On ‘The Daily’: Looking Back on the War in Ukraine

Our co-host Sabrina Tavernise went to Ukraine last year to cover the war. In the episodes below, listen to Ukrainians process their experiences in raw, unfiltered ways.

Volunteer fighters waited to be deployed throughout Kyiv in February.
Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The night Russia invaded Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022, Sabrina Tavernise was in a hotel room in Kyiv. She had been a full-time co-host of “The Daily” for only a month. But she had spent much of her 25 years as a journalist reporting on the subjects that were coming together in front of her: Russia and its place in the world, and war.

“The Daily” produced over 44 episodes covering this war. It helped listeners not only understand the war but also feel it, by bringing them directly into the wrenching events that Ukrainians themselves were experiencing: the bombings of streets and homes, the crowding of blood banks, hospitals and train stations.

Tavernise, whose first conflict as a reporter was President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Chechnya in 2000, said of covering this news as an audio journalist: “It was as if I’d spent my whole career in black and white and audio suddenly made everything Technicolor. The little girl brushing her teeth in the kindergarten. The shock in the voice of the mother in the train station. These things had such emotional force that once I heard it, I could absolutely not believe I had ever covered conflict without it.”

Listen to a collection of five episodes below, and read the transcripts by clicking on the icon to the right of the audio player.

The Russian Invasion Begins

In the hours before the assault and during the attack itself, we heard from our correspondents in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Slovyansk, and in Moscow. Released on February 24, 2022.
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The Russian Invasion Begins

In the hours before the assault and during the attack itself, we heard from our correspondents in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Slovyansk, and in Moscow. Released on February 24, 2022.

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.

sabrina tavernise

This is Sabrina Tavernise. I’m in Kyiv, Ukraine, and it’s about 11:20 at night. About an hour ago, we got information from some colleagues that there will likely be an attack tonight in Kyiv and in a number of other cities in Ukraine.

We’re gathering all of our stuff together. I’m looking at an empty bag that I’m about to put a bunch of stuff in — a bunch of bottles of water, a little contraption that powers a computer off of a car battery, head lamp, a bunch of extra power supplies.

And the plan is to go into the bathrooms of this hotel. If there is a bombing, they are the furthest internal and away from the windows in the hotel, and there are big deep closets in front of them that are also protective.

Looking out the window at this beautiful city, it just started to rain, kind of misty. Really hard to imagine that there could be major damage in this city of millions of people.

I’m feeling nervous, and my adrenaline starts going, which means the way I focus and remember what I’m seeing and witness is to write down notes in my notebook with time stamps.

So here’s the first one. It’s 11:28 in Kyiv, and I’m putting all my gear into an empty bag.

[music]

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. The Russian assault on Ukraine has begun. Today: My colleagues in Kyiv, Slovyansk, and Moscow documented the hours leading up to the military operation and the attack itself. It’s Thursday, February 24.

[THEME MUSIC]

anton troianovski

This is Anton Troianovski, Moscow bureau chief of The New York Times. It’s 3:20 a.m. Moscow time, on Thursday, February 24th. We’re all wondering, could this be it? Could this be the night?

About 3 and 1/2 hours ago, the Kremlin put out a statement saying that the Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine had asked the Kremlin for military help. But this feels like that type of moment that we’ve been waiting for a pretext for an invasion. And yeah, so it’s such an unsettling feeling.

Walking through my neighborhood in central Moscow tonight, it looked totally normal. Everyone was just going about their business. The restaurants were full. And to think we could be on the verge of a horrific war is still I think not something that people can imagine. So for now, I’m staying up. All my colleagues in Ukraine are staying up, and we just have to wait.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 1:51 a.m. in Kyiv, Ukraine. This country’s president just gave a live address to his own nation and to the nation of Russia.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

In the beginning, he says that he called President Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation, and he said, quote, “The result was silence.”

