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As part of the “Restoration” project, Ukraїner tells how settlements that have been driven out of the enemy’s hands are recovering and being restored. Our first story was dedicated to Kharkiv, Slobozhanshchyna region, the second one — to Chernihiv, Sivershchyna region. This one is dedicated to Mykolaiv in the Prychornomoria region, a port city located upon two rivers: Inhul and Pivdennyi Buh that flows into the Black Sea.

The first explosions were heard in Mykolaiv on 24 February, 2022. The Russian troops were seeking to occupy the city up until November 2022, when the Ukrainian army drove them away. During this period, the invaders shelled Mykolaiv almost every day with artillery and missiles, destroying homes, medical and educational institutions, and city communications. In particular, on 12 April, several city districts were left without water supply as a water main that supplied water from the Dnipro river was hit.

There is a lot of damage and destruction in Mykolaiv, but it became a refuge for people from nearby settlements whose homes were destroyed by the Russian military. Locals who were forced to evacuate are now gradually returning home. The city authorities are actively preparing for reconstruction after the war ends, with support from international partners, particularly Denmark. Together with the Italian company One Works, Mykolaiv is developing the city’s Masterplan. The Danish company СOWI is involved in the development of infrastructure projects. The Ukrainian project called “Russia Will Pay” has played a crucial role in helping to calculate the losses incurred during hostilities.

Shevchenkove community: a shield for Mykolaiv

Oleh Pylypenko is the Head of the Shevchenkove village, which was occupied by the Russians at the beginning of the full-scale invasion and was later liberated on 10 November, 2022.

As early as the next day after the start of the full-scale phase of the war, the community found itself in the “grey zone”. Local partisans transmitted data on the enemy’s maneuvres to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and engaged in sabotage. Oleh suggests that after Ukraine’s victory, a book should be written about how the community resisted the enemy:

— They say Mykolaiv became a shield for Odesa, and [the village of] Shevchenkove became a shield for Mykolaiv.

“Grey zone”
These are the territories along the frontline. The concept emerged in 2014 after the signing of the Minsk Protocol, which established a temporary ceasefire in the war in eastern Ukraine initiated by Russia. Although the territories of the “grey zone” are conventionally defined as neutral, the situation there is tense due to shelling, the work of sabotage and reconnaissance groups and the difficult humanitarian situation.

The Head of the community believes that if the occupiers captured Mykolaiv, they would turn it into a ruin, similar to what happened in Mariupol. The locals knew that in the event of a Russian advance, the enemy would also attack Odesa, possibly receiving reinforcements from the occupied part of Moldova — Pridnestrovie (Transnistria). That is why, during the battles, the locals did everything they could to support the Armed Forces. In particular, they helped with ammunition found in abandoned enemy armed vehicles.

— Local farmers, women and men, pulled out abandoned enemy vehicles with the ammunition inside, using buses or Zhiguli cars. They would load this ammo into their trunks and deliver it to Ukrainian soldiers at the front lines as they were extremely short on shells. And when they bring you all of this and say, “Here you go. Please, use this against those who invaded us. We want to meet [the occupiers] not with flowers, but with shells,” this is very important. The symbiosis of the army and just ordinary people produced significant results.

Also known as Transnistria, a self-proclaimed state established on 25 August, 1991, which the international community recognises as part of Moldova. While the Russian Federation does not officially recognise the sovereignty of the so-called Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, it unofficially provides military, economic, political, and diplomatic support. As of 2024, the conflict remains unresolved but frozen.

According to Oleh, there were 16,500 people in the community before the full-scale invasion. During the fiercest battles in the autumn of 2022, only 3,000 of them remained. It was not easy to evacuate since the occupiers often used people as human shields to constrain the manoeuvres of the Ukrainian troops. Oleh is convinced: the people felt support from the fact that the authorities of Mykolaiv and surrounding communities did not leave and continued to resist.

— The [full-scale] war became the filter for showing who was capable of what. If the Head of the community was staying in the community, it was a clear signal to all the locals that we are going to fight for this land.

Oleh also stayed in the community. On the night of 25 February, he evacuated his family and returned to the village. He is a graduate of the Ivan Kozhedub Kharkiv National Air Force University and an officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Before the full-scale invasion, he had undergone force integration training within the units of the Territorial Defence Forces, so he knew a lot of people among the military. Presumably, the occupiers became aware of these facts, leading to Oleh being held captive from March to June 2022. He shares that he is one of the few for whom the Chornobaiivka memes are not funny. The reason being that the Russian military detained him there during the first week, and he witnessed how the Armed Forces attacked the enemy.

