Out of the RuinsDevastated By Russia’s War, Irpin Begins to Rebuild
Though hundreds were killed there, Tommy Walker reports how Ukrainian volunteers and residents are already trying to repair the Kyiv suburb and make sense of what happened
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Fifty-five days have passed since Russia’s war in Ukraine began. As the Kremlin renews its offensive in the south and east of the county, Ukrainian cities that have been liberated are beginning to recover from the overwhelming devastation of the conflict.
Irpin, located in the Kyiv Oblast, has suffered some of the most severe destruction since fighting broke out between Russian and Ukraine military forces in late February. The strategically important Battle of Irpin saw Russian forces advance into the area before the Ukrainian military eventually recaptured the city at the end of March.
Now the attention has turned to the rebuilding of Irpin, as Ukrainian residents are already trying to piece the city back together.
Inga, a volunteer from Kyiv, was one of several cleaning up debris in Irpin central park this past week. She saw a request for volunteers in a group on the social media platform Telegram, so she accepted.
“I will try to come to Irpin every day from Kyiv. We have different groups, some people in parks and buildings and other places,” she told Byline Times.
Nearby is Irpin City Polyclinic, a specialist medical centre that has turned into a humanitarian health centre amid the war. With intense fighting in Irpin in March, ninety-per cent of the clinic’s medical professionals left the city in recent months.
Andriy, a surgeon at the clinic, was one of ten doctors who decided to stay.
“I live here and people need my help that’s why I stayed. Since the 9 March, I’ve stayed here. I will also go to Kyiv and here to help people, to provide humanitarian help,” he told Byline Times.
The surgeon added he had been operating surgery as normal admitting he has had to treat many people with wounds that have come from the war. “Civilian people [have needed] amputation because they have [been] shot,” he admitted.
The facility is now providing humanitarian assistance, with medical supplies found in brown boxes piled up on the clinic’s first floor. The director of the clinic, also called Andriy, explained that Irpin citizens are allowed to collect prescriptions and medicines free of charge.
“We give first aid help and we give the pills for free for the people,” he told Byline Times.
A Crime Scene
Despite the rebuilding, residents in Irpin are struggling to come to terms with the damage the war has caused. Irpin has suffered extreme damage to its infrastructure, with houses and buildings visibly destroyed, while charred tanks and vehicles still remain littered beside the road.
Sergei Numchuk and his wife – both doctors in Kyiv – lost their apartment due to heavy shelling by Russian forces in March. They only had lived in their first home for three years.
“We left flat our flat on 26 February. We went to our parent’s home instead of staying here,” Numchuk told Byline Times. Now after visiting their destroyed home after the damage had been done, both of them are unsure how they can live there again.
“We don’t know what we’ll do next in the future, it’s so hard and we don’t know,” he added.
Although the authorities have begun to assess the damage toll in Irpin, the recovery is going to take some time, according to the political analyst Artem Oliinki. “If we talk about recovery, it will not happen for at least a year or two. Roughly speaking, now the operation on the patient is underway, and the whole area is more like a huge area of the crime scene,” he told Byline Times.
“As for the infrastructure, they do not have the right to restore it to the pre-war level. The fact is that there is a danger of resuming the active phase of hostilities, so no one will repair the roads, nor will they build new bridges or dams. Currently, the military and other services are trying to establish the necessary communication, create temporary bridges, restore roads and more,” Oliinki added.
Before the war, Irpin had a population of around 60,000 but saw an exodus of residents as thousands evacuated to safer places in March. Over 4 million people have fled Ukraine to escape the war according to the UN, with the vast majority of women and children leaving, as men aged 18-60 years have been banned from leaving the country.
Andriy Nebytov, the Chief of Kyiv Regional Police, told Byline Times he hopes the majority of people who have fled the city will return.
“We hope 95 per cent of people will come back because we have a huge amount of support from our volunteers and friends and from foreign countries to rebuild this city. We can see people by themselves are starting to rebuild and repair their houses. We can see the city rebuild and live again,” he said.
The police chief said that hundreds of people have been killed in the Kyiv region. As of last Wednesday, 147 were from Irpin.
“These bodies were killed because of bombing and shooting by the Russian army but we understand it is not the final figure. When the people come back to their houses they will find from the houses and shelters where other bodies can be found,” he added.
In a briefing in March, Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushin told local media that up to 300 civilians and 50 servicemen had been killed by the Russian army in Irpin
But despite the grim situation in the country, the Nebytov predicted that once Irpin gets its power supply back, the city could return to some kind of normality again in May.
“The main problem of Irpin right now is energy and light. Our energy companies are going to start making energy through the city in May. I think the end of April, the start of May, the city will live a new life – sure there will be a few ruins but we will try rebuild,” he added.