And then he said, “As a result, I want to address all of the citizens of Russia. I am speaking to you not as a president. I speak to you as a citizen of Ukraine. We are separated by more than 2,000 kilometers of mutual borders, along which 200,000 of your soldiers and 1,000 armored vehicles are standing. Your leadership has approved their step forward into the territory of another country. This step — this step could be the beginning of a big war on the European continent.”

[music]

It was really a striking speech in which he essentially appealed to Russians to their sense of conscience, and told them that what they were getting on their televisions was a completely different version of the country he knew as Ukraine. He said —

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

“You were told we are Nazis. But how can a people support Nazis that gave more than eight million lives for the victory over Nazism?”

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

“You were told we hate Russian culture. How can one hate a culture, any culture? Neighbors always enrich each other culturally. However, that does not make them a single whole. It doesn’t dissolve us into you. We are different, but that’s not a reason to be enemies.”

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

“Note, I’m speaking to you now in the Russian language, but no one in Russia understands what I’m talking about.”

[music]

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

“Many of you have been in Ukraine. Many of you have relatives in Ukraine. Some studied in Ukrainian universities. You know Ukraine. Listen to yourselves. Listen to the voice of reason. The people of Ukraine want peace. The authorities in Ukraine want peace. They want it, and they are doing everything they can for it.

We don’t need war. But if we are attacked, if someone attempts to take away our land, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. We won’t attack but defend ourselves. By attacking, you’ll see our faces, not our backs. Our faces.”

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

“I know this speech of mine won’t be shown on Russian TV. But the people of Russia need to see it. They need to know the truth. The truth is that this must be stopped before it is too late.

And if the leadership of Russia does not want to sit down at a table for peace with us, then maybe it will sit down at a table with you. Do Russians want war? I would very much like the answer to this question. But the answer depends only on you, the citizens of the Russian Federation.”

anton troianovski

So an hour or two after the Kremlin made that announcement about the separatists, another remarkable thing happened, which is that President Zelensky of Ukraine released a speech, a video address, in the Russian language to Russians.

And it was really something to watch, really felt like a last ditch appeal for peace — Zelensky telling Russians that they are the only ones who can stop this horrific bout of violence from breaking out that Zelensky said could kill tens of thousands of people. But of course, the fact is they can’t really influence it. They can’t really influence anything in this country. It’s a country run by President Putin.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 3:28 a.m.

The hotel is quiet.

I’m going to open the window.

The rain stopped. The lights in the city are still on.

I’m going to get some sleep.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

[music]

archived recording (vladimir putin)

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

[music]

anton troianovski

It’s 6:20 a.m. in Moscow. Just a few minutes ago, Putin went on national television in the middle of the night to essentially all but declare war against Ukraine. He said he had ordered a special military operation to, quote, “demilitarize and de-nazify the country.” He said he wanted to bring Ukrainian officials whom the Russians call neo-Nazis to justice.

It’s something, obviously, I’m still processing. He called on Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms, and he threatened that any other countries who tried to interfere would face consequences, quote unquote, “unlike they’ve never seen before in their history.”

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 5:09 a.m. I just heard an alert on my phone, and it sounds like it’s started. There’s a strange green light directly out of my window. I can see it on this horizon. I can’t hear anything here in Kyiv.

I’m seeing my colleagues send little recordings —

michael schwartz

This is Michael Schwartz.

sabrina tavernise

— saying it’s begun.

michael schwartz

I’m a reporter with The New York Times reporting from Slovyansk. I was just woken up by two very large booms. It seems like the neighboring city of Kramatorsk has come under some kind of fire. Still waiting to confirm this.

sabrina tavernise

It looks like —

michael schwartz

Other reports saw —

sabrina tavernise

— explosions.

michael schwartz

— rocket or artillery attacks right now in Kyiv, the outskirts of Kyiv, and —

sabrina tavernise

Kharkiv.

michael schwartz

— Kharkiv, which is a large city a little ways to the north of me.

sabrina tavernise

I’m seeing other reports, several major cities.

michael schwartz

— what’s happening, but there was definitely some kind of artillery or rocket attack on the city of Kramatorsk this morning about 10 or 15 minutes from where I am right now. There are reporters from the BBC in the city who confirmed that there was some kind of attack. There are other reports of —

sabrina tavernise

Oh my God. This is actually happening.

