The AHF is pleased to have been able to contribute to the cost of conservation surveys and external urgent fabric repairs of the Ukrainian Chapel, thanks to funds provided by the William Grant Foundation under our Tailored Support Fund.
Just outside of Lockerbie, in the unlikely situation of a bus compound, sits the tiny Ukrainian POW Chapel. It is a truly remarkable survival dating from the Second World War – a prefabricated hut built of corrugated metal and asbestos sheeting – intended as a very temporary structure. The chapel is the last recognisable remaining structure on a former POW camp dating from the early 1940s, which originally comprised 40 huts. The Ukrainian POWs arrived after the war and fitted out the chapel in a makeshift way – candlesticks made from recycled shell fragments, banners from tents, and a wooden carving of a Ukrainian Cathedral, carved with a penknife. As a result, the Category B-listed building has a simple exterior, with a contrasting highly decorative interior.
Until the pandemic, the chapel was still in use for occasional worship and welcomed visitors – those who knew where to come. The fact that the building survived far beyond the anticipated lifespan of its materials was largely testament to the regular care and maintenance carried out by a dedicated caretaker and volunteers. However, the Scottish wet and windy weather was taking its toll, and during the pandemic lockdowns, the roof began to show signs of serious failure. Even in this fragile condition, the chapel was brought rapidly into service in response to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, where it was used as a store for aid prior to distribution to those in dire need.
The Friends of the Ukrainian Chapel was created in 2009 to preserve the legacy of the chapel in memory of the generation who created it – some being direct descendants and others who had worshipped in the chapel over the years.
In the face of multiple delays and challenges due to the pandemic, emergency works to replace the failing asbestos roof have now been completed, with the South of Scotland Enterprise contributing towards the remainder of the costs. The chapel is now wind and watertight, including an entirely new roof, with its profile carefully matched to the now safely removed asbestos panels. This marks the first phase of a longer-term project to better celebrate and promote the building and its special history and stories. As a result, it will soon be able to again welcome both visitors and also the growing diaspora of recently settled Ukrainian refugees, bringing new life to the chapel once more.