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“First win the war, then rebuild it,” say the Ukrainians in shattered Bucha

#win #war #rebuild #Ukrainians #shattered #Bucha

On a sunny morning in Bucha, customers buy fresh cherries at a small market, a couple pushes a stroller and a teenager with piercings skateboards down the street.

It is a picture of the apparent calm in the Kiev suburb, where just three months ago, on April 2, AFP journalists found 20 plainclothes bodies on nearby Jablunska Street.

They were among the first to witness atrocities committed by Russian forces during the occupation of Kyiv’s leafy north-western suburbs of Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka, quiet residential areas formerly known for their easy access to nature.

In early July, the scars of war are still clearly visible – broken windows, shell holes and gaping holes in walls.

Along Vokzalna Street, the long avenue that connects Bucha with Irpin, numerous buildings – houses, blocks of flats, shops and a shopping center – have been destroyed or severely damaged.

These suburbs quickly became a symbol of the brutality of the Russian invasion and an essential stop on the itinerary for all Western dignitaries visiting Kyiv.

“We will rebuild everything,” promised Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on June 16 during his visit to Irpin with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The leaders of a dozen countries and international organizations are meeting in Lugano, Switzerland on Monday and Tuesday to draft a new “Marshall Plan” aimed at speeding up Ukraine’s reconstruction. It could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

– ‘No information’ –

For many, however, recovery seems a long way off.

Resident Katiya Yolshina, 66, points to two large blast holes in the walls of her attic apartment on a block where she has lived for two decades.

The eight-story building was shelled in early March and isn’t even the worst damaged in the area.

“The person in charge (of the block) told us to fill out forms and we would get money. But since then he has not returned and we have no information,” says Yolshina, who returned to Bucha in early May after an absence of six weeks.

“What are we going to get and when are we going to get it? I don’t know,” she says. There’s no trace of lament in her voice, but her face trembles as she holds back tears.

In fact, rebuilding is not yet a priority for many locals, although many returned a few weeks ago after fleeing Russian occupation and are already busy planting flowers or digging up vegetable beds.

Despite the calm in the Kyiv region, many point out that war is still raging in many other parts of Ukraine, particularly in the south and east. And the fear of another Russian offensive here remains high.

– ‘When it starts again’ –

In the past few days, rumors have been buzzing about an impending attack from Belarus, whose border is only around 100 kilometers to the north.

These have gained credibility from statements by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Saturday, Lukashenko accused Ukraine of firing rockets into Belarusian territory and threatened retaliation.

“It’s frightening,” says Nadezhda Stenenkova, 75.

“Apparently everything is fine now. Things are calm. But we still have this fear that they (Russian forces) will come back because they’re not far away and they’re still destroying towns and villages,” she says.

“We cannot find peace because the Russian ‘fascists’ could return at any moment.”

Faced with these fears, she says, some people are still reluctant to make repairs, even after craftsmen have already measured for replacement windows and doors that could be installed in weeks.

“Nobody feels ready to have repairs done. They’re afraid of Lukashenko. They don’t know what he’s going to do next,” says Stenenkova.

“We go to bed not knowing if we’ll wake up in the morning,” added 65-year-old pensioner Vera Semeniuk through tears.

Still, she says, “Everyone has come back and started repairing their houses and a lot of people are putting new windows in. It would be terrible if it starts up again and we all have to leave.”

“Of course we hope that other countries will help us with (re)construction,” she adds.

“But our best hope is that our military will bring us victory, with the help of foreign support and weapons.”

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#win #war #rebuild #Ukrainians #shattered #Bucha

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