LWF and UNHCR rebuild homes in Ukraine

19 Dec 2023

Kharkiv’s Saltivka district was one of the first and hardest-hit parts of Ukraine since the start of the war. Over 10,000 apartments were damaged or burnt down completely following missile strikes. LWF together with UNHCR is focused on rebuilding Kharkiv, one family at a time.

LWF Ukraine team leader Mark Mullan on his first visit to Saltivka, to meet families and inspect apartments destroyed by the war. Photo: LWF/ Anatoliy Nazarenko

LWF Ukraine team leader Mark Mullan on his first visit to Saltivka, to meet families and inspect apartments destroyed by the war. Photo: LWF/ Anatoliy Nazarenko

Shelter rehabilitation project in Kharkiv

(LWI) - A new beginning in an old home: In Kharkiv’s Saltivka district, LWF has rehabilitated 525 apartments that were destroyed by the Ukraine war. The last apartments will be handed over just before Christmas, allowing families to be in their own four walls as winter starts.

Many had been living with relatives or in community shelters in the past year. “On 22 March, a fire destroyed everything, all the photos, all the memories,” says Tamara Belyk, a 77 –year-old woman. While she talks, she scrolls through images of burned-out rooms on her mobile phone. “There is nothing left of my parents, my husband and my son.”

Collaboration with city and local partners

“When you look around, you see thousands of apartments damaged by the war,” explains Mark Mullan, LWF team leader in Ukraine. He points to apartment buildings that are black from fire and smoke, burnt out balconies, and windows with plywood instead of windowpanes.

LWF rebuilt Belyk’s flat, so she could move back into her old neighborhood. People are selected for inclusion in the project in close collaboration with the city of Kharkiv and local organization “Spilna sprava dla liudey”, the repairs are done by local enterprises and with funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the ACT Appeal and LWF partners and member churches. By December, 525 families could move back to their newly renovated apartments.

"We had lost all hope,” says Iryna Haiduk. After her apartment was damaged, she and her two young children moved to her grandmother’s place. “And then I got a phone call, and we heard: we want to help you.” LWF replaced the front door and the windows, and the family could move back just before Christmas.

We can think about the future, thanks to you.

Iryna Haiduk, Kharkiv resident

LWF takes a community-based approach, looking not only at technical repairs, but also the family situation. LWF community mobilizers connect the families with local administration, where they can receive support. “We are not just rehabilitating homes, but families,” Mullan says.

LWF now plans to expand the project to 1,500 housing units in the entire Kharkiv Oblast. “This is not just about electricity and plumbing. For the families, their homes hold memories and give them strength,” says the LWF team leader. In a 13-minute film, Mark Mullan and his team have documented the project and met some of the families in Saltivka. Their joy and gratitude is very evident. “We could not think about tomorrow, but now we can. We can think about the future, thanks to you,” Iryna Haiduk concludes.

The project is funded by UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, ACT Alliance and LWF member churches and related agencies.

Watch the documentary