October brought the first cold, and people are in a hurry to rebuild the houses destroyed by the war. Serhiy Medvedev is the mayor of Shestovyzja, near Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. He says eleven houses in his village were completely destroyed and more than a hundred were damaged.
“The regional administration has helped some villagers with windows and building materials. But there are not enough funds to rebuild everything. Most rebuild themselves as best they can. Building material prices have doubled, including gasoline. Some take out loans from banks. That’s very expensive. But what’s left for them? Others stay with neighbors, acquaintances or relatives. But some people don’t know where to go,” says Medvedev.
The village was destroyed the most where the Russians had parked military equipment, tankers and trucks with ammunition – right next to residential buildings. The Ukrainian army attacked this convoy on March 7th. Almost all the houses on this street were destroyed by exploding ammunition and fires.
“The Russians came on February 28th. But we stayed in our house,” says Tetjana Letjaha. Later, her family was thrown out of their home by the Russian military, after which the soldiers billeted there themselves.
“We wanted to flee, but the occupiers didn’t allow us to leave the village. So we went to our friends here in Shestovytsia. When our street was on fire, we were no longer in our house,” says Tetjana.
On March 31, the occupiers withdrew. She then returned to her home with her husband and four-year-old son. But one could no longer live in it. The roof was destroyed and all the windows were damaged. In addition, the pressure waves had shaken the walls and destroyed the stove that was used to heat the house. Her garage and car and a barn had burned down.
“An acquaintance let us have his house for a year. We live there and we come here to work in the garden and to do repairs. In the summer, the village council helped with new windows. Representatives of the French aid organization Acted also came. We approached them and received 26,000 hryvnia (about 700 euros). We put money on top of that ourselves, so we were able to repair the roof,” says Tetjana.
According to her, the Dutch charity ZOA is also helping the villagers with the reconstruction.
“We had already bought our own solid fuel boiler. We later submitted the receipts to the ZOA, which reimbursed us the money. But now we’re getting nowhere. I work as a nurse in Chernihiv and my husband works on a farm so he doesn’t have time to install the boiler. But we have to do it before winter, and we also signed that we would connect the boiler in three months, that was a condition,” says Tetjana with concern.
50 meters away, Julia Brytan, a teacher at the Chernihiv Pedagogical Institute, is repairing her house. When the whole street was on fire, she was in the house with her sick mother.
“The blast was so strong that the cast iron radiators were blown to bits. The gas boiler and the wood stove, the floor and the roof, everything was completely destroyed by the high temperatures. Splinters from grenades and mines riddled the walls,” Julia recalls.
Her family received help from local government, the International Medical Corps, World Kitchen, International Relief and Development, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and ZOA.
“The money came in installments based on the work done. For example, we renewed the windows, photographed the bills and sent them in. You could see that we used the money as stated. Money came later for the heating and the roof,” says Julia.
Not all villagers can repair their houses because they are completely destroyed. Such a fate befell the family of Nina Radchenko. She and her husband are retired. They had a house in Shestovytsia, right across from the Letyahas. Nina says they spent fifteen years building their home specifically for retirement. But on March 7th, everything, including the workshop and garage, was completely destroyed.
“Everything is 100 percent destroyed here, property worth 3.5 million hryvnia (approx. 96,000 euros). The village council has promised us a living container by winter. Now it is said that there is no money for it. My husband and I have worked all our lives, and now we’ve almost become beggars,” Nina laments.
But they don’t despair. Nina works as a saleswoman in Chernihiv and her husband as an electrician in Shestovyzja. The Radchenkos will spend the winter with their neighbors, the Letjahas.
Alla Kyrylchenko from the village of Sarichne on the western outskirts of Chernihiv also lost her house. Zarichne caught fire twice after the village was shelled by the Russian army. “My father-in-law was burned to death in our house on March 4th when incendiary bombs were dropped. My children and I were not there that day. We wanted to put him in a nursing home. He was bedridden,” says Alla through tears.
According to an assessment by the construction department of the city of Chernihiv, 100 percent of the Kyrylchenko’s property was also destroyed. Representatives of the regional administration assured the family that they would be given a new home as a result of the assessment. “We are also staying with friends in an apartment for the time being, but we don’t know how long we can stay there. We want to cover our garage and spend the winter there,” says Alla. Out of desperation, she drew her phone number on a concrete block on the side of the road. Sometimes people would reach out and help. Alla is eternally grateful for this.
Adaptation from the Ukrainian: Markian Ostapchuk
Autor: By Klymchuk
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The original of this article “How the reconstruction is going in northern Ukraine” comes from Deutsche Welle.