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.”
“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
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