After the Ukraine War: Chances of Reconstruction in Kharkiv


Russian bombs are still falling on Ukraine. Dmitri Zhuikov knows what destruction they cause. The architect from Kharkiv now lives in Munich – and would like to be involved in the reconstruction of a more modern city.

Normality has not existed in Kharkiv for a long time

When Dmitri Zhuikov talks about the war in his homeland, a tremor creeps into his voice. Then the images of Kharkiv rise in his mind, where the 39-year-old spent his childhood. The laughter of friends and schoolmates, the pictures of the places where they hung out as teenagers, the park bench where Dmitri kissed a girl for the first time:All of this comes to mind when he thinks of Kharkiv. Zhuikov's hometown in the far east of Ukraine was the second largest metropolis in the country until the Russian invasion. A good 1.5 million people lived here, only around 40 kilometers from the Russian border.

Kharkiv: “A symbol of human suffering”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on a visit to Kharkov in eastern Ukraine, next to her is Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba

In Kharkiv, one of the invaders' first targets, the extent of the destruction is particularly great. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was also able to see this for herself. During a surprise visit in early January, she called Kharkiv a “symbol of the absolute madness of the Russian war of aggression and the suffering of the people.” At the same time, Kharkiv stands for the courage of the Ukrainians to resist Russian aggression, said Baerbock amidst bombed-out houses.

Annalena Baerbock visits Kharkiv

Russian troops had besieged, bombed and fired at the city of millions for months, Russian soldiers had advanced to the outskirts of the city and hundreds of civilians died. But in the end, the Ukrainian military was able to liberate the region. That was last autumn.

Destructed and partially burned out: the building of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration


“A heavy defeat for the Russians,” says Dmitri Zhuikov, “since then the city can no longer be reached by their artillery, a step forward.” However, there is still a danger from strategic bombers and medium-range missiles.

Whole parts of the city were shot to pieces

According to Zhuikov, many people left Kharkiv. The ruins remained: badly damaged buildings spread across the entire city area. The residential areas on the north-eastern outskirts of the city, where the Russians had tried to advance, were particularly hard hit. “They completely shot up entire suburbs,” says Zhuikov. Heavy destruction also in the city center: the town hall, the building of the Kharkiv regional administration, university facilities – many public buildings were badly hit.

Heavily damaged: the Giprokoks building in the center of Kharkiv

Broken panes of glass, collapsed roofs, completely burned out houses –  Mayor Ihor Terechow counted around 3,500 damaged residential buildings by July last year, around 500 of which could no longer be repaired. “At least 150,000 people have lost the roof over their heads,” says Zhuikov. Listed Art Nouveau buildings were hit, as was a brand new shopping center in the center, an indoor swimming pool, a huge power plant and the university sports complex and stadium, where Zhuikov played football as a young boy.

Take care of family and friends

Dmitri Zhuikov

Born in Kharkiv in 1983 as the son of an architect, Dmitri Zhuikov followed in his mother's footsteps at an early age. He studied construction and architecture at the Technical University and then worked as an architect. He met his wife from Mariupol, also an architect. They went to Dessau together in 2012 and completed their master’s degree in the Bauhaus city. The couple stayed in Germany and now have two young children. Dmitri Zhuikov works for an architecture office in Munich. He still feels closely connected to his homeland. “Even though my family is safe here, many of my acquaintances, friends and relatives are still in eastern Ukraine,” he says, “and I suffer with them.”

Norman Foster's master plan< /h2>

In December, it was the British star architect Norman Foster who drew the world's attention to Kharkiv. Foster presented Mayor Terekhov with a master plan for reconstruction. It is based on five pilot projects: “Cultural Heritage Project” to create a new architectural landmark in the city center, “River Project” to transform a six-kilometer green strip between the Kharkiv and Nemyshlya rivers for pedestrians and cyclists.

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Star architect Sir Norman Foster (right) presented his master plan for the reconstruction in Kharkiv

For the “industrial project,” Foster, who developed his master plan together with a group of Ukrainian architects, wants to convert a coal-fired power plant into a center for clean energy and food. A “Science” pilot project aims to attract technology companies, research firms and start-ups to the eastern Ukrainian city. Finally, Foster's “housing project” aims to make existing buildings more modern and energy efficient.

When he thinks about rebuilding his hometown, Dmitri Zhuikov's fingers are itching. He would like to be part of it, to help plan and build. Above all, he sees great opportunities: “Reconstruction could bring about the energy transition in Kharkiv,” believes the Munich-based architect. Many buildings were hardly insulated even before the war. “The need is huge.” He also knows that what is not in the planning will not be implemented. “And it can get really cold in Kharkiv,” says Zhuikov.

Russia's army aims for destruction of the critical infrastructure

During the war, he says, many people would have networked more closely, would have learned to help each other, to be more offensive and committed to their interests. Zhuikov is convinced that this will benefit Kharkiv, “because citizen participation is important for reconstruction .”

But before it can get going, peace must first return. At present, many buildings are still being repaired and the critical infrastructure of district heating, electricity and water networks is being restored. “We Ukrainians are good at improvising,” says Zhuikov. Outside help, as promised by German Foreign Minister Baerbock, is well invested. “The war is a tragedy for Ukraine, but with great opportunities,” says Dmitri Zhuikov, “I hope they will be used.”