The man says that after being released from captivity, he could have left abroad since he is the father of three children. In addition, he has many acquaintances there as he used to organise internships for Ukrainian students from agricultural universities in other countries prior to becoming the Head of the community.

— Never once did the thought cross my mind that I could move away from here and be somewhere else, perhaps abroad.

Due to intense hostilities in the Shevchenkove community, it suffered significant destruction. However, its residents understand the cause-and-effect relationship: if it were not for the Russian army, the destruction would not have happened. And if it were not for the Ukrainian military, the village of Shevchenkove could still be occupied. Therefore, local people financially support the Armed Forces of Ukraine as much as they can.

— Despite the fact that the government recognised us as a subsidised community in 2023, we managed to transfer about three million hryvnias to the Armed Forces. Having experienced what the war is like firsthand,we were aware of the challenges. Therefore, we understand that there will be a positive impact only when everyone supports the Armed Forces.

According to the community’s calculations, as of the end of October 2023, the losses due to damaged and destroyed objects were more than UAH 2 billion. The local budget before the invasion was 150 million hryvnias, and in 2023, it was about 125 million hryvnias. This amount is only sufficient for paying wages, utility bills, and emergency repairs. However, the community managed to attract around 100 million hryvnias of additional income. These funds are being used for the gradual reconstruction process. The community was able to purchase utility equipment as part of it was lost during the hostilities. Denmark, Germany, and the Czech Republic supported this procurement.

Oleh claims that most people from the community who were forced to evacuate want to return. However, not all of them have a place to live. And donors are more willing to help rebuild the homes of those already residing in the village. Therefore, local authorities are looking for temporary accommodation for those who want to rebuild their own homes. After reconstruction, teachers, doctors, and other professionals invited to the community will have an opportunity to live in these shelters.

— Rooms with quality renovations are always in high demand. This is our primary objective, and we are currently working towards it.

Reconstruction in the community was launched immediately after the liberation from the invaders. First of all, medical and educational institutions that were damaged during hostilities were being restored:

— As of today (October 2023 — ed.), repairs have been completed in four medical institutions, five preschool institutions, and three institutions of general school education. Each repair work comes with its own features. For example, in some cases, the roof and windows have been installed, and so we have moved on to internal repair work. Whereas in another place, the roof and the walls are under reconstruction, because there were breaches in the walls, shrapnel hits, and so on.

As a result of the hostilities, the community dispensary, which served four nearby settlements, sustained significant damage. In December 2022, they started repairing its windows and roof, and in 2023, they started doing work inside.

— We decided to restore everything according to the principle of “better than it used to be”.

The community currently has about 70% of the number of residents it had before the full-scale invasion. Many of them are older people with health problems who receive various government benefits. Therefore, the local authorities decided to combine the outpatient clinic, the social welfare department, and the administrative service centre in one building so that everything would be in one place. And on the second floor, they provide temporary housing for people whose houses were destroyed.

The work was thoroughly approached: the power grid, water supply, sewage and heating systems were replaced, a ramp was installed, etc.

— We conducted these repairs to address this problem for the next 30 years and, in the meantime, deal on other projects.

About 12 million hryvnias have already been spent on the restoration of the building. In this case, it was a co-financing model: part of the money was provided by donors, particularly organisations such as “Doctors Without Borders” and “The Tenth of April,” whereas another part was obtained from the local budget. Oleh observed that international partners are more inclined to help communities when they see those are interested and united in implementing the planned project.

— Also, all donors “scan” the community to see how it positions itself, its history, and whether there is solidarity between the community residents and the leadership, the body of deputies, the executive committee members, the council, and so on. If these individuals share a common vision and strategy for the development of the community, moving in unison, then the donor knows they will reach the finish line.

One of the educational institutions that is currently being restored is the Shevchenkove Lyceum. It suffered severely from Russian shelling: the ceilings between the floors, the roof, and the windows were destroyed. About 60 million hryvnias are required in order to restore it. Twelve million have already been invested in reconstruction, but most of the work is still ahead. One crucial point in this process is establishing the shelter, where all the workers and students will be able to fit.

