March 25, 2023

  • In the early stages of the Ukrainian war, Russian troops destroyed the Chernihiv region.
  • Electrician Andriy Galyuga and his 300 volunteers are now rebuilding their homes there.
  • The volunteers, many of whom have day jobs, work tirelessly in their spare time to get through the coming winter.

When Russian troops withdrew from Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast in early April, Andrei Galuga and his team of volunteers immediately got to work.

First, they started repairing their friends’ houses in Pobrovica, a small city halfway between Kyiv and Chernihiv, that had been destroyed by Russian shelling.

The red outline shows the Chernihiv region of Ukraine.

The red outline shows the Chernihiv region of Ukraine.

Google Maps / Insider

But when news broke of their efforts to turn the rubble into homes and neighbors started asking for help, they agreed to help strangers across the area — anyone who needed a home.

Throughout March, Russian troops ravaged the Chernihiv region, and Bobrovica was hit hard.according to Ukrainian media Babel, About 300 houses were destroyed.

Losses in the Chernihiv region

Chernihiv Oblast was an early target of the Russian offensive. Many buildings were damaged.

Alex Shafferman/Getty Images

Rebuilding communities requires labor, Galyuga, director of the Bo Mozhemo (“because we can”) volunteer group, told Insider, but finding helpers was initially a struggle.

“At first, there were very few people helping,” Galuga, who led the rebuilding and repairs of the house, said in an interview. In early April, many civilians had fled to safety and had yet to return.

But as locals began to return and people heard about the rebuilding efforts, offers to get involved started pouring in. “There are now a lot of people — over 300 people — helping,” Galuga said.

Andriy Galyuga and volunteers

Andrei Galluga (centre) poses with two other volunteers at the construction site.

Andre Galluga/Insider

Many volunteers have day jobs but use the free time they have to bring the community back to life. Galyuga, himself an electrician, spends his days off, off work and weekends coordinating a corps of volunteer builders.

During the workday, he regularly uses Telegram and Facebook to help volunteers with the work they need to do. Every day at 6:00 pm, he travels to one of the many construction sites for instruction. On Saturdays and Sundays, he says, he uses his skills as an electrician to put himself to work.

The volunteers aren’t all professionals, so most of their current work is doing simple repairs. He said they have repaired more than 40 homes so far. But a team of skilled volunteers is building a house from scratch in a site destroyed after a Russian plane crashed.

Volunteers from Bo Mo Zhe Mo are rebuilding the house from scratch.

Volunteers from Bo Mo Zhe Mo are rebuilding the house from scratch.

Andre Galluga/Insider

It’s an expensive job, estimated at up to $10,000, and the organization is currently funded only by private donations and some local funds. Galuga said he hopes to one day get funding from international NGOs.

He added that volunteers are working tirelessly and urgently to make sure locals don’t take to the streets when the weather in Ukraine changes. “Winter is coming,” Galuga said. “We don’t have much time, so we have to get it done as soon as possible.”

A volunteer is repairing the roof.

A volunteer is repairing the roof.

Andre Galluga/Insider

Time was running out as Ukrainians, many of whom fled the country at the start of the war, began to return. Sadly, many of them were reduced to rubble. “People don’t have a place to live right now,” he said.

The obvious benefit of volunteering is providing homes to those left homeless by war. Still, Galyuga says there’s another important benefit: “It unites ordinary people to help those in need.”

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