© 2021
background_fid.jpg
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

10 months of war in Ukraine

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

As we look forward to the new year, we also wanted to take a look back on one of the biggest stories of 2022. For the last 10 months, Ukraine has been under near-constant bombardment from its Russian neighbor. Just today, several explosions hit the capital, Kyiv, leaving one dead and wounding 20 others. And this is just a couple of days after Russia carried out one of its largest airstrikes since the start of the war.

I first went to Ukraine in March. In the months I spent reporting from there this year, I focused on women and families and the impact the war has had on them, their choices, their future and themselves. For the next few minutes, we're going to revisit some of their stories. First, to a college dorm in Lviv that was housing internally displaced families. There I met a mother who had escaped with her children from the city of Rubizhne in the Luhansk region, still living and reliving the devastations they'd seen.

OLHA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I'm left without a city, without a home," she told us. When she fled, she saw bodies on the street. Her children were traumatized. But many people there are still trapped.

OLHA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: She says even here in safety, her children are still having trouble sleeping, and they wake up screaming in the night, saying, please don't shoot.

OLHA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: People who are still in the East who are thinking of evacuating, Olha says to them, do not wait. But not everyone can evacuate. Often the ones left behind are elderly because they're too old or too ill to make the journey. I met Nadya Yermakovich (ph), who was about to turn 90. She was bedridden in a high-rise apartment in Kyiv. Her son stayed behind to care for her.

NADYA YERMAKOVICH: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Whenever they hear explosions, she tells her son to go down to the shelter.

YERMAKOVICH: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: But he tells her, I'm not going anywhere without you. We will be together. Maybe if she hadn't fallen down or been so ill, they would have left Kyiv. But it's too hard now.

YERMAKOVICH: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "Even though my life isn't great," she says, "I don't want to die." For so many women, life went on despite the war. In the first months, 15,000 babies were born in Ukraine. I met Alina (ph) and her husband Marco (ph) at a maternity hospital in Kyiv.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I want to give birth right now. Right now," she says.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Alina and her husband escaped from Bucha, where so much devastation happened.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I'm grateful to God that we were able to flee," she says.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "It's been really hard," she says, her eyes welling up with tears. A few days after I met them, she gave birth to a healthy baby, Diana (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY COOING)

NADWORNY: It doesn't take a long time for a war to change you in big and small ways. Margaret Rivchachenko (ph) was among the thousands of women who joined the territory defenses, the volunteer armed forces.

MARGARET RIVCHACHENKO: I think that medics is more necessary than economic journalist or press secretary or deputy.

NADWORNY: In April, she told me about a moment a week or so after the war started.

RIVCHACHENKO: I saw in the mirror myself, but it's not me. And I realized that everything has changed. My body has changed. My thought has changed.

NADWORNY: You said your thoughts have changed. What do you mean?

RIVCHACHENKO: I was a pacifist before the 24 of February, but now I am not a pacifist. No.

NADWORNY: As the months wore on and summer arrived, people who could started returning back home, while those who had stayed wondered if they'd made the right decision, like Svetlana Sheremet (ph).

SVETLANA SHEREMET: All of the decisions you made impact on your children. Many our friends left the country and every call, why are you still there? You have three children. What are you thinking? You have to go out.

NADWORNY: She and her husband have three children and live in Dnipro, a city in the eastern part of Ukraine. I met them in September when the family was debating whether to stay in the country with the new school year starting. Vera (ph), their daughter, who is 10 years old and doing her classes online, has big ideas when it comes to her education.

SHEREMET: Even Vera, she's dreaming about England or U.S. for education. I am deciding, but who knows what will be tomorrow?

NADWORNY: Ultimately, the Sheremets feel it's their patriotic duty to stay in Ukraine.

SHEREMET: It could be more - maybe more peaceful if we go to other countries. I'm thinking about it. But I think if we can stay here and help, we could fight for our country by working, pay our taxes here, by helping our armed forces, like, by raising our children here.

NADWORNY: And now as winter sets in, the newest challenge facing those who stay is the cold. In the eastern city of Slovyansk, I met Larisa, who is 76 and in poor health. She's unable to leave her fourth-floor apartment, let alone Ukraine. And the cold, it frightens her more than the explosions.

LARISA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "It'll be very cold," she says. There's an evacuation order for Slovyansk because there isn't heat. But Larisa says she can't leave.

LARISA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "This apartment is everything I have," she says. She points to an electric heater at her feet.

LARISA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "It warms a little," she says.

LARISA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "And I'll wear my sweaters, and I'll wear my fur coat." And she's not alone. Many Ukrainians are hunkering down for winter despite the high possibility of being without electricity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.