When Halyna Vezhichanyan first attended Bucha’s psychological centre to try her hand at art therapy, everything she drew was in black and white.
She felt so low that she simply could not bring herself to pick up any of the colourful pencils offered to her.
Ms Vezhichanyan, 50, has not been the same since the war broke out last year.
After the Russians bombarded, occupied, terrorised and then eventually left Bucha, a town just outside Kyiv, she worked in the morgue’s information centre, spending every hour finding the relatives of Moscow’s victims.
Tears pricked at her eyes as she told The Telegraph how “painful it was watching a son recognise the face of his father, or the parents of a young girl who was raped many times and then killed by the Russians”.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “I didn’t know them personally but at that moment I felt like we were one big national family, so every death was upsetting.”
A few months ago Ms Vezhichanyan realised she might benefit from some help.
“I decided to use this therapy because I wasn’t stable after everything I had seen,” she said.
It was exactly a year ago that Ukrainian troops took back control of Bucha and Irpin after 33 days of Russian occupation, part of a failed attempt to seize Kyiv.
What they discovered there shocked the world: evidence of executions, rapes and torture. Bodies of civilians lay where they had fallen, beside their bicycles, in their cars, on the sides of roads, in yards, buildings and homes.
Ukraine puts the civilian death toll in the liberated Kyiv region at 1,137, including 461 killed in Bucha alone. International teams are currently investigating possible war crimes. Moscow denies everything.
On Friday, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, visited the town and said: “On the streets of Bucha, the world saw Russian evil.”
Leading a ceremony at which the Ukrainian flag was raised, he vowed: “Russian evil will collapse right here in Ukraine, and will never be able to rise again. Humanity will prevail.
“The battle for the foundation of the free world is taking place on Ukrainian land. We will definitely win.”
Throughout the day, events were held to commemorate the anniversary of the “de-occupation”.
In the morning Father Andriy, of the Church of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, led a memorial service at Bucha Cemetery where flowers were laid on the Ally of Heroes, a section of the cemetery dedicated to Ukraine’s soldiers.
Relatives of those who had perished gathered under the greying sky to hear his sermon, clutching yellow and blue flowers as prayers were read.
In the evening, hundreds of residents braved the rain to gather by Taras Shevchenko Square with candles and lanterns for a vigil to represent “memory and peace”.
Huddled under umbrellas, families and friends came together to observe a minute’s silence and pay their respects to the dead.
In the middle of the square an outline of a map of Ukraine had been made from the candles used by soldiers in the trenches.
Svetlana Haidai, 59, had come with a friend. She brought her own candle and cupped the flame as she spoke, protecting it from the rain and the wind.
“I came here because it still hurts,” she told The Telegraph.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she explained that while Bucha was no longer occupied, the war raged on elsewhere in the country.
“Our defenders are dying there,” she said. “It just hurts.”
For Ms Vezhichanyan, however, some semblance of peace is slowly returning. Now, after several months of art therapy sessions, she has finally found herself drawing in colour again.
She is not alone. Among the women who gather at the centre twice a week – so far no men have attended – their drawings are becoming brighter and more playful. The blank sheets of paper that they start each of the four-hour sessions will end in a kaleidoscope of colours.
From being told to express their inner child, to exploring “neurone drawing” by sketching circles to represent different aspects of their lives, there is a feeling among these women that what they are creating reflects their slowly improving mental health.
For Angela Rohozha, 55, a single mother who also cares for her elderly parents in Bucha, the classes have also been a lifeline.
While she is still coming to terms with the trauma of her home being “heavily shelled”, and then being without electricity and heating for months, she has steadily seen a change in her wellbeing.
“It helps to speak to people who have had the same experiences and to know I’m not alone,” she said. “I am gaining more confidence in myself and believing in people again.”
And just as the people of Bucha work on improving themselves, the city is also undergoing a massive regeneration project.
When Mr Zelensky visited on Friday, he walked down Vokzalna Street, which became famous after a column of Russian armoured vehicles were ambushed by Ukraine on February 27 last year.
The road was destroyed during the attack, leaving huge craters and burnt-out tanks and cars carpeting the street. Most of the houses close to the fighting were razed to the ground, while those that withstood the blasts were reduced to little more than shells of what they had been.
Accompanied by children waving hand-held Ukrainian flags and sharing sweets with each other, he surveyed how the street is now slowly being rebuilt with local money and international donations.
“As a lot of houses were destroyed and damaged it was decided that this large project of building and recovery would take place,” Anatolii Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, told The Telegraph.
So far, in less than six months, 14 houses have been built from scratch, while a further 87 have been renovated. On top of that, there is a school that requires renovation and work will need to be done on high rises that were damaged elsewhere in the city.
“At first residents were reluctant to rebuild,” Mr Fedoruk said. “After what they had survived, they didn’t want anything to be touched, they were psychologically closed off.”
But that has changed and now every day sees construction workers drive to Vokzalna Street to continue rebuilding it.
Fresh bricks have been laid on the pavements, new telephone lines and streetlights have been erected, the road is being tarmacked and diggers rolling up and down the street are a constant fixture.
For Mr Fedoruk, it is seeing the earth that has been dug up either side of the street in preparation for maple and linden trees to be planted that fills him with the greatest sense of satisfaction.
“The trees are a sign of rebirth,” he said. “Ukraine is being born again.”
Among those keenly watching the Vokzalna Street rebuilding process is Tetyana.
On days when the weather is nice, she takes her daughter, Ana, to visit her father as he works to put their home back together again.
They fled two days before the invasion, but the rest of her husband’s family stayed behind. Her brother-in-law was killed during the occupation.
As the Russians retreated, they threw grenades into the house, leaving it in ruins, all the more painful for Tetyana’s husband because it had been in his family for generations.
However, after months of hard work, the property is taking shape again and the family will be able to move back home in the near future.
Tetyana described seeing her home being repaired as “a surprise, an unexpected good”.
“It is a very important home for us because my husband’s family lived here and my daughter grew up here,” she said.
“Seeing my husband rebuilding our home gives me hope for the future.”
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