November 2, 2022


After the beginning of the full-scale invasion, many Kyiv establishments united in the project “Kyiv Volunteer” to help Ukrainians defend their freedom. 

This is the story of Varvara Lushchyk from the cafe “Lypa” and about the meaning of war for a cafe in Kyiv. The story is about volunteering, the project “Kyiv Volunteer” and the reconstruction of Ukrainian villages. 

Before the full-scale invasion, I worked in the cafe “Lypa”. On February 24, the owners of the cafe turned it into a shelter for those who needed it. Roughly speaking, we gathered there together with our friends, about 35 people. Since the cafe was located on the ground floor, it was our bunker. 

Around the 4th or 5th day of the war, Kyiv Volunteer was organized. We realized that we also had a kitchen where we could cook. Some of the people who were here were engaged in delivering food to the kitchens that were volunteering and delivering the ready meals. Other people prepared these meals. Probably, this is where my personal volunteering began, as well as general volunteering around “Lypa”. 

It was like that for about the first 2 months. And after the liberation of Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, we first delivered humanitarian aid with Kyiv Volunteer and then did it on our own. At that time, it was still cold, and we saw broken windows in people’s homes. Therefore, we decided to deliver the film to cover the broken glass at least temporarily. Then we started to deliver some cement, other building materials, and so on. 

In the liberated villages, food was not so much needed because people had crops and gardens. We realized that we could help to dismantle the rubble of houses that were completely burnt down or rebuild something. That is how our “big construction” in Chernihiv region began. 

There is a village we started to work with, Kolychivka in Chernihiv region. This village is the closest to Chernihiv, 8 kilometers, and you are already in the city center. However, when the bridge was broken, people had to make a huge detour of almost 150 kilometers in order to get to the city. People who lived there [in Kolychivka] were completely cut off. 

We met the locals and made friends with all the grandmothers. Now I have a lot of girlfriends 50+ (laughs).

One of the owners of “Lypa” and “Kashtan”, Kyrylo, knows how to do everything. His hands are surely growing from the right place. He personally gets acquainted with each person, looks at the house, and figures out what can be done. Sometimes it was necessary to rebuild only one room, sometimes it became clear that it was necessary to demolish the house and build something new to spend the winter. 

We rebuilt some of the houses on our own. At the moment, we have already made about 12 such “boxes” in which you can spend the winter. But we brought building materials to more than 80 houses. We found local people who were ready to get together to rebuild the village and bought all the necessary materials so people can cover their roofs or build new walls.

When we arrived in Kolychivka, we met a teacher and she showed us the school where she works. Before the war, it was both a school and a kindergarten, and local residents hid there during the invasion. During the siege of the Chernihiv region, this school was hit. It was not completely destroyed but was slightly damaged. At some point, we realized that the local council won’t be able to deal with this school, so we really wanted to restore it. 

Together we replaced the damaged roof frame, re-laid the slate, and replaced all the windows. Of course, with the help of various funds, as we could not have done it on our own. We also carried out a lot of internal work. We all hope that on September 1, children will be able to go to school, and we will all join the celebration. By the way, you can see more about the trips and the restoration of Kolychivka on my Instagram

If we talk about the feelings during these trips, it was scary. I personally have never been attached to a home as a physical object. However, all these stories of local people made me think. For example, my great-grandfather built a house for his granddaughter, people lived there for generations, and now it is a pile of stones. When you realize that the history of 150 years burned down in just 20 minutes, it gets [emotionally] difficult. During the first trips, we all cried. You return home and completely reassess all the values you had before. 

Now we continue to rebuild this village in the Chernihiv region. We want to do as much as possible before the cold weather comes because, when it gets cold, it will be harder to work, and people should have a place to spend the winter. In general, we feel that we already need a mini-vacation. It so happened that since February 24, we could not help but get involved, but when you get involved in the process, you do not know how long it will last. 

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