In Ukraine, rebuilding starts with neighbors’ help

NOVOSELYVKA, Ukraine (AP) — As fighting rages around Kiev, a Russian advance halts in front of Maria Metla’s home. Most of the house was burnt down by artillery fire, while the rest was destroyed by tank fire.

Metla, 66, is now dependent on her neighbors to survive this winter.

Teams of volunteers turn up most mornings to reward anything that can be reused – tidying up piles of bricks, dismantling kitchen appliances for scrap metal and scraps of insulation panels.

In the early stages of the war salvaged materials are recycled to rebuild houses destroyed along the perimeter of Russia’s failed efforts. Encirclement and capture of the capital of Ukraine.

The village of Novoselivka, 140 kilometers (about 90 miles) north of Kiev, was the scene of heavy fighting during the 36-day assault on the capital. Metal gates have been riddled with bullets from heavy machine-gun bullets, and metal-like houses have been destroyed by ground and aerial bombardment.

“We dragged what we could into the basement. “Five bombs – one, two, three, four, five – exploded in the field behind us,” Meta said as she stood in the living room of her destroyed home. She keeps a charred exercise bike and a religious icon of St. Nicholas as reminders of life before the war.

Ukrainian officials said last month that the country had lost more than $100 billion — equivalent to two-thirds of 2020 gross domestic product — in infrastructure damage alone but estimated that reconstruction efforts could cost seven times that amount.

Officials are urging Western countries to tap frozen Russian assets they are willing to donate to help foot the bill.

Outside the historic northern city of Chernihiv, container homes in Poland are being erected near Novoselivka, a village full of orchards, sunflower patches and chicken coops. But the number of local initiatives has increased in proportion to the damage.

“In many other countries, if your house is destroyed, you can put up a ‘for sale’ sign and move to another town. That’s not the case here,” said local volunteer organizer Andri Galyuga. “People are very attached to where they’re from and don’t want to leave.”

Galyuga’s organization, Bomozemo, is in touch with similar initiatives that have sprung up around the Ukrainian capital.

At a dilapidated house, Galyuga is building a broken staircase to a 25-member crew of volunteers loading salvaged cinder blocks onto a slide and determinedly removing building materials with pickaxes and crowbars.

Children and retired women help in the effort, watched by worried home owner Zhanna Dyneva, who prepares food for the workers, many of whom have also lost their homes.

Dianaeva, who looks gorgeous, lives with a friend, but visits her house every day to maintain an immaculate garden. She carries trays of drinks and sandwiches on days when volunteers come to visit.

“I owe them a lot. People around me have helped a lot,” she said. Recounting her escape from the bombing, Dynaiva breaks down in tears and is hugged by her homeless neighbor, Metla.

“I hope I can live on my property, maybe in a temporary house to begin with,” says Dianaeva. “I don’t know what will happen to us. Winter will be here soon. I always worry.”


Evgeny Maloletka and Susie Blan contributed to this report.


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