[music]

There’s a very loud explosion just now, 5:37 a.m. The same spot over the horizon, it’s glowing red.

I’m watching reports from other cities. Here’s one from Mariupol by a journalist —

speaker

— very loud explosions over the city of Mariupol.

sabrina tavernise

It’s a city on the southern coast, really close to Russia. There’s just no way that Ukraine can fight this off. Russia’s military is overwhelmingly stronger. It’s just like they’re coming in and attacking. And I’m just not sure how long Ukraine will be able to hold this off, if at all.

It’s 7:07 a.m., and sirens are going off around Kyiv, what sounds like air raid sirens.

There’s some smoke coming from the horizon.

There are reports of huge traffic snarls leaving the city going to Zhytomyr, headed West toward Poland.

Looks like buses are still running. There are growing signs that people are trying to leave the city.

[sounds of the city]

sabrina tavernise

My name is Sabrina. What’s your name?

alex

Alex.

sabrina tavernise

Alex, nice to meet you, Alex. Where are you going today?

alex

Home.

sabrina tavernise

Where’s home?

alex

Rivne region.

sabrina tavernise

Where is that in Ukraine?

alex

It’s a western part of Ukraine.

sabrina tavernise

And you’re waiting for a bus here?

alex

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

Alex is sitting on a black bag and a very cloudy day.

[SOUNDS OF THE CITY]

A jet going overhead, it’s very loud.

How are you feeling this morning, Alex?

alex

Horrible.

sabrina tavernise

Tell me about that.

alex

Our people, our military is now dying in Luhansk and Donetsk region, and that’s horrible. Belarus, same thing. The tanks from Belarus started to attack us. So I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.

sabrina tavernise

How old are you, Alex?

alex

18.

sabrina tavernise

Will you come back to Kyiv, do you think, to help for —

alex

If it will be Russian, no.

sabrina tavernise

“If it will be Russian,” meaning — oh, if Kyiv will be Russian, you won’t come back, you mean?

alex

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

Do you think that Kyiv will be Russian?

alex

Maybe by the evening, I think the half of Ukraine will be Russian.

sabrina tavernise

How are you feeling right now?

alex

I don’t know what to say.

sabrina tavernise

I’m sorry, Alex.

alex

No words. Thank you.

sabrina tavernise

Good luck, Alex.

alex

Good luck to you.

[music]

michael barbaro

As of Thursday morning, the Ukrainian government said that more than 40 Ukrainian soldiers had died and that dozens had been wounded. Russia’s defense ministry said it had disabled all of Ukraine’s air defenses and air bases. But despite being severely outnumbered, Ukrainian forces continued to resist, telling the Times they had shot down six Russian fighter jets and a helicopter, and had held back Russian forces from two key cities.

Meanwhile, both the United Nations and the United States condemned Russia in the strongest possible terms. In a statement, President Biden said, quote, “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.” He added, “The world will hold Russia accountable.”

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today. On Wednesday, Los Angeles County dropped the requirement that its 10 million residents wear masks indoors as long as they can show proof of vaccination. It was the latest major jurisdiction to lift Covid restrictions as infections plunge. The number of new cases in the U.S. has fallen 66% in the past two weeks.

And on Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service said it would purchase up to 148,000 gas-powered delivery trucks over the objections of the White House, which had encouraged it to invest in green technology.

The decision undercuts the climate goals of the Biden administration, which has pledged to transition the federal government’s fleet of cars to electric vehicles. The Postal Service said it lacked the time and money to purchase tens of thousands of electric cars, a claim that the White House has disputed.

