Of an estimated 6.1 million refugees that have fled Ukraine since the war started, many have expressed a wish to return home. Some have already travelled back to Ukraine to find their homes and businesses destroyed. Others are working together to make repairs where possible, to make the community liveable again.
As the battle lines shift amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, one constant has been the shocking degree of physical destruction.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s determination to erase Ukraine has left government buildings, train stations, hospitals and schools in ruins. The eastern city of Mariupol has endured a modern siege medieval in its cruelty, while homes, shops, monuments, and public spaces across Ukraine have been torn asunder by Russian bombs.
Building new housing, schools and hospitals begins with one key objective: build back better. Although there is a natural tendency to repair cities to their original form, one should not try to restore Soviet-style housing and other infrastructure.
Instead, reconstruction should focus on using modern technologies designs, and urban planning.
In theory, there is an opportunity for Ukraine’s destroyed cities to be reborn as greener, more beautiful, and more efficient. Building back with a focus on environmentalism, may help make Ukraine a leader in green energy.
In the wake of conflicts, the international community has typically focused on basic infrastructure like roads and water and waste systems. But cultural reconstruction can be just as critical, both to the immediate survivors and to the wider global community.
That is a million-dollar question, because there are two very different views of culture. One is the purist view — the culture for the sake of culture, for the sake of community-building, for the sake of the people. The other one is culture as a tool for economic development. These two different points of view don’t necessarily converge. There’s the idea that if you spend money on these cultural elements, then tourists will come, and then they will create cultural industries and income will be earned. And then people who have the purist view towards culture just do not like that.