Wonderwall of good wishes as Ukraine's Expo 2020 Pavilion closes

Post-it notes cover three floors at Expo site five weeks after Russian invasion

The messages of support at Ukraine's pavilion. Antonie Robertson / The National

As the doors of Dubai Expo 2020 prepared to close, the amount of Post-it notes with goodwill messages to the people of Ukraine only grew on the walls of the nation’s pavilion.

It is five weeks since Russia invaded its neighbour and the plans for many of those working inside Ukraine’s Pavilion were forcibly changed.

Staff previously spoke of their shock and horror at what transpired.

Now they are reluctant to speak openly about what happens next to those returning to Kyiv, while others are planning a new life in Dubai.

A souvenir picture in the Ukraine Pavilion on the last day of Expo 2020 Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Pavilion director Ivan Sydorenko, will remain on site to supervise the dismantling of exhibits, including the thousands of Post-it notes left by visitors that now spread across three of the building’s four floors.

“For now, my only focus is Expo,” said Mr Sydorenko, as he began preparations to hand over the pavilion to the event organisers in a few weeks.

The wall has been signed by presidents, diplomats and pavilion staff, as well as thousands of Expo visitors.

Mr Sydorenko said he planned to return to Ukraine to be with his family.

A screen displaying a QR code inside allowed visitors to donate to a relief fund for those in Ukraine affected by the turmoil.

The UAE has also played its part, delivering humanitarian aid and extending the terms of visas.

Ukrainians who arrived before March 3, 2022, can stay in the country for up to a year without being subject to fines.

Those arriving after March 3 will have visa-free entry for 30 days, as was the policy previously.

Some of the thousands of Post-it notes left by visitors to the Ukraine Pavilion. Antonie Robertson / The National

Meanwhile at the multicoloured dome that is the Russian pavilion, Ukrainian nationals worked alongside their Russian counterparts.

One Ukrainian, who did not want to give her name or speak of the invasion, said life had continued as normal inside the Russian pavilion where she worked, despite the two nations being at war.

“Russia has many nationalities living together, so why is it a surprise we are together here?” she said.

Russian staff were flown to Dubai as part of a trade agency, to support Russian businesses in Dubai. Others were already living in the UAE and seconded to work at the world’s fair.

One of those Russian businesses is NtechLab, a software firm that used pavilion cameras to deliver visitor numbers, their age and gender and is now working with businesses in Dubai to improve their security.

“Our agency was working in Dubai before Expo, and I’ll continue working with my team in the media sphere here,” said Katarina, the Russia pavilion’s director of international communications.

Expo 2020 Dubai final day — in pictures

Updated: April 01, 2022, 10:59 AM
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