From the Editors: The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR this week published the following account by Alina Kovalenko about its role in helping to repait homes in the Kyiv region damaged by Russian invaders. See also the embdedd video.

 

“I lived through the Second World War, a mass-scale famine known as Holodomor, and now I am living through this invasion,” says Halyna, meeting us at the doorstep of her old wooden house in the tiny village of Kukhari, not far from the infamous Chornobyl exclusion zone.  

Her cat is peacefully relaxing under the sun, and at first sight nothing reminds us of the horrors that this village and Halyna’s family went through at the start of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022.  

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This 97-year-old woman has lived in Kukhari all her life. Her brothers and husband are buried here. She was forced to flee because of the full-scale war. After the Russian armed forces withdrew in April 2022, she returned home with her daughter, Nadiia, and Nadiia’s husband, Oleksandr, to find the house, with its pretty carved shutters, damaged. The windows and doors were shattered by artillery fire and bullets, and many of their personal belongings were either destroyed or stolen.  

 

During the spring of 2023, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, helped the family repair their house. Windows were replaced and the roof was fixed, making the house habitable again and enabling Halyna to restore comfort in her home.  

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We are four in the family, two brothers and two sisters. We try to live here with our mother in turns every two-three months to make her comfortable, warm and safe. It is good that we have international organizations who do not leave us alone with our troubles,” Halyna’s daughter Nadiia says.

Photo: UNHCR/Alina Kovalenko.

In the same village, Olha, 67, is putting her life together again, living in a prefabricated house, made by a Ukrainian company called QHome. This was installed by UNHCR in her backyard after her home was completely destroyed by artillery fire at the start of the invasion. When she returned from displacement in May 2022, a damaged tank was standing in her yard, a pile of bricks was the only thing left of her house, and the ruins were trapped by mines.  

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“The municipal commission arrived and concluded that my house was beyond repair,” Olha recalls.  

Consequently, she had to live in a temporary modular house for some time, while UNHCR sought other alternatives. Her new high-quality prefabricated house is equipped with basic furniture such as tables, beds and chairs, and it has all the necessary appliances: Stove, fridge, kitchen, toilet and bathroom. Thanks to this solution, Olha together with her daughter, grandchildren and their favorite cat Simba returned to their community and started rebuilding their lives.   

Kyivska oblast remains among the five regions of Ukraine, that are most affected by war-related destruction following the full-scale Russian invasion.  

In total, 28,000 buildings, including private homes, schools, as well as administrative and social facilities, were destroyed or damaged by shelling. Of those, almost 4,375 private houses and 49 multi-story buildings were fully destroyed. 

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UNHCR and its NGO partners were among the first actors on the ground to support the oblast authorities in addressing the immense needs of the people in these war-torn areas. Working closely with the Kyiv oblast state administration, UNHCR helps to repair damaged houses and social infrastructure – to provide the war-affected communities the hope and possibility to return and to offer durable solutions to overcome the trauma of the war. 

In Kyivska oblast, as of September 2023, UNHCR has supported 8,865 people with emergency shelter kits for immediate repairs. Durable repairs of houses have ensured that more than 2,200 private homes have had broken roofs and walls repaired and windows replaced. Lastly, UNHCR has installed 71 temporary modular units provided by the Government of Denmark, and set up 99 Ukrainian-made pre-fabricated and fully-equipped core homes on the land of families, whose houses were completely destroyed by the hostilities.  

As a result, more than 6,500 people have been able to move back to their homes, lands and communities in Kyivska oblast to start rebuilding their lives in their own homes. 

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