Today’s episode was produced by Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Sydney Harper. It was edited by Lisa Chow and Larissa Anderson, contains original music by Marion Lozano and Dan Powell, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

[music]

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

Ukrainians’ Choice: Fight or Flee?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the biggest in Europe since World War II. Ukrainians came to terms with the fact that the unthinkable had happened. We explored the significance and spoke to Ukrainians on the ground. Released on February 25, 2022.
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Ukrainians’ Choice: Fight or Flee?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the biggest in Europe since World War II. Ukrainians came to terms with the fact that the unthinkable had happened. We explored the significance and spoke to Ukrainians on the ground. Released on February 25, 2022.

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.

sabrina tavernise

This is Sabrina Tavernise. It’s 9:15. And we just got to the railway station. And there’s a huge crowd of people standing outside. Oh, my god. Hundreds of people standing outside the railway station.

So young man in a black coat carrying a cat carrier with a cat in it. Elderly woman carrying a large red bag, struggling down the stairs.

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

tatiana

Tatiana.

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Tatiana [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Sabrina.

tatiana

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

tatiana

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 9:30 in the morning in Central Kyiv. I’m at the bus station. And it’s absolutely packed, long lines of people trying to pack onto buses. Just overheard a young man saying there are no tickets, there no tickets, I don’t know what to do.

[music]

I’m walking up to a large white bus, two large white buses. People are arguing over who gets to get on.

[interposing voices]

speaker 1

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 2

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 3

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[interposing voices]

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 1

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 3

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

The driver is saying, let’s do it without chaos, let’s do it without chaos.

speaker 3

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Calm down. Calm down.

speaker 3

Yeah. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 1

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

People are scrambling to leave and are in shock.

[music]

Hi. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] I’m a journalist from The New York Times. Can I ask you a question?

speaker 4

Yes. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Are you trying to leave Kyiv? What are you—

speaker 4

Yes. We are trying to reach Lviv and then Poland.

sabrina tavernise

And then Poland.

speaker 4

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

How are you feeling right now?

speaker 4

Maybe a little afraid.

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 4

Afraid of Russian—

sabrina tavernise

Yes. Yes.

speaker 4

It was too much unexpected to hear the explosions near the houses.

sabrina tavernise

Yes. Yeah.

speaker 4

We afraid.

sabrina tavernise

Yeah. What time did you guys wake up this morning to hear it?

speaker 5

We didn’t sleep. All night I didn’t sleep.

sabrina tavernise

Do you guys have a plan for Poland? Do you have a plan to the other side?

speaker 4

We expect to buy tickets to Turkey to Antalya, and live here there in Vilnius. So we wait for the end of war, and then come back.

sabrina tavernise

Just wait it out.

speaker 4

Yes. I want you to stay here, but my friends want to leave. So I think that it’s correct to go together.

sabrina tavernise

Thanks for talking to me guys.

speaker 4

Yes.

speaker 5

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Good luck.

speaker 5

Thank you.

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

dimitri

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Sabrina [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

dimitri

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

This is Dimitri. He’s looking at a bus going to Lviv that is absolutely packed. His bus is supposed to leave at 9:00. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

dimitri

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I called my friends all around Ukraine yesterday, and everybody was intending on fighting.

dimitri

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I myself am taking my family to the village outside Lviv, and then coming back and signing up immediately for military service.

dimitri

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[music]

I think if there’s one sound of Kyiv this morning so far, just after 10 o’clock in the morning, it’s the sound of wheelie bags being dragged over cobblestones and pavement.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

As Russia’s full-scale assault on Ukraine enters its second day, the people of Ukraine are starting to come to terms with the reality that the unthinkable has actually happened.

Today, my colleague Anton Troianovski explains the significance of this moment. And Sabrina Tavernise, Lynsea Garrison, and Michael Schwirtz speak to Ukrainians about the agonizing decisions that they now must make.

[music]

It’s Friday, February 25.

