Eat – sleep – rave – repair: How partying Ukrainians rebuild the country
- 29 jun 2023
- 6 minuten leestijd
Together with young Ukrainians, Dmytriy Kirpa dances to the darkest and vilest techno beats, while the industrial sounds from the construction machinery create the soundscape. While many fled when the war broke out, he returned to help restore his country. This is his story.
There’s a photo that looks like a group of festival guests for LowLands have arrived just a little too early before the festival gates open. They seem eager to enter onto the fields and enjoy a worriless summer festival. But looks are deceiving: this is a photo of young Ukrainians waiting to be put to work by the Repair.Together organization. One similarity though? The conversations about the lineup. "Who are you coming for?" asks the boy with the mullet and dungarees to the girl with purple-dyed hair and trendy sunglasses.
Dmytriy is in Kyiv. The night before we call him, there was a large-scale air strike on the capital.
How are you doing? Did you sleep well?
"Yes," he says, although his voice sounds exhausted over a cracking phone connection. "My house is still standing and explosions no longer keep me awake. Besides, I stopped hearing the sirens a long time ago."
What is Repair.Together and how did you come up with the idea?
"When the Russians were driven out around Kyiv last year, a friend of mine organized a party. We not only wanted to celebrate that the Russians had left the capital, but also wanted to contribute to rebuilding Ukraine. So, we came up with the idea of clearing rubble while listening to banging bunker techno. A rave, in other words. This was still a small-scale event and organized only for a private group. It worked so well that we decided to take it a step further and set up an organization for it."
And how many people are there now?
"There are more than three-thousand volunteers. More than three hundred of them come from abroad," he said.
"It's very admirable that people from all over the world come to us and help us. They don't have to come here and yet they risk their lives to build a country miles away. The gratitude we feel toward these people cannot be described."
Why did you return to Ukraine yourself?
"I often get that question; after all, I had a decent job in Germany. I had been working in IT for about fourteen years there, which was a nice paycheck. However, when the war broke out, I knew I was needed somewhere else."
"It may sound strange to say this, but I get more satisfaction from what I do now than what I did at my previous job. I see that what I do is very good for the people around me. It has become my goal to rebuild Ukraine together with anyone who wants to help."
Are you one of the few who have returned or are there more?
"No, I am not the only one. Many Ukrainians have returned or stayed to rebuild the country."
Why do young people stay in Ukraine or come back? What do they say to you?
"Let me say that everyone makes their own personal choice to stay or flee and I cannot speak for everyone. Every human life is unique and has different obstacles or challenges. What I do see though, is that many Ukrainians simply do not give up and – and I think they never will."
"People between the ages of twenty and forty just want to go to festivals and parties. The fact that this isn’t possible now, is a huge loss. They want to live like young people in any other country, without war. So, the conditions are not ideal, but this is the best we can do. That’s why it has become a lifestyle among young Ukrainians to rave and build something at the same time."
Take us to a rave you organize. What does it usually look like?
"We often start early in the day. This is because, unfortunately, because of the curfew, we can no longer party at night. We make sure the DJ booth is all set-up and the electricity is connected. Then, we welcome our guests and get to work."
"The setting is different every time. Last weekend we restored a cultural center to its former glory with two hundred volunteers. When we do our reconstruction work, we also try to do this as environmentally friendly as possible. For example, we collected old bricks that are no longer usable so that we can upcycle them and use them in at other construction sites."
It has become a lifestyle among Ukrainian youth.- Dmytriy Kirpa
What safety regulations are involved during a rave?
"When rebuilding in a war zone? Plenty! During our welcome and introduction talk, we always give them the necessary safety instructions as well. Moreover, we make sure that at every construction site where we host a rave, there’s a bomb shelter nearby."
Have you ever had to take shelter while having an event?
"Yes, a few times. But in all the 30 times we've organized these raves, there has never been an accident, fortunately."
What's on the agenda?
"We will, of course, continue to organize raves, but July 10th we will really go all the way. On a large terrain, thousands of international and Ukrainian volunteers will gather to spend the whole summer together, raving, building and clearing debris all over the country. It lasts all summer, until the end of September. People can sign up for this or donate on our website."
Thank you for your story.
In 2019, Geraldine Kemper was in Ukraine for 3 Op Reis where she spoke with war veteran Mykola Stec'kiv. Watch the clip where he talks about his experiences at the front on NPO Start here (in Dutch).