Wooden Architecture at Risk (WAaR) is a UK based charity set up by people who have seen at first hand the unique and beautiful wooden buildings and churches in the far north of European Russia and who are moved by the distressed and wretched state of many of these beautiful structures.
Disastrous historical events that led to state atheism and a complete disregard for the traditions and heritage of Russia’s northern towns and villages have resulted in the loss of many of these exquisite examples of wooden architecture. Those that remain are scattered over thousands of miles of the north in a landscape of forests, lakes and majestic rivers – they are drifting into decay and oblivion.
How can a charity based in the UK, possibly help?
The answer is: strictly in partnership with local Russians. Many of the localities are poor, but this does not mean that the people are indifferent to their heritage. On the contrary, given the chance to show that they care, many local volunteers have come forward, carpenters, builders, smallholders, foresters, craftsmen and others, who are prepared to contribute their time and skills. It is in these places that WAaR is helping.
We will campaign here and in Russia on behalf of the people of the North who have set themselves the task of preserving their historic wooden architecture.
WAaR’s first projects are:
1. Bells for Turchasovo
To commission and install a set of 5 bells, from the famous Shuvalov bell foundry at Tutaev on the Volga, for the wooden bell tower at Turchasovo, on the river Onega, in Archangel region. Alexei Sioutine, a university teacher, spent his childhood holidays in Turchasovo, the village of his mother’s birth. He now returns every summer, to spend time with local people and professional carpenters, conserving the beautiful Church of the Transfiguration (1786) and its bell tower (1793). Both buildings are now sound and weatherproof and prayers are said daily in the church. Churchwardens have been elected to look after the buildings and the village council has given the congregation a spacious church hall. Traditionally the church in Russia was the focus for social as well as religious events and working to preserve the church has brought the community together. Local men have rediscovered and are learning new skills, the women feed the workmen and with the local children have cleared decades of accumulated detritus from the church. If the bells were to ring out again in Turchasovo, they would be heard for miles along the river Onega and across the surrounding countryside, they would announce to people far and near that Turchasavo is alive and well and that its beautiful buildings are being saved and are in use. And hopefully it will encourage other communities to take charge of their own priceless heritage and to treasure their wooden architecture. We need to raise £5,000 to commission and install the five bells for the bell tower.
2. Support the work of Father Alexei at Vorzagory
To restore the historic troinik, winter church, summer church and bell tower, in the village of Vorzagory. Vorzagory is perched on a high sandy promontory overlooking the White Sea. Father Alexei, a priest from Moscow, and his family, come here every summer. Over many years he has helped the local people restore the Church of St Nicholas (1636) and the 18th century bell tower. The church has now been re-consecrated and liturgies are held. The village council recently returned to the parish the winter church, the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin (1793). During Soviet times it was used as the club. A stage, replete with red velvet drapes has taken the place of the iconostasis. The disco lights have been removed. Our plan is to help Fr Alexei and his professional restorers return this building to its former glory. In past times a village troinik was a common sight in the Russian North but now less than a handful remain – this is a very rare survivor.
Link to article in Open Democracy by Alexander Mozhayev
How can you help?
1) By making a donation to Wooden Architecture at Risk:
- by cheque posted to WAaR, North Space, Salamander Court, 135 York Way, London N7 9LG
- by online bank transfer to Wooden Architecture at Risk, Account No 33975150 sort 200206
2) Can you arrange for us to do an illustrated fundraising talk to a group who would be interested in hearing about our project?
3) Can you put us in touch with others who may be interested in helping or supporting us?
Trustees and Contact details
WAaR currently has three trustees.
Richard Davies (photographer and publisher) – Chairman of WAaR. For over 10 years Richard has travelled extensively in the north of Russia. His book, with Matilda Moreton, Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North was published in 2012
Daryl Ann Hardman (Russian translator and charity director) – Secretary of WAaR. Daryl Ann has been travelling to Russia and other former Soviet Union countries for 45 years. She has been on the board of several charities working in those countries. She first visited the Russian north in 2002 and has made numerous trips since.
Cathy Giangrande (conservator and fundraiser) Cathy is a trustee of WAaR. For over 15 years she has been raising funds to restore and preserve heritage sites worldwide, including palaces in Russia. Passionate about Russia’s extraordinary cultural heritage she is the author of, Saint Petersburg: Museums, Palaces and Historic Collections