BORODYANKA, Ukraine -- Ihor is lucky, relatively speaking: He's alive.
He survived the Russian bombardment of Borodyanka, a town northwest of Kyiv that was among the those hit hardest in the first weeks following the large-scale invasion on February 24, and one of the places where evidence of war crimes by the occupying forces has mounted since their retreat at the end of March.
Ihor survived by chance, mainly. He and his mother, Tamara, had been moving around within the nine-story apartment building on the main street where they lived, first holing up on the ground floor and then, on the night of March 1, taking shelter at a neighbor's apartment on the opposite side.
They left at 7 a.m. the next day, he said, "and the bomb hit it at 7:40 a.m."
The number of people killed in that strike is unclear, but the victims included residents who had sheltered in the basement beneath one section of the building and were trapped under debris. Their bodies were retrieved weeks later, after the Russian forces who had poured in from the north pulled out -- the last of them had left by April 1 -- and headed back across the border following their failure to take Kyiv.
Ihor and his mother got out of Borodyanka the day their building was hit. They spent the rest of the period of the Russian occupation in western Ukraine but have since returned, as have about half of the 12,000 residents who local authorities estimate left to escape the assault. Before February 24, the town's population was about 14,000.
Some of its residents are still unaccounted for. Oleksandr Melnychenko has come to Borodyanka six times to search for his son, daughter-in-law, and three granddaughters, who were sheltering in a basement of one of the apartment buildings on the main street that were struck by Russian bombs.
Ihor's apartment was not completely destroyed, but it's in no shape to live in, and his mother can't walk by what remains of the building without shedding tears.
WATCH: Oleksandr Melnychenko has been searching since March for his son, his son's wife, and their three daughters since Russian jets bombed their apartment building in Borodyanka.
Ihor, 41, expects that new buildings will eventually go up in place of those that have been destroyed, and that life will be normal again. However, he said, Ukraine's victory must come first.
"For war to be over probably all people on Earth have to change for the better. People should be ashamed of wars," Ihor said. As for the Russian invaders, he quoted the Bible as saying that one has to love one's enemies, adding: "But it's hard, and one has to be a saint to act in this way."
For now, he and his mother are living with Ihor's brother rather than in one of the modular homes that have been put up in Borodyanka with the support of the Polish government.
"The [modular] home is provided not for a family but for four people, [and] it's hard to live with two other people in six square meters," said Ihor, who did not want his last name published. "It's a good solution for those who have no other options."
"We're grateful" to have a place to stay, he added but says he plans to build his own home -- a project that was put on hold by the Russian invasion and is tenuous amid the prospect of a renewed Russian assault.
"I have a dream of building this house. You can sit, be scared, and wait for something. But you have to move. And that is what distracts me from the events that have been happening here," Ihor said.
While his new home remains a dream, the nightmarish carcasses of the apartment blocks hit by Russian bombs, rockets, and shells remaining standing for now -- blackened ghosts that have become familiar figures in the landscape, enduring reminders of the devastation wreaked on buildings and lives in Borodyanka a few months ago.
At least eight of the 29 multistory buildings in Borodyanka are to be demolished after being damaged to varying degrees by the Russian assault. At least three more are to be partially destroyed.
Serhiy Khomenko's apartment is in a building hit by a bomb that crashed down through a side section from the rooftop to the basement, killing residents who had sought refuge there.
The rest of the building remained intact, more or less, at least at first glance.
In mid-April, Khomenko, 35, returned to Borodyanka and went to his apartment to clean up the mess, repair damage from the shock wave, and cover the windows. Rapping at the wall to demonstrate its woeful state, he said did not plan to live there.
For long weeks after the Russian retreat, Borodyanka was isolated. Power had been knocked out by the attacks, and not a single shop or restaurant was open. The town's humanitarian headquarters and other volunteer initiatives were the only sources of food, clothing, hygiene items, and other basic necessities.
Transport links to Kyiv and other areas were not operating, and they are still limited.
In the middle of spring, with temperatures still cold, residents who had stayed or returned warmed themselves with bonfires outside and cooked in the yards of their apartment blocks -- an improvement, all agreed, over cold basements where they hid from bombs and Russian soldiers.
