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Ukraine Reconstruction: DRC helps with emergency repair of homes

More than 1,000 windows and roofs are restored as a result of DRC’s Shelter programme in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv city and its surrounding villages. This area was heavily damaged during the active battles in Spring 2022. According to the local administrations, about 8,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed in Chernihiv and the oblast. The DRC continues supporting the residents in Chernihiv with emergency repairs and renovation aiming not least to build capacity to cope during the coming winter.

The reconstruction of the roofs of the damaged houses in Chernihiv oblast is underway. ©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Posted on 22 Jun 2023

Written by Volodymyr Malynka

As one of the most ancient cities in Ukraine, Chernihiv welcomes visitors with unique architecture. Its wide and currently crowdy streets may deceive by creating an image of normalcy. But only until eyeing huge craters inside some of the buildings right in the city centre. The aerial bombs and missiles have left deep wounds on the city’s body. The hotel, police office, along with lots of other buildings and social infrastructure and premises were almost razed to the ground. A 20-minute’ drive from downtown reveals high-rises with huge black holes and a mall displayed by its broken and now rusty facade.

Right in front of the mall are apartment blocks where the DRC has helped to install new windows. The old ones were either blown out by the blast wave or damaged by shrapnel.

“Families from these buildings reached out to DRC for help as their windows are broken and they are left with no means to reconstruct. The cases are being processed and repairs may soon start. Nearby are two other residential buildings where DRC has supported repairs, making the spaces liveable,” explains Oleksandr, DRC’s Shelter Programme Team Lead.

One of the people requesting the window repairs is Vladyslav, 30. During the constant shelling of this area, he was in the basement of a neighbouring building.

“Dozens of rockets exploded right here. We could not go out of the shelter. It was horrible. When I came to the apartment afterwards, glass debris was all around. Window frames were blown inside. I made some repairs, but it would be very helpful to renovate the windows. It helps now during hot summer days, but even more so during the next winter,” he says.

Raisa from a building nearby applied for the same support. In a tiny flat owned by her children, the blast wave broke the window glasses.

“Because of that, my children can’t live here and must rent another apartment. Thank God, they were not here when the explosion happened — we were all in a shelter. We thought it was the end of the world, and that life would end at that time,” Raisa tells.

As a temporary measure, she covered the windows with plastic wrap having no money to install new ones.

The situation of Vladyslav or Raisa is, unfortunately, common for Chernihiv as well as many other parts of Ukraine. Over 700 city apartment blocks in Chernihiv – housing about 46,000 flats – were damaged by shelling and explosions. In one year, DRC has conducted repairs in more than 1,000 apartments in the city. Another 600 families are scheduled to receive emergency repair support in 2023.

“We started the Emergency Shelter Programme in Chernihiv and its outskirts in August 2022 to help people replace broken windows and doors and to cover roofs in private houses before winter. This year, we continue to support families who live in damaged houses and apartments in Chernihiv and the oblast, and we plan to conduct repairs before it gets cold in Ukraine,” says Yulia, DRC’s Ukraine North Area Manager.

Larysa shows the damage to her house in Kyinka hromada caused by shelling. ©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Cheppel.

Larysa shows the damage to her house in Kyinka hromada caused by shelling. ©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Cheppel.

Damaged houses in the suburbs of Chernihiv — another area for assistance

In the villages around Chernihiv, lots of houses were damaged by cluster ammunition or completely ruined by bombardments. Also, in  Kiyinka Hromada, a 6,500 people strong community, DRC helps to install new roofs and windows.

The local authority of the hromada —which consists of six villages—reported more than 900 privately owned houses with damages, and 67 destroyed. Also, two schools and a kindergarten, two medical facilities and three cultural buildings were damaged. Many people continue living in the community — those whose houses were damaged live in summer kitchens and sheds, or with friends or relatives.

A missile exploded right in front of Kateryna’s house. She is 65 and lives with her 71-year-old husband Oleksandr. They are both pensioners and have no savings to deal with fundamental house reconstruction.

“All summer, the roof was like a colander. My son helped to close the holes with construction foam, but it degraded rapidly, and the water found its way through. The roof was full of tiny holes—it looked like a starry night when you looked at it on a sunny day,” she says.

During the shelling, they were in a basement. But the explosions were so heavy that Oleksandr still suffers and now experiences mental health problems. Due to the shelling, heaters fell from the walls, the interior decoration of the rooms was damaged, and some walls were cracked. Kateryna borrowed money from friends and relatives, but the roof reconstruction was extra expensive, so she contacted DRC with a call for support. 

“The roof was damaged and misplaced. We had to find ways to support it and try to start reconstruction. The aid from DRC helped us a lot. I hope that we will never again go through these same bombardments. It would be unbearable in case shelling happened once more here and we would have to repair the house again,” says Kateryna.

DRC also helped Larysa, who lives not far from Kateryna, to restore a destroyed roof in her home. Her house was even more damaged — the roof simply folded inwards and the entire interior was ruined.

"I don't know how, but I moved all my belongings to the basement by myself. I don't remember a lot of things now because of the stress I had to go through. On 24 February, when the war started, I went to my niece's basement at the end of the village. Perhaps that helped me to save my life," says Larysa.

In the course of 2022 and this year too, many of those who fled the city because of shelling during the spring later returned to Chernihiv. If they find their homes damaged, DRC is one of the organisations they ask for help in order to start the renovation. Support from the UN Refugee Agency, the European Union, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, makes it possible for DRC to continue the Shelter programme in Chernihiv and the oblast.

Moreover, the emergency restoration activities will now be expanded to cover also Mykolaiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv oblasts. Learn more about DRC aid to Mykolaiv here:

The new windows in one of the apartments in Chernihiv.©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Cheppel.

The new windows in one of the apartments in Chernihiv. ©DRC Ukraine, Chernihiv oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Cheppel.

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