According to Oleh, the community is revising its development strategy, building bolder plans, and aims to establish itself as the largest logistics hub in the Black Sea region. The location plays a crucial role in this endeavor. For instance, in collaboration with investors, the Head of the community is working on a project to create a plant that would recycle the construction debris left after shelling:

— We have the technologies and the investors’ vision. The Belgians and French know how to produce building materials from elements and structures of destroyed buildings that can be reused. It will be much cheaper and would require minimal logistics since Mykolaiv is 20 kilometres and Kherson is 30 kilometres [away from us]. It’s very convenient and fast. And accordingly, there will be jobs for many people.

Three large enterprises within the community used to employ the locals before the full-scale invasion. These include: “Sandora”, a juice producer; “Organic Systems”, a tomato paste producer; and “Elika”, a convenience food producer. Oleh says that before the full-scale war, people would even move or commute from cities to work in the village. Therefore, the locals are considering making one of the lyceums specialised in processing raw materials so that young people would have the prospect of local employment. That way, the business will be able to find employees faster and will not have to relocate. The community’s location is also advantageous, making it possible to export products more efficiently.

— I am sure that after the end of hostilities, the Mykolaiv ports will operate even better than before. Everyone saw what role Ukraine plays in the global food chain. People used to be unaware of this. They had some kind of idea about it and yet didn’t really put too much thought into it. Now they are aware.

Oleh realises that there is a lot of hard work ahead. Nevertheless, he believes that the community will cope as it does not tolerate corruption and is ready to work:

— I believe the Shevchenkove community has a promising, bright future. But firstly, we need to support the Armed Forces in order to bring our victory closer as fast as possible. After our victory, Ukraine and Ukrainian communities will have a great opportunity to do things differently. However, only those who acknowledge that things will no longer be the way they used to be will be able to take advantage of this.

Oksana Hnedko is the Head of the Zelenyi Hai village district, an administrative subdivision that belongs to the Shevchenkove community. She says that only a few buildings in the villages of her district are intact.

In the village of Zelenyi Hai, the groundwater comes close to the surface, therefore people did not have basements. To take cover from Russian shelling, they went to the shelter that used to be situated in the school. On 13 March, 2022, the Russians destroyed the school with a direct airstrike. Seven people died on that day, including Oleksandr Hnedko, the school principal, who was Oksana’s husband, as well as Mykola Strutynskyi, the Head of the village.

The rubble is being cleared away and there are plans to build a new school on this spot. Oksana mentions:

— Some projects have already been developed for this site, and some donors are undertaking this mission. It is essential for the village as everyone knows: if there is a school, there will be a village.

The destroyed school was a learning space for 140 children, all the activities were held there. There is no cultural centre in Zelenyi Hai.

— The heart of almost everyone who lived in the village belonged here.

There is a lot of destruction, however people are submitting applications within the “eRecovery” state program framework, gradually rebuilding their homes.

— There are many plans, and we are going to be fine since the people are so determined to move on and live here.

The Russian military also shelled a local kindergarten and hit the corner of the building. By autumn 2023, the community restored everything and plans to build a bomb shelter near the kindergarten.

In the summer of 2023, a new water tower was installed with the help of foreign partners. The old one was damaged and leaking, so the village had a big water issue:

— People lined up to refuel the generators to get water from the tower, so we sent project applications to numerous institutions and charity funds. And we were lucky. In February, the Mutual Resilience Fund provided its response.

The water supply remains uninterrupted thanks to the solar panels installed near the water tower. When there is no electricity, the system switches automatically to be powered by the generators.

Oksana says that the villagers of her district are quite active. Even before the full-scale invasion, they began sorting waste and organised the transportation of recyclables. They also held fairs and raised money to develop their villages. Thanks to the accumulated funds, they could co-finance installing solar panels even after the full-scale invasion. They also organised a mutual aid fund, where each member donates UAH 50 each to maintain public spaces, clean the cemetery, etc.

— Our cemetery is old. Some graves are abandoned or don’t have a cross. We can use these funds to buy crosses. In general, what distinguishes us from other villages is that there is not a single fake flower in our cemetery. Everything is cleaned up. And even all of the old graves look neat since our people are so great and know how to organise themselves and work together.

