Reconstruction flourishes in Ukraine’s capital despite war | TBEN | 15.09.2022

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“The builders are doing a great job,” said Tamara Herasymenko, a resident of a 16-story apartment building on the western outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Kiev. “They work seven days a week,” she says enthusiastically.

Herasymenko, along with a number of other residents of the building, have passed by the building on Chornobylska Street to see how reconstruction is progressing here.

It was on the morning of March 15 that a Russian missile hit the tower block, causing significant destruction. The Russian attack hit a gas pipeline leading to the upper floors and soon started a major fire. Of the 126 apartments here, 76 were completely burned out, while the rest suffered water and smoke damage.

Herasymenko tells how about a third of the residents of the building were at home that day. Rescue services managed to get more than 40 people out of the building, but four of her neighbors were killed.

Tamara Herasymenko would like to return to her apartment for the winter

Since that day, the residents of the building have been homeless. “Some have rented a temporary apartment and others are staying with relatives,” Herasymenko told TBEN. “Some left the country.”

“I rented an apartment here in Kiev myself,” she continued. But, she said, like most of her neighbors, she wants to return to her own home as soon as possible.

According to Denys Titov, project manager at Askon, the company that manages the site, there are about 100 construction workers working every day.

“We think we’ll have this ready by the time the heating season starts, in mid-October or November,” he said, though adding that the war is slowing down supplies of some building materials.

Earthquake Resistance

Askon began work on this apartment complex in mid-April after authorities verified it could be rebuilt.

“Initially, residents said they wouldn’t want to live here anymore. The damage just seemed too great,” Titov explains. “But this building will stand for years to come.”

The project manager believes the apartment block’s original sturdy construction helped it withstand the Russian missile attack.

“It was just luck that this block, built to withstand earthquakes, was hit,” he said. “There are only about 30 such buildings in all of Kiev. If it hadn’t been for that, the outcome would have been much worse and we probably would have had to demolish it.”

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Initially, everything was covered in dust and debris had to be removed, Titov recalls. But now the workers are insulating the exterior walls and renovating the interiors of the apartments.

“This apartment building is going to be better than before,” Titov said. “The electricity is completely new, the lifts are new, the facade is insulated and there are energy-efficient windows and new bathrooms.”

Project manager Denys Titov, wearing a helmet, stands in a building with unfinished walls

Denys Titov is in charge of the reconstruction of the Chornobylska Street apartment complex

However, one thing the apartments will not include is new furniture. But volunteers help with that, resident Herasymenko said, “Those who have nothing left at all are given furniture and household items.”

Upper floors dangling left

Closer to the city center, a 26-storey apartment building on Lobanovskyi Prospect, a wide boulevard in Kiev’s southwestern neighborhoods, was also damaged after it was hit by a Russian missile on February 26.

The rocket tore a hole in the building between the 17th and 21st floors, leaving the upper floors suspended in the air.

As the apartment building threatened to collapse, residents quickly collected donations to pay for urgent structural support to keep the building afloat.

“At the time, the state was unable to rebuild private houses,” said Olena Chumakova, who represents the residents involved in the reconstruction. “So we collected donations to get supports between the floors. The rubble was also removed.”

The residents managed to collect almost 2 million Ukrainian hryvnia (€53,500 or $53,500). They have now spent about 1.3 million on the renovations.

 A view shows a multi-storey apartment building, with several gaping holes in the sides where walls and windows are missing

A Russian missile tore a hole in the upper floors of this Kiev apartment building on Lobanovskyi Prospect

‘Summer of noise and dust’

When the local authorities did a building inspection a few months later, they determined that the upper floors would have to be demolished and rebuilt, something that would take about three months.

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Residents of the lower floors, who lived in undamaged apartments, were able to remain in their homes during the reconstruction.

“It was a summer with a lot of noise and dust. Even now they are still hammering on it,” Chumakova told TBEN. “But we’re just happy that the building is being brought back to life. We didn’t really expect them to get started on this so quickly.”

Experts have said the whole job will likely cost about 57 million hryvnia, (about €1.5 million), Chumakova said, but the city of Kiev has already pledged to pay for it.

“Unfortunately, the building will not be ready before the stoves are turned on for the winter,” said Oleksandr Akimov, head of Zhytloinvestbud-UKB, a real estate and construction company run by the Kiev City Council that oversees the reconstruction of all damaged buildings in the city. the Ukrainian capital.

And the workers can’t go faster on the high-rise buildings on Lobanovskyi Prospect because the concrete has to harden first. They also cannot insulate the outer walls well in frost.

“I think work there will be finished by March or April next year,” Akimov said.

Rescuers work next to a residential building damaged by shelling as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues.

A fire broke out in the apartment building on Chornobylska Street after it was hit by a Russian missile in March

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February, 640 buildings have been damaged in Kiev, including 238 apartment buildings. Of these, 16 suffered serious damage. Akimov says the city has allocated about 600 million hryvnia (about 16 million euros) in its budget for reconstruction.

However, that amount could rise, he warned, if inspections of other buildings show that work is needed there too.

The Ukrainian government is adding another 200 million hryvnia (about €5.3 million) to this fund. “This money is for houses in Kiev where windows have been shattered as a result of shock waves from explosions,” explains Akimov.

More and more residents are now returning to Kiev and reporting planned repairs to authorities, the project manager said.

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This article was originally published in Russian.