The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ukrainian youth plan cleanup raves

Kyiv’s music scene and hipster vibes helped Ukraine's capital become an international hot spot; now those hipsters are working to clean up the country. (Video: Whitney Leaming, Lindsey Sitz/The Washington Post, Photo: Reuters/The Washington Post)

In what’s left of a community center in Yahidne, Ukraine, the scene is jovial and familiar. Young people with multicolored hair don printed crop-tops and bop to the shallow beats of synthetic drums. They’re Ukraine’s formerly self-designated “party-makers,” but now, instead of planning parties and guiding tourists, they’re trying to bring joy to the process of cleaning up the destruction of war.

“It’s like you don’t think about everything,” Tetiana Burianova, an organizer with the group, said. “You just move and feel the music.”

Burianova is an organizer with the volunteer group Repair Together, a primarily Kyiv-based operation that ramps up the somber task of clearing rubble from Ukrainian neighborhoods by organizing “cleanup raves.” The group brings DJs on-site to spin techno music while volunteers and residents shovel and sweep.

“I think it’s not only repairing houses, it’s also repairing ourselves,” said Oksana Huz, another volunteer organizer.

Yahidne, a small village northeast of Kyiv, was under Russian control in March and April. Russian troops seized residents’ homes and kept more than 300 people in the basement of a school for a month, according to locals. By the time Russian forces retreated, 11 people had died from the conditions in the basement and the village was in ruins.

“It used to be bright and modern,” said Vladyslav, a 17-year-old Yahidne resident who was held in the school basement. “We had a club, a library, a garden, a school … ”

Now, Vladyslav said, everything he knew in his town is destroyed.

Strobe lights and stacked amps sit next to piles of crushed cinder blocks, as volunteers rhythmically pass fragments of concrete to one another and bend their knees to the music. Villagers now look forward to visits from Repair Together, bringing food and drink to worksites to share with volunteers.

“If people are coming here and helping us to the music, it somehow helps the village to get renewed and revived,” said Valerii, another Yahidne resident. “Before that, people would walk around gloomy, emotionless, and this helps them to forget the war a bit and feel some joy.”

Vladyslav agreed.

“It’s quite boring to just work,” he said. “This way, you may dance a bit too.”

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia claimed to have seized control of Soledar, a heavily contested salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged recently, but a Ukrainian military official maintained that the battle was not yet over. The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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