The “Russia Will Pay” project: registering war damages

Maksym Nefyodov is the director of innovative solutions at the Kyiv School of Economics and a member of the Kyiv City Council. In addition, he is engaged in projects aimed at registering the war-caused losses and planning the country’s reconstruction. “Russia Will Pay” is one of the projects where Maksym is the co-founder and co-head. As part of the project, they analyse the impact of Russia’s military aggression on Ukraine. The project is financially supported by the Americans, British, and the EU. About a hundred people work on the technical core, and about 30 analysts work on processing the data.

As of autumn, 2023, the “Russia Will Pay” project has calculated $150 billion in direct damage. Most of the destroyed sites are housing, including apartment buildings, private houses, and dormitories. The damage caused to them reaches $56 billion. Infrastructure, i.e. roads, ports, airports, etc., accounts for about $37 billion. The third category are assets of enterprises (both public and private), with damages totaling $11.5 billion. Next is agriculture (greenhouses, warehouses, stolen grain, destroyed equipment) — $8.7 billion in losses. And the final category are educational institutions, which is about $10 billion.

Besides the direct damage, such as destroyed buildings, roads, pipelines, etc., indirect damage is also being registered. This includes the expenses of the Ukrainian budget for evacuating and accommodating people, broken contracts, interrupted logistics chains, etc.

— Of course, this is more of an abstract and vague figure since it is challenging to calculate indirect losses and lost profit, and it is always much easier to dispute than direct, i.e. physical losses.

The “Russia Will Pay” project assesses the war-caused damage throughout Ukraine, except for the territories that were occupied before the start of the full-scale invasion since there is not enough information about the current situation there.

— I believe everyone has heard the stories about Ukrainian factories being completely looted and about seized property from both state-owned companies and private businesses. However, this is still out of the scope of assessing the destruction caused by hostilities.

The project team uses satellite images to learn about the territories occupied since February 2022. Maksym notes that what was seized but not damaged is not included in the calculations of losses as it will return to Ukraine after the deoccupation.

Settlements planning reconstruction projects and seeking international partners’ support can apply to the “Russia Will Pay” project and leave an application on their website. However, as Maksym points out, one must be aware that their team’s capability is not limitless, and processing requests may not be as fast as one would like because there is a lot of destruction.

The information collected within this project will be helpful, in particular, as an evidence base in future legal proceedings against Russia.

— You can’t just say that your house was destroyed. You have to prove that it once existed. You have to prove that it was destroyed precisely as a result of hostilities. You have to show some logical sequence. You have to indicate and provide independent proof of the losses claimed.

Initially, the project team collected information from people whose homes were damaged as a result of Russian aggression, but later on, this approach had to be changed:

— Unfortunately, we quickly encountered that the array of such information and the scale of the damage began to increase in geometric progression. The nature of these destructions also rapidly became more complex. It was no longer about a single missile hitting a residential building but about carpet bombing and the destruction of infrastructure.

Accordingly, the data sources were diversified. In particular, they began to work with drone and satellite images — analysing what a house looked like before the destruction and what it looks like after. Maksym notes that using drone and satellite images reduces the time of obtaining data. It is also safer to take such pictures since many of the researched settlements are still under fire.

Fact-checking was a crucial stage. Maksym emphasises that their project works independently of the Ukrainian government. Consequently, they can verify and, if necessary, supplement state records. The data collected by “Russia Will Pay” are also used by Western analysts, as well as funds that support Ukraine as the information provided is a direct confirmation that the Russian Federation is shelling civilian objects. In this way, it helps to counteract Russian propaganda.

— We became the primary data source for many international media and organisations. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations quote our reports.

The loss assessment methodology was something we had to pay great attention to. It had to be developed based on foreign experience but taking the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure distinctive features into account. Each sector of the city’s functioning and each direction requires its own methodology.

For example, it is challenging to calculate the losses of private entrepreneurs since their reporting differs from the reporting of large factories whose assets can be viewed publicly. Also, when assessing damages, there is the risk of double counting when evaluating the losses of the owner of the premises and the business that rented the premises. Each sector (housing, infrastructure, enterprise assets, etc.) has its own features. Still, Maksym notes that they are trying to figure out the reasonable limit of damages detailing because it is impossible to cover all the nuances.

— It is impossible to evaluate the state of renovations in each particular apartment. The time and effort invested in that should probably be directed to something more useful for helping the country during such times. However, we are looking where the limit can lie in many sectors.