On May 31, amid the damaged buildings on the main street, a café that had operated before the invasion opened its doors again. Like most everything in Borodyanka, it bears signs of the Russian onslaught: On a menu above the counter, the listings for flat white and other selections are dinged with shrapnel marks, and there are gouges in the walls, as well.
Returning after the Russians left, owner Vadym Morhun found almost nothing in the café: the stocks and the equipment -- except for the refrigerator, perhaps too bulky to carry away -- had been stolen. Gone, too, is the sense of stability, he said, explaining that he and he café managers have stopped planning too far in advance and just try to ensure they have what they need for the week ahead.
Morhun estimates the losses that the war has incurred on Coffee Place #1, his chain of four cafés in the region that rings Kyiv, at about 1 million hryvnyas ($27,000). These days, he rotates equipment from one café to another to keep them operating.
In the changed circumstances, Morhun said, he wants to provide a space and contribute to a sense of normalcy in his country and community. Despite inflation, the chain tries to keep the pre-invasion prices in place, reasoning that many locals have no jobs and little money to spend.
Barista Viktoria Kostyuchenko, 22, who has returned to Borodyanka from a neighboring village where she sought refuge during the occupation, is among those fortunate enough to have both a job and a place to stay.
She and her boyfriend are living in a private home that is unscathed, unlike the apartment where she grew up and where her grandfather lived before the invasion, a five-story building that was destroyed in a bombardment on March 1.
Kostyuchenko's grandfather Ivan, 71, left the apartment just half an hour before the strike, going down to the basement and taking only a few documents, a notebook, and a jacket with him.
Now, there is just empty space where the apartment once was. After clearing bureaucratic hurdles, Kostyuchenko's family has managed to get official confirmation that it was destroyed, but they do not know what kind accommodation they will receive from the state or when they may receive it.
Kostyuchenko's grandfather is living in modular housing -- which acting two council chief Heorhiy Yerko said covers about 15 percent of demand -- while she and her boyfriend plan to stock up on firewood for the winter. They don't know what to expect.
Kostyuchenko has other fears, too. One is that Russia might attack again from the territory of Belarus, not far to the north. On July 28, Ukrainian authorities said several missiles were fired from Belarus, some of them hitting areas in the Kyiv and neighboring Chernihiv regions.
Another concern is that Borodyanka, a town that she loves and wants to stay in despite everything, will be abandoned.
"Now, everyone comes here," she said, referring to foreign officials and other visitors. "However, it's clear that other cities will also have to be rebuilt. In the background, Borodyanka could be forgotten."
Nearly four months after the Russian retreat, Borodyanka is less isolated than it was initially, but humanitarian aid is still crucial for the locals.
On a recent afternoon, Lyudmyla Boiko, a volunteer at Borodyanka's humanitarian headquarters, welcomed a woman and her small daughter who came to donate clothing for needier residents.
"Thank you, my dear. It's so great that you brought it," Boiko said, smiling at the girl.
Donated clothing is put in a room where visitors can come and take as much as they need.
With the support of businesses, NGOs, and international organizations, the headquarters provides meals and food for people to take home, as well as items such as mattresses, lamps, dishes, blankets -- and tarpaulins that will be crucial for shelter in damaged homes when the cold weather comes.
The volunteers come at 8:30 a.m. and leave "when the first star appears," Boiko said, a long day during which they encounter anger and complaints from visitors. It's something she attributes to stress, as well as gratitude.
Volunteers cannot always check whether the help they provide is used appropriately, but she recalled feeling touched when she passed by a home that the headquarters had provided with tarpaulin.
"Suddenly, I saw that the whole house was covered -- a two-story building where eight families are living," she said. "I almost cried."
The humanitarian headquarters has also started to send help to soldiers on the front lines -- now hundreds of kilometers to the east and south -- of a war whose end could be months or years away.
Meanwhile, despite Kostyuchenko's concerns that Borodyanka could be abandoned or left on the sidelines in rebuilding efforts, residents who fled are trickling back.
Serhiy Khomenko's wife and 3-year-old son remain abroad, though, and he is back in their old, damaged apartment.
The building is partially destroyed, but his apartment does have power and water. The gas is cut off, but the heat is electric, so he can count on that when winter comes.
What he can't count on is having confidence that Russia will not attack Borodyanka again. But he's not going anywhere.
"I have nowhere else to live," he said. "I am tired of running away."