Ukrainian villagers emerge after months in municipal building basement

As Russian forces swarmed toward Kyiv, as many as 170 villagers, including 40 children as young as 3 months old, sheltered in the municipal building’s basement until the village was liberated at the end of April, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhniy, Ukraine’s commander in chief, said in a Telegram post.

At first, the basement was icy and damp, with nothing to sit on except tiny chairs taken from the kindergarten’s classroom. Beds were brought down from the medical clinic to make people more comfortable. An outhouse around the corner served as a communal privy.

Villagers installed a potbelly stove to warm the room, though the wood smoke had to be vented through a hole knocked through the foundation wall and the basement entrance leading up the stairs to the building’s front door.

They also worked together to reinforce a corner of the foundation that had partially crumbled after a glancing blow from a Russian shell. They used steel rebar and bits of metal fencing to shore up the wall but still feared that the foundation might collapse.

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