Anton, we are talking to you on Thursday night in Moscow. We are coming to the end of day one of this invasion. Help us wrap our heads around what’s happening and the significance of what we’re all witnessing. Because even if we’ve been hearing warnings about this for weeks, it’s hard to believe that we’re now experiencing a full scale attack on Ukraine by Russia.

anton troianovski

Yeah. It is really hard to believe. It’s the biggest attack of one nation on another nation in Europe since World War II. It is really kind of the worst case scenario of all those scenarios of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine that have been discussed. It’s something that I’ve spent just about every day writing about this crisis for the last two months or so. And honestly, even until yesterday I didn’t think that this could actually happen.

It’s Europe’s most powerful military, bearing, basically, its entire firepower, much of its firepower against the neighboring country. So since about 5:00 AM, we have seen cruise missile, ballistic missile strikes against infrastructure targets, military targets in Ukraine. Then during the day, today, we started seeing footage coming in of helicopter assaults, of paratroopers landing, of tanks rolling across the border.

And this is happening from 3 sides, from the North, Belarus, from the East, Russia, from the South, from the Black Sea in Crimea. It started, what, like 18 hours ago or so, and it’s still very hard to just wrap our heads around the magnitude of what’s happening.

michael barbaro

And what do we understand to be the end goal here at this point?

anton troianovski

Well, Putin laid it out quite clearly in his early morning speech. He said, our goal is to demilitarize and de-Nazify, in his words, Ukraine.

michael barbaro

And just explain that because—

anton troianovski

Yeah.

michael barbaro

De-nazification is not a familiar phrase in 2022.

anton troianovski

Exactly. And I mean, I will say, until recently, it hasn’t been a familiar phrase in Russia either. But the Kremlin in their propaganda they consider the democratically elected government of Ukraine a Nazi regime. They claim falsely that it has perpetrated a genocide on Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine. And so Putin is trying to claim the moral high ground here.

He is saying he’s going in to remove this evil regime. And what that means is this is a full scale military assault to topple the government, most likely, of another country. This is just a massive undertaking that we’re only seeing the beginnings of.

michael barbaro

So we’re talking about a sovereign nation in Europe being attacked by another European nation. And its democratically elected leadership being, by what you just described, deposed. And these are developments that are unheard of in modern Europe. So how should we think about that?

anton troianovski

Yeah. I think it’s really the end of a certain post-Cold War order in Europe. It’s the end of 30 years of Russia trying to find a place in that kind of Western led order. It’s the end of 20 years of Putin trying to use diplomacy as well as his kind of hybrid warfare tactics to try to further his interests in Europe. That’s all gone now.

We’re in a new reality now, where Russia is showing it is prepared to fight a large land war in Europe to achieve what it describes to be its aims. It’s just a totally different world that we’re in now.

michael barbaro

Well, so let’s talk about the consequences of that for all involved.

anton troianovski

Yeah. I mean, I would break it up into a few different parts, the consequences for Ukraine, for Russia, for Europe, and the U.S., and the rest of the world. So starting with Ukraine. This is just the beginning, I fear. If this continues, if this continues the way we think it’s going to, to Putin pursuing regime change, it could get much more bloody. So we don’t know yet what happens to the cities.

There is a fight for territory going on in Eastern Ukraine, where those separatist regions are. But the big question is, will they go into Kyiv?

michael barbaro

Right.

anton troianovski

Very scarily, it looks like they may well.

michael barbaro

OK. So what about Russia, where you are based? What are the consequences you are seeing and expecting there?

anton troianovski

Well, so people are expecting a new crackdown on civil liberties, on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, even on business. The reason being that whenever we’ve had crackdowns here in Russia, the justification has always been that the Kremlin is hunting down internal enemies, who are serving some kind of foreign agenda to destabilize the country. So that’s certainly one thing to watch over the coming days and weeks is how much of an additional crackdown is there.

protesters

[CHANTING]

anton troianovski

Tonight, we had pretty significant anti-war protests—

protesters

[CHANTING]

anton troianovski

—in Moscow, and St. Petersburg, and in a number of cities in Siberia all told several thousand people were in the streets and there were more than 1,500 arrests. So—

michael barbaro

Wow.

anton troianovski

—one thing that’s very important to point out is, there has been next to no outpouring of support for this. And there is a lot of anger, disbelief, fear to see your country inflicting so much suffering on a neighboring country is awful, and this narrative for why it was necessary to do it. It really does fall apart quite quickly upon inspection. Why— How does Ukraine actually threaten Russia?

