Irpin and Bucha one year on: Life in Ukraine's war-torn cities

Russia's initial attacks on Ukraine reduced many cities to smoldering ruins. One year on, NHK World visited two of the hardest hit towns and spoke with locals who are trying to rebuild their communities, despite not knowing when or how the conflict will end.

Irpin inching back to normalcy

The town of Irpin is a 30-minute drive from Kyiv. In February 2022, Russian troops launched an offensive as part of their plan to encircle the capital. Though Ukraine's troops drove them out, the battles left many homes damaged and others reduced to rubble.

Burned-out cars in the city of Irpin.

It's hard touring Irpin without feeling despair. There are streets heaped with burned-out cars. Some of them have been decorated with paintings of sunflowers, Ukraine's national flower that symbolizes hope.

People who decided to stay in the city say they are exhausted, but many have begun to repair or rebuild.

Shops in Irpin have reopened.

A number of shops have reopened. People walk the streets again, and drink coffee in the caf├ęs. It almost feels ordinary until you start speaking with the residents.

Debris on a river bank between Irpin and Bucha.

Nataliya Hromska, 28, is a confectionery seller. She fled Irpin for Kyiv in March last year as the Russian attack intensified. She returned home in June. Her husband is far away fighting on a frontline. "I really want to believe we will win," she says. "But I want it to happen as soon as possible, so our husbands come home alive and healthy, and families can reunite."

Nataliya Hromska misses her husband, who is fighting on a frontline.

Bucha

The photographs of Bucha last spring shocked the world. They showed bodies scattered in the streets after the withdrawal of Russian troops. Driving in today, house after house on both sides of the road is in ruins. Debris is piled up on the bank of the Bucha River, which divides Bucha and Irpin. This is where the bodies of over 400 civilians were found. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called those killings an act of genocide.

In Bucha, too, people have begun rebuilding homes that were destroyed by the Russian attacks. Sixty-six-year-old Vasyl Molchan, whose home was severely damaged in March 2022, told us how he survived.

Vasyl Molchan's severely damaged house is still under reconstruction one year after the attack.

He says he hid in a basement with his wife and other relatives, praying that Russian soldiers wouldn't find them.

Molchan is staying in his damaged house while it is repaired. He says he has no idea how long the job might take. "It does not depend on me," he says. "I feel the whole world must change its politics. It won't solve anything for both sides to get more weapons."

Vasyl Molchan spoke to NHK in front of his damaged house.