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Volunteers in Ukraine Reuse Wreckage to Rebuild Homes

Civilians rebuild their homes after being destroyed by Russian strikes, Yahidne village, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Volunteers in Ukraine Reuse Wreckage to Rebuild Homes
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Teams of volunteers in Ukraine are helping to rebuild homes damaged during the Russian invasion that started in February.

Shelling from artillery, aerial bombardment, and machine-gun fire wrecked many homes and buildings. But volunteers in some areas are using material taken from destroyed homes to rebuild ones needing repair.

Maria Metla is 66 years old. Bombing destroyed her home in Novoselivka, a village 140 kilometers north of Kyiv, the capital. While standing in her destroyed home, Metla described her experience. She said, “We took what we could to the basement. Five bombs –one, two, three, four, five –exploded in the field behind us.” Metla keeps a burned exercise bicycle and a religious icon of St. Nicholas to remind her of life before the war.

Now Metla is depending on her neighbors for a place to live this winter. Most mornings, volunteers arrive at her destroyed home to take away material they can use for rebuilding. This salvaged material includes things like bricks, metal taken from kitchen machines, and pieces of insulation panels.

Volunteers clear rubble of a house, destroyed by Russian bombardment, in the village of Novoselivka, Ukraine, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Volunteers clear rubble of a house, destroyed by Russian bombardment, in the village of Novoselivka, Ukraine, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The volunteers are rebuilding homes along the perimeter where Russia attempted to surround and capture Kyiv.

Last month, Ukraine’s officials said that the country had suffered more than $100 billion in damage to its roads, bridges and important structures. This amount is equal to two-thirds of Ukraine’s 2020 gross domestic product: a measure of the size of a country’s economy. But some observers estimate that the reconstruction effort could cost more than seven times that amount.

Ukrainian officials are asking Western countries to give them property seized from Russian in addition to what they are willing to donate.

Novoselivka is a village filled with fruit trees, sunflowers, and gardens with chickens. But, container homes from Poland are being set up near the village. The huge amount of damage has created many local rebuilding projects.

Andriy Galyuga is a local volunteer organizer. He said that people do not want to leave even if their home is destroyed. He said, “In many other countries, if your home is destroyed, you might put up a ‘For Sale’ sign and move to another town. It’s not like that here. People are very attached to where they are from, and they don’t want to leave.”

Galyuga’s organization, Bomozhemo, is in contact with similar efforts that have started in many places near the Ukrainian capital.

At one smashed home, Galyuga quickly goes inside to direct a team of 25 volunteers. They are gathering salvaged cinder blocks. Then they take away other building materials using special tools.

Children and retired women help the effort. The worried homeowner, Zhanna Dynaeva, watches their work. Dynaeva makes food for the workers, many of whom have also lost their homes.

Dynaeva looks thin and is staying with a friend. But she visits her home daily to take care of her garden. She carried trays of drinks and sandwiches on the day the volunteers came to visit.

Dynaeva said, “I am so grateful to them. People around me have helped so much.” As she tells about her escape from the bombardment, Dynaeva starts crying. Her homeless neighbor, Metla, hugs Dynaeva.

Dynaeva said she hopes she can stay on her property possibly in a simple shelter. She said, “I don’t know what will happen to us. Winter will be here soon. I just worry all the time.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

Derek Gatopoulos and Vasilisa Stepankenko reported this story for the Associated Press. Andrew Smith adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

aerial –adj. in the air or coming from the air

icon –n. a picture or image representing a religious person (such as a saint).

salvaged -adj. material taken from a damaged structure (such as a broken car, or a home damaged by fire or flood or some other destructive cause).

insulation –n. material used to reduce the transfer of heat.

panel -n. a flat, usually rectangular, section of material (such as a section of a wall or ceiling).

perimeter –n. the edge or boundary of an area (such as a circle or square or geographic region)

infrastructure –n. essential facilities such as roads, water systems, electric power stations, oil and gas pipelines

cinder blocks –n. building material in a square or rectangular shape, (commonly 40x20x20 centimeters in size)


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