Maksym says that what makes the “Russia Will Pay” project so valuable is, in particular, the fact that it helps Ukraine to attract international resources for reconstruction and receive weapons from partners. Sometimes, the team works with specific requests. Local authorities or foundations seeking to learn the scale of destruction in certain settlements submit their requests to the team.

— For many villages and towns, our orthoimagery is sometimes the first aerial photography in their history.

Orthophoto map
A photographic map of the area consisting of many images, which allows us to reproduce the Earth's surface in digital form as accurately as possible.

For example, the assessment of the damage caused in Mykolaiv was launched because Denmark requested this information after deciding to help with the reconstruction. The collected data were compared with those in the city government (these are the reports of utility companies and the State Emergency Service). In particular, the addresses, the number of floors in the buildings, etc., were checked. All this information has been compiled into an online analysis module that the city and its partners in restoration can use.

— The damages of Mykolaiv’s infrastructure were estimated at approximately €850 million at that time (at the end of last year).

In Mykolaiv, damages from housing destruction amount to €386 million, educational institutions — €45 million. Damage to the water supply system is estimated at €41 million. This is the result of not only shelling but also damage to the pipes because Mykolaiv residents had to use salt water since they didn’t have access to fresh water. The damage to the heating system accounts for €14 million. The damages of enterprises reached €300 million.

Maksym believes that by shelling educational institutions, the Russians are trying to affect the locals’ decision on whether to return after evacuation. After all, even if their house endured, the settlement was cleared of mines, and there is water and electricity, whether there is a school or not remains a key aspect. For parents of children of preschool and elementary school age, this is also an economic factor: if their children cannot go to kindergarten or school, they cannot work full-time.

In the de-occupied territories, Maksym believes, Ukraine must restore critical facilities that will affect whether people will return or not. He means, among other points, the Irpin Bridge or access to drinking water in the settlements affected by the destruction of the Kakhovska HPP dam by the Russians.

— It is wrong to say that we should wait [for victory]. Meanwhile, these regions will be depopulated. And accordingly, some of these people will not return, will not work, will not pay taxes, and will not volunteer or support the army.

Maksym says that the “Russia Will Pay” project and Dream, a digital restoration ecosystem for accountable management, are developing a toolkit to assess reconstruction progress. For instance, 200 children studied at a school that was designed for 500 pupils even before the full-scale invasion. Then, many of those 200 children were evacuated. And if there is now a plan to build a school for 1000 children, then the question of expediency arises. They also plan to monitor the construction priority so that, for example, education institutions or hospitals, and not stadiums, are rebuilt first. It is also extremely important for society that new projects are inclusive.

Educational institutions: learning despite everything

Mykola Arkas Lyceum

Liubov Patlata is the acting principal of the Mykola Arkas Lyceum in Mykolaiv. This 160-year-old building is an architectural landmark of local importance and was severely damaged during Russian shelling in September and October 2022. Now, as in all educational institutions in Mykolaiv, the learning process takes place remotely.

The first missile hit the Lyceum on 4 September , 2022, and the second one hit on 31 October. They significantly damaged the roof, corridors, and classrooms. Staff, the parents of the students, and the city authorities jointly cleaned up the debris and covered the broken windows with building materials to prevent moisture from entering the premises.

— Of course, it is hard to pass by every morning and see a destroyed institution. Especially when you know that only a year and a half ago children were running around and celebrations were being held here. However, we have to cope.

Denmark undertook the restoration of the lyceum. Professional delegations have already visited the city. They are developing a project, which will be implemented when the safety situation is more stable. As for now, the front line is far too close.

Since the lyceum is an architectural landmark, it is planned to be rebuilt the way it used to be before the destruction. Liubov has been working here for 17 years, and it is essential for her to restore not only the building but also its atmosphere.

— After reconstruction, I imagine our lyceum just as it used to be. As if I closed my eyes and forgot everything, then opened them, and there it is, just like it was, filled with the warmth of children’s hearts, their smiles, noise, cheering, and running.

V.О. Sukhomlynskyi National University of Mykolaiv: learning goes on

Viktoriia Danylenko is the vice-rector of the Administrative and Economic Department at the V.О. Sukhomlynskyi National University of Mykolaiv. In 2022, the buildings of the university and the dormitory were significantly damaged by Russian shelling. The most significant episode of destruction occurred on 15 July, when one of the missiles hit the main building.

