This is one in an occasional series of dispatches about life amid the war in Ukraine.
LUKASHIVKA, Ukraine — The young, mostly urban youth came to clear rubble and rebuild the destroyed homes of villagers, many of them in their 70s and 80s. In turn, the elders hosted the volunteers in their temporary shelters, and cooked them meals as they worked.
Repair Together, a volunteer organization, has been helping civilians rebuild since areas in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions were retaken from Russian forces last year. The group says that 120 houses in over a dozen villages have been cleared of debris over the past year, and with the weather warming, the pace has picked up.
The effort has brought together Ukrainians from different generations who, under normal circumstances, would rarely interact with each other. They said they have grown closer in their shared experiences during the war.
In addition to its core work, the organization also hosts DJs, as well as holding cultural events with local residents of the villages where they work.
As the sun beat down on Saturday in Lukashivka, the aroma of savory pastries and soup filled the area, near where cinder blocks were stacked up, ready to become walls for Olga Varenyk’s new home. She called over about a half-dozen volunteers to take a lunch break. Bowl after bowl of food came out of her temporary kitchen, and she busily ensured they all sat down and ate.
Tamara Kryvopala, 66, was watching over a pot of stew and washing dishes as she recalled how her daughter-in-law was so terrified by the shelling last year as they sheltered in the cellar that she was not able to breastfeed her 8-day-old son. Ms. Kryvopala said they had to sneak out to get cows’ milk, which they would mix with water, to keep the child alive. She said she was grateful that her new house was nearly completed, and for the company of the volunteers.
In Baklanova Muraviika, a village near Lukashivka, Zeena Mezin, 73, climbed up a rickety set of stairs into where she was living temporarily, and made a large bucketful of cherry compote — a sweet beverage made from cooked cherries, water, and sugar to give to the helpers clearing rubble from the lot where her house once stood.
Ms. Mezin had been sheltering in the basement with her husband last March when a shell hit their house, setting the roof on fire and destroying everything they had.
“I’m very thankful to all these children, it’s very hard work,” she said.