NOVOSVITLIVKA, Ukraine — On one of the last warm days of autumn, Father Vladimir shed his priest's robes and scaled a rickety wooden ladder to replace the shattered windows on the once-golden cupola of his village church.
From there he could hear a cacophony of hammering, scraping of shovels and the clattering of rubble against tin — the sounds of a village trying to pull itself back together.
For more than two months after a week of heated combat between Ukraine's army and rebel separatists, Novosvitlivka residents have lived without light, gas, water and now, with cold weather settling in, heat.
The village is one of the worst damaged in a constellation of towns and cities throughout separatist-held Ukraine that have begun, haltingly, the process of rebuilding since the signing of a cease-fire on Sept. 5.
Even bigger cities like nearby Luhansk still have not fully restored basic services. There is little money available for major projects and almost no help or direction from the authorities — neither from those in Kiev nor from the rebels who have held sway here since the spring and want to establish their rule over the region.
On Sunday, the people of the rebel-held Luhansk and Donetsk regions will be asked to vote in local elections, which the Ukrainian government says are illegal, to elect a new government that Russia has promised to recognize. What remains to be seen is whether the Russian-backed rump state that is likely to emerge will be able to govern and restore a region torn by war.
It is not clear where the regions will get the money to rebuild. In the absence of a basic agreement on the degree of autonomy the eastern governments will exercise, Kiev has cut off pension payments and is withholding funds for reconstruction. Russia has shown little interest in underwriting the area, since it remains a part of Ukraine.