As the BBC's Anna Foster reports, most people are yet to return, and there's just one small, hardy group who are trying to pave the way for others to come back.
Sergei and his wife arrived at their flat five days ago. Now they and their neighbours are trying to rebuild their damaged homes, and clearing away the debris of countless Russian shells.
"You always want to come back home", he says. "So we used our first chance to return as well. And we used our chance to make sure that all the property is safe, even from locals that might come and steal something."
But making these towns safe again will be a huge job.