Can it really be true that the Ukrainians were planning an invasion of these pro-Russian separatist areas in the East just as 150,000 plus troops were surrounding Ukraine on three sides? There’s just so much in the Kremlin propaganda narrative that doesn’t hold up, that I think a lot of people aren’t buying that story.

michael barbaro

OK. Finally, let’s talk about the consequences for the United States and for the rest of the world.

anton troianovski

So President Biden and the E.U. announced major sanctions today against Russia. And Russia has promised to respond potentially asymmetrically. So we might not see sanctions by Russia against the U.S., but we might see Russia take other actions that could cause harm and pain in the U.S. And they’re— We can really only speculate what that would be. Some folks are talking about the potential for cyber attacks here in Moscow.

There’s been a lot of talk that Russia could base missiles or other military assets in Latin America, to more directly threaten the United States. Russia, obviously, is one of the world’s biggest energy suppliers, especially to Europe. If it were to turn that spigot, that could cause incredible problems for Europeans. So there is so much uncertainty here still, not just in Ukraine, not just in Russia, but really about how this crisis plays out and what it means for the rest of the world.

michael barbaro

And Anton, as you’re preparing to sign-off for the night, I want to return to Ukraine and where this situation leaves its people at this moment.

anton troianovski

I mean, it’s a horrible situation. These are people who— I think there was so little expectation that Russia could actually go ahead with this kind of invasion. And now they are making choices they would never thought they would have to make. Do they stay in Kyiv? Do they try to flee West? Do they try to get out of the country? Do you sleep in the basement? It’s really an unimaginable situation for millions and millions of people right now.

[music]

michael barbaro

Well, Anton, thank you. We’ll talk again soon. Stay safe.

anton troianovski

Thank you.

[music]

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

[music]

All day yesterday, my colleagues in Ukraine and back in the U.S. we’re speaking with Ukrainians around the country about their experiences of the past 24 hours.

denis surkov

Hello.

lynsea garrison

Hi. How are you?

denis surkov

Hi, Lynsey.

Not good.

lynsea garrison

Not good.

denis surkov

It’s not the same.

michael barbaro

Lynsea Garrison got on the phone with Denis Surkov, who lives in a city called Dnipro in Eastern Ukraine.

denis surkov

I am doctor, Chief of Dnipro Regional Children’s Hospital.

lynsea garrison

You’re a doctor at Dnipro Regional Children’s Hospital.

denis surkov

Yep.

lynsea garrison

OK.

denis surkov

And I am Chief of NICU and I.C.U.

lynsea garrison

Chief of NICU?

denis surkov

Exactly.

lynsea garrison

Got it. Can you just tell me a little bit about what the past 24 hours have been like for you?

denis surkov

So in the morning, we wake up and we have heard, first, rocket explosions near Dnipro Airport. So I was in my hospital. We were nervous. We were confused. Everybody was near their laptops or iPhones.

lynsea garrison

Yeah.

denis surkov

And checked the news. And the news were and are dramatic.

lynsea garrison

Dramatic.

How were you understanding this? Did you think that this would happen?

denis surkov

Honestly, no. We were expected for the beginning of the attack, but we didn’t know that it could be so, so fast, so right now.

And now, the borders between Ukrainian regions are closed. We had some possibilities and some efforts to go last week.

lynsea garrison

OK.

denis surkov

I can’t explain, but something stopped us. We hoped that finally everything will resolve. But now, honestly, I don’t know exactly what to do.

lynsea garrison

What do you think stopped you?

denis surkov

My family didn’t want to leave Ukraine because we love Ukraine, and we wanted to live here happy and in peace, and so on. So I said, OK, maybe everything will be not so bad. Let’s wait. So my main question for myself is, if I made a very, very big mistake not to move from Ukraine when I had an opportunity to do this.

lynsea garrison

That’s a heavy question.

denis surkov

Yes.

