Saltovka in Northern Kharkiv made headlines in 2022, when rockets fired by the Russian Federation hit residential areas, killing civilians and destroying hundreds of homes. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) have launched a project to renovate some of these homes. After a successful pilot phase, hundreds of Ukrainians have hope for a warm apartment when winter comes.
On 24 February 2022, Nadiia Filchakova, an 85-year-old Kharkiv resident, was thrown from her sleeping sofa at five o’clock in the morning by a powerful blast. A rocket had hit her apartment building in Kharkiv’s Saltovka district. “People rushed to get out of their apartments that day. Those who could, ran to a nearby school or to the underground. Those who couldn’t, stayed at home”, she said, recalling a day that she will never forget.
Days later, water supply and heating were cut off, and Nadiia went to live with her godson for the next months. In June she returned to an apartment where the windows were barred with plywood and the water was leaking. The elderly lady did not know where to find money or material for the repairs to make it habitable again.
Ms Filchakova is one of more than 500 people whose names were submitted to the LWF by the city of Kharkiv, for a project to renovate apartments damaged in the war. LWF is aldo providing psychosocial support to these people.
Mykola Tishinenov is one of them. After a missile strike destroyed his apartment, the 73-year-old had to rent another apartment. Pavlo Ushakov and his wife Tatiana are pensioners, living with disabilities. They have been living in a shelter for internally displaced people in Kharkiv since their apartment was destroyed and they lost all their belongings.
“We do not rebuild an entire housing block, but together with a local partner organization we fix broken doors and windows, repair water and sanitation, reinstall electricity and make those homes warm and habitable again,” explains Mark Mullan, LWF team leader in Ukraine.
By the end of December, 525 apartments will have been renovated. In addition to restoring the homes themselves, the LWF team also engages community mobilisers who know the local context and who through trainings have gained additional knowledge in supporting vulnerable and traumatised people.
“The LWF approach to rehabilitation of shelter in Kharkiv has never been just about renovating a family’s apartment, their windows and doors and then moving on,” Mulllan explains. “Our commitment is to put displaced families at the very centre of our program and provide a range of integrated services to support the families. With this people-centric approach, we have a better chance of allowing people to return successfully to their homes of origin with dignity,” he added.
For the families, returning to their apartment is a moment of celebration. “We are looking forward to returning to our own place,” Mykola Tisheninov said. “For us it is not just a home, it is a place of inspiration, a place where our family stories were born and a place of our strength.”
The shelter rehabilitation project is realized together with “Spilna Sprava dlia Ludey”, a local organization in Kharkiv, and supported by UNHCR, ACT Alliance and LWF member churches.
LWF/C. Kästner-Meyer, N. Lukashenko