Part of the university building will have to be dismantled. The intention is to rebuild it to its original form. Viktoriia says they recorded all the destruction and prepared the documents required by the state instructions. Therefore, the building was included in the register of damage caused by Russian aggression.

The university was shelled several times. There were explosion craters in the yard. Nevertheless, the teachers did not lose heart and planted a viburnum garden there. This specific plant was chosen specifically because the song about the red guelder-rose [Chervona kalyna] became one of the resistance symbols from the first days of the full-scale invasion.

— Missiles had been sticking out here, where we planted the trees. There was no need to dig anything.

“Oy u luzi chervona kalyna”
Ukrainian song written by Stepan Charnetskyi in the Halychyna region (part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time) at the beginning of 1914. The Sich Riflemen and Ukrainian Insurgent Army soldiers used to perform it. In 2022, the song gained popularity again after being performed by Ukrainian musician Andriy Khlyvnyuk in the first days of a full-scale Russian invasion.

Viktoriia says that miraculously, no one died during the shelling of the university because people were staying inside the building. At some points, someone would leave to do some work, and this saved their lives. For example, one colleague went away to take some time off, and on the next day, there was a missile strike. Viktoriia herself once came 15 minutes late, and this saved her from shelling.

Due to the Russian attacks, part of the building was in a state of disrepair. Many university work or the professors and student research papers were left there. However, it was impossible to enter the premises, Therefore, Viktoriia decided to ask the emergency workers for help.

— The State Emergency Service responded to our request. We had guys using their special equipment to climb into this very window and take out numerous items required for the further education process. I am very grateful to them. Fearless guys.

Just before the full-scale invasion, they developed a project to renovate the dormitory. However, it cannot be restored after the missile strike, so it will be demolished.

— We will build another dormitory, an even better one than we initially wanted. Meanwhile, the documents for this building have been prepared for write-off and sent to the Ministry of Education and Science. We are currently waiting for an answer.

Viktoriia says that since February 2022, learning has been taking place remotely. Still, despite challenges posed by the destruction, the university is waiting for its students as soon as the safety situation improves.

— We have other premises where we can study, even if it is announced that the education must be offline. We have enough space for all our students in order to work in comfortable and safe conditions.

The Chief Architect of Mykolaiv on the restoration of the city

Yevhen Poliakov is the Chief Architect of Mykolaiv, the Head of the Architecture and Urban Planning Department of the Mykolaiv City Council, and one of those working on the city’s recovery plan.

Mykolaiv suffered greatly during the first year of the full-scale invasion since battles were being fought near the city starting from February to the end of October. The enemy has been shelling the city with various types of weapons, in particular artillery. Yevhen says that as of autumn2023, about 3,000 objects have been damaged or destroyed. Most of them are multi-apartment and private residential buildings. The enemy also targeted kindergartens, schools, and higher educational institutions, including the Admiral Makarov National University of Shipbuilding, Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University, and V.О. Sukhomlynskyi National University of Mykolaiv:

— You cannot say that the strikes were accidental since the missiles hit the buildings directly.

According to Yevhen, the city’s recovery is a timely mission, but he believes it is essential to act by prioritising tasks. The first priority is to provide people with housing and restore critical networks: water, heat, and electricity supply.

A successful case of a single-site reconstruction is an emergency hospital. In 2021, it was reconstructed according to modern requirements, but already in 2022, a Russian missile attack destroyed almost half of the premises. As of autumn 2023, the hospital was reconstructed with the help of foreign partners. They tackled this object with a matter of urgency because it is vital for the citizens.

To plan more long-term and global reconstruction projects for the city, the city authorities asked the residents what their needs were. Given what they’ve been through, one of the most common answers were bomb shelters.

Yevhen is sure that it is essential to approach the reconstruction, considering the region’s local context and specifics: proximity to the aggressor country, industry, landscape, natural resources, etc. A special feature of Mykolaiv is, in particular, its location above the Pivdennyi Buh river.

— Mykolaiv ports transferred more grain than any other port in Ukraine. Currently, these capacities are not working.

However, Yevhen believes that even before the full-scale invasion, the city’s water resources were not used adequately. This should be changed by setting up the riverwalk, establishing passenger and freight transportation, etc.