If there was a big mistake or not so big, and I have no answer. I can ask you, do you want to wake up in the morning and understand you should go forever, not for one day, not for two days, forever? Can you make such a decision in— I don’t know, in 10 minutes? My question to you.

lynsea garrison

Yeah.

denis surkov

To bring just a bit of water, just a bit of food, single cloth, documents, money, and go outside your home forever, can you make such a decision?

Just imagine.

lynsea garrison

Yeah.

denis surkov

So this was my family feeling last week. Even though yesterday in the evening, I told to my wife that this is the last calm day we can evacuate. In the morning, we realized that war came to Ukraine, not conflict, not disturbs, war, conventional war.

lynsea garrison

What are your children asking you? Like, how are you talking about this with them?

denis surkov

I say to my children, everything will be OK, your father will care about you.

lynsea garrison

How old are they?

denis surkov

My elder daughter is 30 and she lives abroad. And my younger daughter, she is 14. She’s with me.

lynsea garrison

How is she doing?

denis surkov

She believed me.

lynsea garrison

That you’ll protect her? And how does that make you feel that she believes you?

denis surkov

I will do all I can to protect her.

I don’t know exactly what, but I will do everything, everything can.

lynsea garrison

Are you worried it won’t be enough?

denis surkov

I am worried.

Everything could be changed, I don’t know, next few hours or even next few maybe minutes.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 3 o’clock and I’m getting out of the gas station.

So I’m looking at this line, I’d say it’s maybe 30-40 cars long.

speaker 7

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 8

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 7

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Everybody is limited now. You can only get 20 liters of gas.

speaker 7

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 9

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I’m walking up to an ambulance that’s waiting in line for gas. The ambulance is being ushered ahead. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 7

Ya.

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 7

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

The man who’s managing here says he’s too busy. He’s running, trying to usher the ambulance to the front of the line. I’m going to talk to another person. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Sabrina [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] The New York Times [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

varari

Varari.

sabrina tavernise

This is Varari. Varari, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I hear— I’m hearing on the radio now that they’re bombing us. I live in this area that they’re bombing.

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

No one believed it. No one believed that they would act toward us this way. We were brothers. We’re neighboring countries. We’re brothers. No one believed it.

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I feel— I have this feeling of nervousness, of anxiousness.

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I’m calling with my loved ones, my mother.

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

He said, she’s an elderly person, she doesn’t see very well, and she does not hear very well. So it’s very difficult for her, she’s not understanding what’s happening.

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

So, so far, I’m going to hunker down in place, but I’m getting as much gas as I can because I might need to make it to my mom’s.

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I bought some food.

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I got all my phones, passports, documents.

varari

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

I bought—

varari

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

—vermicelli bread, milk, and dill, and sour cream.

I’m going to talk to another person.

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

ura

Ura.

sabrina tavernise

Ura. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Ura. I’m taking to Ura, who’s getting some gas. He says he does not plan to leave.

ura

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I’m a little shocked—

ura

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

—that Russia attacked Ukraine. It’s so bad.

ura

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

We’re going to defend our country to the last drop of blood.

[music]

ura

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Tomorrow I’m going to sign up for a territorial defense force. And I’m going to defend my country.

ura

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 3:30 and we’re driving in Central Kyiv, and this is just a closed town right now.

The day is still very gray. The sky is very low. Feels sort of raw, and cold, and wet.

The air has a kind of bitter smell of ordinance. It’s the smell of the air after an air strike.

Someone carrying a gun and some body armor down the street. A very sweet little bakery, I’m going to come in.

