Ukraine’s thriving underground rave scene came to a stand-still when Russia invaded the country in February. As the war has torn apart houses and entire villages, the chance to release stress and dance the night away has been out of reach. Even for people who are now in relatively safe regions — it’s just not realistic.
“If you spend your time in the capital — in Kyiv — and just go to a party or whatever, it feels not right,” said Dima Kyrpa, a Kyiv resident. “Because you understand that just [125 miles] from you, there is a real war and people die every day and houses are destroyed. So, it’s not right.”
Kyrpa saw the need to reconcile a yearning for fun amid an ongoing war by co-founding Repair Together, a volunteer group that helps clean up homes and villages that have been damaged by the war. The group hosts traditional clean-ups and weekly building camps where volunteers rebuild homes, but their clean-up raves are getting the most attention.
The group sets up a DJ amid the rubble, so while volunteers clear debris, they also dance and make new friends. A live-stream from a clean-up rave last month shows volunteers helping to repair a brick wall with one hand while pumping their fist to the beat with the other. One young woman has a Ukrainian flag draped around her shoulders as she sways to the music.
Kyrpa, 34, said DJs play a wide range of music at the raves. They have even featured some major artists, like Onuka. She was a frontrunner in Ukraine’s electronic music scene and performed for “Repair Together” in the downstairs of a ruined cultural center in Ivanivka, an urban area within the Chernihivska region. One of her musicians continued to volunteer with the group. “Repair Together” has also hosted ТУЧА, an artist whose song, “Воїн,” is about a Ukrainian warrior.
Kyrpa said listening to these songs and dancing at the clean-up raves is therapeutic for volunteers. But the music isn’t just for fun — it also makes the work more sustainable.
“In order to repair all these things that unfortunately were destroyed, volunteering must become a lifestyle for our whole generation. … And in order to do that, volunteering must be partly joyful besides being useful.”
“In order to repair all these things that unfortunately were destroyed, volunteering must become a lifestyle for our whole generation,” he said. “And in order to do that, volunteering must be partly joyful besides being useful.”
Since April, Repair Together has cleaned up 16 villages, 200 houses, and three cultural houses — public buildings that host libraries, children’s theaters and local choirs. Kyrpa said he also has teams rebuilding 16 private homes right now. It’s taken more than 3,000 volunteers to get the job done.
“Mostly, we have Ukrainians, but the initiative became international,” he said, adding that volunteers have come from the Netherlands, Slovakia, Germany and the US.
“For instance, we have one guy who arrived three days ago from Michigan. He is an experienced and professional carpenter.”
Donations are coming in from abroad, as well. But Kyrpa said the group doesn’t accept donations from Ukrainians, because they feel those resources should be going toward defense, not reconstruction.
Related: ‘You continue to live’: Some people step up to help Ukrainians cope with the trauma of war