Mykolaiv residents are researching how to reconstruct their city with international partner companies — One Works (Italy) and the COWI (Denmark). One Works is helping with the Masterplan, and COWI is working on water systems and waste processing projects. Denmark supports not only Mykolaiv but also the entire region, helping by involving its experts, equipment, and building materials.

As Yevhen explains, global and not single-site reconstruction has several stages: analytical research (which lasted more than six months), developing preliminary strategies (currently ongoing), refining strategies, and then shaping the overall structure of the city. This will be implemented after the end of the war when the safety situation will allow it.

At the stage of analytical research, it is crucial to analyse the city’s problems that existed before the caused destruction. Yevhen admits that there were many issues with the heating systems, water supply, waste management, and public space inclusivity.

— We are a post-Soviet city that was built not for people to live here but for them to work in factories.

He adds that this approach is apparent in urban planning: residential areas and roads leading from them to the workplaces, i.e. factories, and a lack of parks and public spaces.

One also needs to understand what the city consists of. The achievements of 2021 were of great use. That year, Mykolaiv established a base of educational, cultural, sports, housing and communal services institutions.

— [At that time,] we had data on the current situation in our city in digital form.

After that, we assessed the damage caused by the aggressor’s shelling. The “Russia Will Pay” project was extremely helpful with this. It is a joint initiative of the KSE Institute — an analytical centre at the Kyiv School of Economics, the Office of the President of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Economy. They particularly worked with satellite data.

— We verified numerous cases of destruction because apart from a point on the map, each destruction has many more features like address, [which in its turn provides information on] the number of floors, the types of objects, etc.

The detailed description of the destruction is valuable for two aspects: it is an evidence base of Russia’s crimes and a list of what must be restored. Therefore, it is essential to record in a timely manner when certain damage was caused by which weapon, what exactly was damaged, what materials the object was made of, how many people lived or live there, and so on.

Studying the experience of foreign colleagues, particularly Estonians, Yevhen realised that it is economically reasonable not to dismantle outdated or damaged buildings but to reconstruct them with improvements. In particular, we are talking about housing stock built during the Soviet Union, which was not adapted to modern requirements (energy efficiency, air conditioning, spaces around buildings, inclusivity). This approach to reconstruction has its advantages:

— An increase in the cost of such housing and its living quality.

Yevhen shares that one of the emotionally complex cases is the reconstruction of the city centre since the Russian military hit the State Administration, one of the central buildings, on 29 March, 2022, killing dozens of people. The building is in disrepair. Most likely, it will be dismantled, but the question that arises is how to preserve the memory of the tragedy. Yevhen supports the concept of establishing a commemoration site, a memorial complex. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that the professionals should work on this case, but it is also important to hear the opinions of the locals.

— This will be a discussion within our society, involving municipal, community, and State Administration representatives.

How the Italian company One Works is developing Mykolaiv’s Masterplan

One Works is an Italian company that develops innovative urban projects. Ana Paez is an architect who manages their project to restore Mykolaiv.

Photo credits: Linkedin.

In 2022, during the Forum of Mayors, an event organised by the UN, the mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov, said that the city needs help with reconstruction planning once the hostilities end. The British architect Norman Foster responded to this, and the UN considered extending this project to several cities, including Mykolaiv.

— The initiative aimed to develop a methodology for comprehensive urban planning that could be applied to other regions.

The UN served as a unifying element. They were actively looking for cities that needed a recovery plan and those capable of formulating such a document. One Works, which also participated in this forum, joined the initiative and started working on Mykolaiv’s recovery plan.

First, the One Works team met with the city authorities, studied the documents related to the city plan, and assessed the damage. In January 2023, the company presented its vision of the first steps towards the reconstruction of Mykolaiv to the city authorities.

The core team of One Works, working on Mykolaiv’s Masterplan, currently consists of ten people, however they have plans to expand. In addition, the company invites individual professionals to solve specific problems.

— We have also established partnerships with Italian universities, and the Polytechnic Institute of Milan assembled a task force of 17 professors who deal with six different aspects of the Masterplan.

Photo credits: One Works.

There are multiple experts involved. Employees of the Danish company COWI are engaged in developing communal services (heating systems, water and energy supply, and waste). Professionals from Italian companies are committed, too. In particular, the landscape architecture studio “Land” works on public spaces, biodiversity and green spaces. The GISdevio company develops tools to present the Masterplan in digital form. “Systematica” takes care of public transport.

