Young Ukrainians use techno parties to rebuild villages

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YAHIDNE, Ukraine — In a village in northern Ukraine that was devastated by the Russian occupation just a few months ago, a techno party is in full swing.

In a bombed-out building, more than 200 young people found a new way to help rebuild their country.

The daytime “cleanup rave” in Yahidne was organized by young Ukrainians who use the dance parties as a way to help with reconstruction efforts in the north of the country, which has suffered extensive damage from Russian bombing.

Shovels in hand, volunteers tackle the remains of a village cultural center destroyed in March by a Russian rocket strike, throwing piles of debris onto a tractor loader. A DJ, his turntables mounted on a stack of ammunition crates, spins techno and house dance music while the volunteers work. Some even take a break from their work to dance.

“Volunteering is my way of life now,” said Tania Burianova, an organizer with the Repair Together initiative. “I like electronic music and I used to party. But now it’s war and we want to help, and we do it with music.

Ukraine’s bustling club scene came to an abrupt halt with the Russian invasion on February 24. Now, with a nighttime curfew in effect in Kyiv, the capital, and the ever-present threat of Russian rocket attacks, followers of Ukraine’s party culture have sought to combine the fun and freedom of a music festival with the reconstruction of the country they love.

Burianova said cleanup raves reunite those who lost their nightclub communities during the war, helping them regain a sense of normalcy and fun while helping to restore damaged cities.

“We miss (the parties) and we want to get back to normal life, but our normal life now is volunteering,” Burianova, 26, told The Associated Press.

The damaged cultural center sits on the edge of Yahidne, where almost all of the village’s just over 300 people were confined to a basement for weeks by Russian forces during the occupation of the northern province of Chernihiv .

Local resident Nina, 68, said she spent those terrible weeks in the basement before Russian troops withdrew and that 11 people died there due to the poor conditions. She was grateful to see young people coming together to help the village recover.

“They’ve already fixed our windows, doors and entrances,” Nina said of the volunteers. “We couldn’t do it ourselves with our salaries or our pensions. I am grateful that they helped us.

Most of the volunteers were between 20 and 30 years old and came from Kyiv, about two hours away. But others came from the western city of Lviv and also from Chernihiv, while foreign volunteers arrived from Portugal, the United States, Germany and elsewhere.

The cultural center cleanup was the group’s eighth project to date, and they have already helped repair 15 damaged homes in the village. They plan to expand and organize a construction camp in the nearby town of Lukashivka, where they will build 12 houses for people whose homes were destroyed, Burianova said.

After completing a set, DJ Oleksandr Buchinskiy said all the volunteers were bound by a sense of optimism and responsibility.

“They are all young people who still have the passion for life, but they feel pain and are very sad and angry because of the war,” Buchinskiy said. “But they feel the need to be part of this historic moment, to help people and to make Ukraine a better place with a smile on their face.”

Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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