Text: Ina Eriksen Eines
Photo: Beate Simarud/NRC

In a small village outside the big city of Kharkiv in Ukraine, not too far from the front line where the fighting is still raging intensely, among rose bushes and a vegetable garden, there is a house with a triangular roof.

- There was a big hole in the roof. 

- There was a big hole in the roof. The bomb was still sticking up from the floor in the living room , said the boy who lives here, Ivan (12).

Not long ago I visited Ivan and his family:

We each sit on our chairs in what used to be the hallway. The faint echo reverberates on the bare walls; the wallpaper will arrive next week. Father Sergey puts a hand over Ivan's shoulder. The twelve-year-old looks at me with serious eyes.

- I like building Lego, but now I don't have time anymore. Now I help dad repair the house, he says.


In towns and villages in Ukraine, houses and blocks of flats have been reduced to rubble. Windows are blown out. Tarpaulins flutter in the wind on buildings that are still standing, revealing gaping holes in the walls. Walls that just a little while ago framed the safety of the people who lived there.

- Before the war, we renovated the house, continues Ivan. He almost ends up on the edge of his seat as he describes his room:

- I got a new bed and a new wardrobe. And I had lots of Lego!

During the first month of the war, the family still lived in the house. They stayed in the basement.

Until it became impossible to be there. The bombing was too powerful. The smoke too dense.

The next time they fled several times.

Then the phone came; the house was hit.

- We didn't tell Ivan at first , says mum Yulia.

- But I guessed it, comes quietly from the side.

- When I saw that my mother was crying, I guessed what had happened.

- A home is where life is. It is your security

- I cried all the time, it burned inside me.

- A home is where life is. It's your security , says Yulia.

- When I said that we might not be able to repair the house, that it was too damaged, Ivan was determined:

“We will rebuild it.” She smiles and adds:

- And he is a bit stubborn, so he often gets what he wants.

Now the triangular roof has been repaired. Walls have been erected, and new windows have been inserted. With the financial support the family has received from the Norwegian Refugee Council, they have been able to insulate the walls, buy a hot water tank and a fan for the kitchen. 

Before we leave, Ivan shows me around what used to be his room. Soon he will build Lego there again.