Ana points out that understanding the current situation in the city enables effective reconstruction planning. In some places, a destroyed building needs to be replaced, and in other places, repairing the damaged structure will be sufficient.

— We don’t need to start from scratch, but we can start by directing the resources that come to the city to what is worth restoring first and set our priorities more efficiently.

It is crucial for the One Works team not only to familiarise Mykolaiv municipality with their developments to receive their feedback but also to help them in utilising these developments for future reconstruction. Another element of cooperation involves engaging the public through public interviews.

— We launched the first interviews last year (2022. — ed.) after the summer. We realised that the people of Mykolaiv are incredibly active and react to everything we publish related to the Masterplan.

Mykolaiv residents were asked how they perceive their city and their district, what problems they had until 2022, and what is important to them. This data provides insight into what needs to be improved. For example, only 24.5% of people can reach a public transport stop from their home within a 5-minute walk, and this should change. 81 % of residents expect an improvement in the water supply system, and 52% of young people need employment opportunities to stay or return to the city. Many people expressed that they would like the riverside to be an accessible public space. 92 % of residents and 80% of temporarily internally displaced persons are ready to join the reconstruction.

A survey of citizens shows that Korabelnyi is the most inconvenient district in the city. To change this, a group of Ukrainian and Italian architects is working on the Korabel kultural park project. Its purpose is to rethink the use of the territory of the City Palace of Culture «Korabelnyi» in the Korabelnyi district of Mykolaiv, which the Russian occupiers destroyed. The project aims to turn this part of the city’s industrial district into a pleasant public space that can be used not only for events but also for walks.

They will start developing the city’s Masterplan substantively in January 2024. This stage is going to take about a year, although they are aware that the war is going on and the situation in the city can change, so, despite the planning, one needs to be flexible.

Ana adds that smaller architectural forms are also being developed along with the Masterplan.

— We have five pilot projects on various subjects: innovation, housing and community, cultural heritage, green and public spaces, industry and trade.

Image source: One Works.

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Джерело зображення: One Works.

Image source: One Works.

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Джерело зображення: One Works.

Their idea is to figure out what challenges will be faced. For example, the fact that Ukrainian legislation currently does not regulate all aspects of reconstruction. However, Ana is convinced that it is the right time to develop a recovery plan because it is a long-term multi-vector work.

— When the war is over, a stream of aid will flow to Ukraine to try to help it recover, rebuild, and restart as quickly as possible. So this requires a plan, as otherwise, we risk resources not being directed towards a goal shared by all.

How Denmark is helping Mykolaiv

Jesper Karup Pedersen is an economist who has been working on infrastructure projects at the Danish company COWI for 32 years. In 2014, she stopped working in Russia but continued to launch projects in Ukraine, Moldova, Sakartvelo, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. In 2022, the Danish government invited the company to cooperate in restoring the infrastructure of Mykolaiv.

— I think that all Ukrainian cities are special to Europe, not only Mykolaiv. Denmark pays a lot of attention to Mykolaiv and will continue to do so for many years to come. It was the request of your president, Mr. Zelenskyy, that Denmark takes care of Mykolaiv and becomes its patron. This request was taken seriously by the Danish government.

Photo credits: Mykolaiv City Council.

COWI is working on a roadmap on how to improve the current state of infrastructure. Their findings will be integrated into the Masterplan of Mykolaiv. The company also deals with water and heat supply, sewage, renewable energy sources, and waste management, specifically construction waste.

— We have an investment project aimed at creating an enterprise for sorting and processing [construction] waste so that it can be used for various purposes. Those could include constructing roads, new houses, or cities. There are many opportunities, and we have experience in this field, especially from the Balkan wars and post-natural disasters.

Jesper emphasises that there is also a need to prepare for this project legally, including developing a model for the owners of the destroyed buildings to collaborate with the city in collecting this waste and bringing it to the recycling plant.

The project involves about 50 people, including representatives of the city and the Danish Energy Agency, as well as international financial organisations and donors who will co-finance the project and provide loans or grants for recovery.

Jesper is sure that Ukraine will achieve victory, and after that, it will immediately begin the restoration process, and therefore it is vital to be prepared.

— What we are doing in Mykolaiv is mainly aimed at preparing the city for the day when the war ends. The idea is to prepare everything in advance so that tenders can be issued immediately, so that the contractors can commence excavation, construction, etc.

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