Books for breakfast, workshops for lunch: how the Superhero Library operates


The Superheroes School at NDSL “Okhmatdyt” has its place of strength – the Library. Since the beginning of the war, it has become a repository of childhood. It is located on the basement floor and according to the rule of “two walls” so it’s safe. It was here that the children gathered every day, shared their fears and anxieties and could forget about what was happening on the street for at least a couple of hours.

“During the war, we opened the Library for a few hours to hold workshops or play games with the children. But they started asking to spend more time there. Some even took up reading, although they used to say that books were not interesting to them”Svitlana, a social worker at NDSL “Okhmatdyt”.

Now the Library is operating at full as we managed to find an incredible Librarian – Olha Bulkina. Since the very first day of the war, she has volunteered at the NDSL “Okhmatdyt” and comes to conduct master classes or entertain the children and employees of the hospital, because Olha is a professional hospital clown.

From now on children organize role-play readings, and sculpting classes, they build Lego castles or simply communicate every day in the Library. For example, recently everyone pitched in to paint the star-sapper dog named Patron, who later himself visited the “Okhmatdyt” NDSL. Olha Bulkinakeeps saying that children call the Library a place where dreams come true: “The most valuable thing is when I come to work, and the gang is already there at the door, everyone hugs me and says they’ve been waiting for me to come and let them into the Library! Such moments make me want to live and work.”


How it started

The Superheroes Library has been through a lot. It began (as well as the School itself) in the HIV department of the NDSL”Okhmatdyt” . There were books of their own, most of which were quite old and children were not into them at all. It occurred to us to collect publications of modern authors so that the books are bright, popular and absorbing. But how to get children interested in reading? We reached out to TV presenters who were coming once a week to read aloud to the children. The real focal point of these events was Vsevolod Nestayko and his book “Forest School”. Children kept asking to read a little more, eagerly waiting for the following week. As soon as they finished reading the book, they immediately asked to start it again.

BUKVA store, Veselad publishing house and Book Arsenal helped us to fill the Library with cool books. And the #knygolav publishing house presented copies of all the books published by them. This is how the Library came to life and was filled with modern stories, from which it was difficult to keep children away. Later, textbooks from the publishing houses “Geneza” and “Ranok” joined the Library. And in order to supplement our Library with truly special copies, in 2019 we held a marathon during the All-Ukrainian EdCamp teachers’ conference, where we invited teachers to donate one special book about superheroes and superheroines.

What is the result? Throughout this time, we were able to collect more than 14,000 books, some of which were sent to Superhero Schools in other cities. It became clear that books need their own home. This is how a modern educational space, which became a portal to childhood, was born. The design of the premises and all the furniture of the Superhero Library were developed by talented designers from the office “Dvoetochie” – Yury Bagan and Elyzaveta Feshchenko. And the books finally found their cosy home. In addition to reading areas, we have equipped a play area and placed tables with computers so that children can fully enjoy their time to themselves.

In February 2020, the Library has already opened its doors to all patients of the “Okhmatdyt” NDSL, with the support of the curator of the School of Superheroes, the 1+1 TV channel presenter Nataliya Moseichuk. Kateryna Pavlenko, vocalist of the Go-A band and our first celebrity guest, said: “All of us, both adults and children, dream. But very often no one believes in either us or our dreams. This is not a reason to give up, it is worth reading. Books teach you to dream like nothing else. This is the best source to develop your imagination, not to stop and to dream of something beautiful for the whole society, the whole planet.”


The hospital library is a portal to childhood

Now the Library has fully revived. The war not only could not stop its heartbeat, but on the contrary, it only increased it. Children feel safe here. They can freely travel through fantastic countries or universes, learn, and satisfy their thirst for adventure and impressions. In June 2022 alone, children took out and read almost 40 books. Their passion and curiosity only grow. And for some, the Library becomes therapy, a place where they can freely dream or express themselves, a place where there are no diagnoses or obstacles.

A regular visitor of the Library, Olenka, who has Down syndrome, likes to come every day, flip through illustrations in the books and appoint appropriate roles to everyone present. For example, librarian Olya has already managed to be in the role of Snow White, Elsa from “Frozen” or Sleeping Beauty.

Thirteen-year-old Khrystyna, who moves around in a wheelchair, says that she feels the most comfortable in the Library. She has been in the hospital for almost 2 months now and comes in every day just to be here and help the Librarian. She calls herself a little helper and admits that she used not to like to read, but now books attract her. These children and their stories are our daily inspiration, our proof that nothing is in vain, and that sometimes happiness is in simple things such as warm attention to the world inside each little superhero. “These children are a separate universe. They teach me sincerity every day. That’s why I get a supercharge of inspiration and love at work,” — says Olha Bulkina.

We are grateful to all of our friends and partners, thanks to whom the Library of Superheroes came to life and operates: Winner Imports UkraineBaker Tilly Україна, International Women’s Club of Kyiv, Сooper&Hunter UkraineHanoch Piven, The World Union For Progressive Judaism, Darya Pomeranzeva and Inna Schorr.

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