Three days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February and a loud explosion rocked the upper floors of a high-rise apartment block; among the first such residential buildings in Kyiv to be struck by a Russian missile.

At least two floors were destroyed right away, leaving a gaping hole still prominently visible amongst the skyline – a giant Jenga defying what many assumed would have resulted in a catastrophic structural collapse.

There is relief among the building’s residents that they have reached the penultimate stage of a three-month quest to have the tower restored to its former glory.

The missile attack badly damaged one wing of the apartment block.

“We are expecting the contractors to begin work next week”, says Olena Chumakov, whilst walking through what was once a family home on the 14th floor. “The local administration in Kyiv is supposed to be paying, but they were taking too long, so the people living in this building started a fundraising campaign.”

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Weaving her way through the steel beams keeping the place together, she peers over the edge where an external living room wall once stood. One false move and she would plummet over 100 feet to the busy street on the south-western outskirts of Kyiv, a short stroll from Zhuliany Airport.

“This was where the child’s bedroom used to be,” Olena says, pointing to a space adjacent to the living room. The floor there has disappeared; the only evidence that remains to prove that it was once, in fact, inhabited, is a few scraps of cartoon-patterned wallpaper. The young girl had already got out of bed and was playing with her toys in the hallway when, at around 8 am, the missile roared through her bedroom, exploded through the living room where her father was sat watching the morning news, and threw her mother halfway across the kitchen.

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Olena makes the sign of the cross and gives a short thankful glance towards what’s left of the ceiling. “They were very lucky,” she says. “No-one died here. The child had the hallway wall collapse on her, but she was okay. They’re now in Germany, waiting for their home to be repaired.”

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Kyiv resident Olena

Others weren’t so lucky, with the Ukrainian Defence Ministry confirming that at least two civilians in the area were killed and four injured. Eighty residents were evacuated as emergency services rushed to the scene.

Olena says that, due to the shock, she cannot remember much of the day in question.

“I looked at my phone and couldn’t believe it. Before, Russia said ‘we’re brothers’, we’re sisters. We love you and your country”.

She looks around the destroyed apartment, at the cables hanging precariously from the ceiling and the rubble piled high inside what was once a bathroom. “Is this how they show their love?”

The destruction of homes isn’t the only factor impacting the property market in Ukraine.

Speaking to the Kyiv Post, Nadiia Basarab, a real estate manager who once lived on the same street as Olena, said:

“The war has badly impacted rent and purchase prices, as well as a lack-of-demand hitting everything from retail buildings to the hotel trade, with fewer tourists visiting.

Kyiv resident Nadiia Basarab (Jay Beecher )

“I remember the day the rocket hit my old street on the third day of the war. I woke up and turned on the TV. I was in shock. I love this neighbourhood. At my old house there, every Sunday I would have breakfast in my favourite restaurant, take away a coffee before work, and have a friendly talk with the barista. I have many happy memories there, so couldn’t believe that Russia had sent rockets flying into my old street.

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“I understand that the people living around there donated money to help with the restorations, and I hope that they will build it back even better than it was before.”

Olena explains that the neighbourhood has no military targets nearby, pointing to  the large hole in the wall at the children’s playgrounds, shops and retail buildings below.

The shocking event, however, has brought her neighbours closer – an unexpected by-product of Putin’s war, replicated across the country on every street and in every community.

It has also unified many in support of their government, and a leader that Olena  claims she and many didn’t necessarily support before, yet for whom they now hold great respect and admiration. It is solidarity that perhaps Putin cannot fathom; something that must stick in his craw.

“The missile temporarily destroyed homes but didn’t destroy our spirit” Olena adds. “When the building is repaired, we will hold a housewarming party. Then everything will be back to normal,” she adds enthusiastically.

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