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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

19th June 2012

A subtle story of the horrors of war

The table is set for a banquet. Dozens of glasses are lined up, interspersed with samovars and accordions. Around, in the darkness, thousands of faces look on. But no one will ever eat or drink.

Great Patriotic War Museum

I’m in the Remembrance Hall at the Museum of the “Great Patriotic War” in Kyiv. The Museum, located under the figure of the “Rodina Mat’” (Motherland) statue south of the city centre, is moving and impressive. Following a thorough overhaul of its Soviet-era content in the 1990s,  it seeks to portray a measured  view of the horrors of war.

The displays begin not in 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union but in 1939 with the signature of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Stalin and Hitler. The exhibits conclude with the symbolic funeral feast table of the Remembrance Hall, with places set for the dead.

The Embassy recently undertook a project to help the Museum provide English-language information sheets for foreign visitors. When I visited the Museum on 17 June I was pleased to see the information sheets in huge demand from English, Swedish and German-speaking visitors – indeed, people were queuing up to get hold of them.

I shall be delighted if this initiative results in more visitors to what is one of Kyiv’s most important sights.

1 comment on “A subtle story of the horrors of war

  1. Dear Leigh, pls. let me start this comment by interpreting yr. very last sentence. “…it ‘s much better to see a place (London) once by yourself as to hear about it 1.000 times…” M. Ghandi, 1948.That ‘s why I believe that “…more visitors..” should see Kyiv ‘s “… and the important sights by themself. I was really impressed by reading your report. BUT NOT very much by looking at this pic. of the “Rodina Mat”- statue. It reminds too much to former U.S.S.R. monumental buildings.Nevertheless: It ‘s just great to read that the Embassy is supporting and promoting English. Which is notable for it ‘s also a big help for this “Museum of the Great Patriotic War” and it ś useful for visitors to read the most important infos in English as well. BW, Ingo-Steven, Stuttgart

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.