Meet KHARPP, a building collective that’s repaired 750 homes in Ukrainian villages since Russia’s full-scale invasion began

Care and Repair

Meet KHARPP, a building collective that’s repaired 750 homes in Ukrainian villages since Russia’s full-scale invasion began

A man stands outside a home in eastern Ukraine replete with new windows provided by KHARPP. (Courtesy Ada Wordsworth)

When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, Ada Wordsworth was a graduate student at Oxford working towards a degree in Slavonic studies. Her academic focus was eastern European literature. She was fluent in Russian, and had a niche interest in Warsaw’s reconstruction after World War II. Shortly after, Ada left her program, packed her bags, and decamped to the Polish-Ukrainian border to volunteer as a translator for people seeking asylum in the EU.

Flash forward to March 21, 2024: Ada awoke at 4 a.m. in Kharkiv to the sound of bombs. Russia was, again, shelling Ukraine’s second largest city just a few kilometers away from the Russian border. Ada has been living in Ukraine for the last two years, leading a collective she helped build called The Kharkiv and Przemyśl Project (KHARPP). “When we started, we knew nothing about architecture or construction,” Wordsworth told AN. “We really had no idea what we were doing, but we wanted to help.”

shelling damage has destroyed house interiors in ukraine
A home in eastern Ukraine damaged by Russian shelling (Courtesy Ada Wordsworth)

Since March 2022, KHARPP has repaired 750 homes and 4 public buildings in Ukrainian villages spread throughout Kharkiv, Ukraine, and Przemyśl, Poland. Many of them are small houses where pensioners live that have had their windows shattered by explosions, roofs caved in by shelling, and other wartime injuries. The British charity is active in 16 villages, where they’ve installed generators, portable power stations, and Starlink satellite internet systems.

Most homes that KHARPP works on cost about $750 to repair. The labor predominantly entails swapping out windows for new ones, fixing roofs, and insulating walls to fortify structures against Ukraine’s bitter winters. “Just the other day, I had the chance to play checkers with an elderly woman in her sunroom that we helped repair,” Ada said. “It was a small moment, but it meant the world to her, and to me.”

sun room in ukraine house
Repaired sun room (Courtesy Ada Wordsworth)

Throughout her journey, Ada has met hundreds of Ukrainians and heard their stories; many of whom have been thrown into terrible states of precarity because of the war. For instance, one of KHARPP’s ongoing projects is for a woman named Oaksana and her son, Artem. Oaksana and Artem left Ukraine for Italy after the full-scale invasion started, but Oaksana’s partner stayed to join the military. A year later, he was killed in battle. Oaksana was widowed but, as she was never legally married, she wasn’t entitled to any financial help from the government; and her house wasn’t in her name, so the property was left in a state of limbo. Moreover, the farm where she worked had been mined; all of these factors cast her into poverty. 

KHARPP’s mission is to help rebuild homes for people like Oaksana while putting local contractors back to work. The nonprofit garners capital to help pay laborers in Ukrainian villages to fix houses. And after the workday is over, laborers have enough cash in their pockets to buy food from the grocery store. Thus, KHARPP is a double-win: It also has tremendous ancillary benefits for local economies. 

window replacement by KHARPP in ukraine
Most of the work involves swapping out old windows for new ones. (Courtesy Ada Wordsworth)
brick house under repair
The project has ancillary benefits for local economies as it puts people to work. (Courtesy Ada Wordsworth)

Despite KHARPP’s significant efforts, in recent months, Ada has noticed a shift among the people she works for. While politicians in the U.S and western Europe have turned Ukrainian funding into a political football, the deficits are felt in real time in the places where she works. “We’re just 20 kilometers from the Russian border,” she said. “You can hear the shelling. A lot of people are feeling abandoned.”

Moving forward, most of KHARPP’s benefactors are based in Europe, but Ada hopes to connect with more patrons in the U.S. “To repair someone’s house costs about 500 pounds,” she said. “Billions of dollars have been poured into the country. We’ve found that local initiatives like ours with a much, much smaller budget can have just as great of an impact.”

For more information, visit KHARPP’s website.