EU and UNDP restore Mykolaiv Higher School of Physical Education, famous for nurturing Olympic champions

Thanks to the “EU4UASchools: Build Back Better” project, 308 aspiring Ukrainian athletes can now continue their training in a safe and renovated environment

July 2, 2024
Photo credit: Dmytro Sazonov / UNDP in Ukraine

Mykolaiv, 2 July 2024 — The Mykolaiv Higher School of Physical Education has opened its doors for the first time in three years, following extensive renovations supported by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The revitalisation, part of a joint initiative by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, allows 308 students and 92 teachers to resume face-to-face learning, which is vital for professional athletes. This marks the 18th educational facility restored as part of the “EU4UASchools: Build Back Better” project.

The institution is renowned for training professional athletes, including world champions like Olga Harlan (fencing), Oleksandr Satin (trampolining), Olena Khomrova (fencing), and Oleh Mashkin (boxing). Over the years, 30 school graduates have competed in the summer and winter Olympic Games. Since the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the institution has sustained severe damage. The blast wave hit the facade, roof, walls, floor, windows, and internal doors, leaving the school partially ruined.

Through the joint efforts of the EU and UNDP, the school was renovated according to the “Build Back Better” principle, ensuring a safe and conducive environment that meets energy efficiency, sustainability, and inclusivity standards. The initiative included replacing the ceiling and floor, installing new windows, repairing electrical and ventilation systems, renovating the faсade and the shelter, and retrofitting classrooms. After the major repairs, a new generation of athletes will be able to train in renovated halls and classes in future years.

Maciej Popowski, Director-General of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, stressed the European Union’s unwavering commitment to providing Ukrainian children with education in a secure and nurturing environment. “Education is the cornerstone of the future of Ukraine. With each school rebuilt and every child returning to the classroom, we take a step towards a successful future for that child, for Ukraine, and for Europe. That is why the European Union, in collaboration with partners like UNDP, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that children in Ukraine can study and, in the case of this lyceum in Mykolaiv, continue their sports training. I am confident that we will soon witness their achievements on the world’s sports grounds and arenas,” he said.

Jaco Cilliers, UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine, emphasized the project’s importance in Ukraine’s overall recovery process. “This retrofitted school is more than just a building; it is a testament to Ukraine’s ongoing restoration, made possible through our collective efforts with the Government of Ukraine and the European Union. It symbolizes our faith in Ukraine’s future, including its sporting achievements,” he said. “Through this project, we are dedicated to helping more than 27,000 students return to school.”


The school was renovated as part of the “EU4UASchools: Build Back Better” project, which is being implemented by UNDP in Ukraine, with financial support from the EU.

The project is intended to facilitate light repairs of 66 and re-equip 112 educational facilities in 11 oblasts of Ukraine: Zhytomyr, Dnipro, Mykolaiv, Rivne, Odesa, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, Cherkasy, Lviv, Kirovohrad, and Poltava. 

Specific repairs are being made to damaged buildings, selected in consultation with Ukraine’s Ministry for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development, including light and medium repair works at schools with damage rates equal to or below 60 percent. Renovations include the installation of new windows, repairs of roofs and sanitary facilities, reconstruction of shelters, and other urgent and critical work.

Media enquiries: Yuliia Samus, UNDP Ukraine Head of Communications; e-mail:

EU and UNDP restore Mykolaiv Higher School of Physical Education, famous for nurturing Olympic champions