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The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected opportunities, even in rural areas, for the countries of South-East Europe struggling with population decrease, according to this UNFPA brief. This brief explores stories of return and aims to understand what it takes to design smart public policies to render regions outside of big cities vibrant again.  It touches upon the basic questions that need to be adequately addressed, such as the reasons why many rural areas have been subject to depopulation in the first place. It also includes the perspective of younger generations who do not see the appeal of the countryside, and it identifies various models that could be replicated in making depopulated rural areas more resilient and vibrant.