine we have very unique cases. Our example is very interesting for several mayors in different countries, says Sadovy.
And everyone who comes to Lviv is the mayor's guests.
A year after the start of the war, the majority of tourists come from other parts of Ukraine and want to treat themselves to a brief escape, says Lebed.
Ukrainians who have left their homes, international journalists, aid workers and political delegations from foreign countries also contribute to the city's economy.
And the number of its foreign tourists is growing week by week.
Their support is priceless, says Ms. Lebed.