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Yeah. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] The New York Times.

speaker 10

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Sabrina. Yeah. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] I’m saying I’m a journalist from The New York Times and I would like sweets, but also her opinion. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Today, there’s panic, people are panicking very strongly.

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

You can see that they’ve bought me a lot of bread.

So I’m doing a bit of panic buying myself, two large bags of cookies, three candy bars, 10 quiches, and a bunch of almond croissants.

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] I’m asking her if she plans to leave. No, I don’t plan to leave.

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I really don’t have a place to leave to.

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I’m here.

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I have my home here.

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

I think everything will be OK.

[MUSIC]

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Today is the hardest day. I think tomorrow might be easier.

[music]

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 10

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[music]

sabrina tavernise

OK. Back to the hotel.

Everything is closed now. It’s almost as if it was nighttime. A few cars are still going by, but almost no pedestrians. It’s very central. The street is just completely deserted.

[music]

It does feel ominous.

michael schwirtz

Day one of the war it’s been a very long day. The town I’m in, Slovyansk, kind of continued on as normal. There were bits of panic that could be evident. There were lines at the A.T.M.s. And people were stocking up on medications. But overall, the mood was pretty calm and collected, probably because these people have been through this before, the town came under heavy attack in 2014 when Ukrainian forces clashed with Russian backed rebels who had come in from the East.

And so when I’m walking around town, people are telling me that this is just part of their lives. Very few people I met around town today said that they had any intention of leaving even though rocket attacks hit an airport nearby and Russian forces were fighting with the Ukrainian military just a few dozen kilometers away.

lera alekseevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

lera alekseevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

I met a woman named Lera Alekseevna, who was in the courtyard near my hotel. Oh, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

lera alekseevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

And she had stuffed her pet hairless cat in her jacket and it was shivering.

lera alekseevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] And she was telling me how she was planning on going to work at a company that sells cash registers and bringing her animals with her, so that they wouldn’t have to be alone. So if she had to make a quick dash for it, she could be with her animals. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

lera alekseevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

But she said she had no intention of leaving, mostly out of fear that she would be forced to leave behind her pets. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

lera alekseevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

Outside a blood bank in Slovyansk, I met a young man named Bogdan Kravchenko,

[non-english singing]

who was just sitting in his car listening to the Ukrainian national anthem cranked up on high volume.

bogdan kravchenko

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] He had just gone and donated blood. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

bogdan kravchenko

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

And he said he wasn’t panicked, but he said that he was acting according to the situation and that things had only just begun.

bogdan kravchenko

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] I walked up to a base of the National Guard Unit here in Slovyansk. And out front there were a few couples, men dressed in drab green uniforms, and women— all of them were being sent off. The men, they were all being sent off somewhere. Some of them said they couldn’t tell me where they were being sent. Some of them admitted that they didn’t even know. I met one couple, Yelena and Eugenia.

Yelena had brought Eugenia, her husband, some clothes that he was going to take with him on his deployment wherever he was headed. Another couple just held each other for what seemed like 15, 20, 30 minutes, just held each other on the street in the sun ahead of whatever deployment this young man was being sent on.

speaker 11

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 12

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

You both [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 11

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 11

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 11

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] And then, I met Lyubov Vasilyevna, a 75-year-old pensioner, she was carrying a bag filled with newly purchased loaves of bread. And she said she had spent her last bit of cash on. And was waiting in line at an A.T.M., it would appear that there was no cash left.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

All she wanted, she said, was to live in peace in her native Donbass, which is what this Eastern region is called.

lyubov vasilavna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

And then, she paused and recited a poem that she said she wrote 2 years ago. It was supposed to be evocative, the piece that she was looking for.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

And I’ll read that poem that I translated from the Russian into English. I’m so looking forward to peace, but it is coming to us so slowly.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

We still have a little patience. Peace is close at hand, and we’re waiting for it to arrive without gunfire, without blood. Enough has been spilled in Donbass.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

Let the sun smile, and the sky brighten, and the children smile. Let it go in a black moment. There will be peace for all. And people will say, god hurt us.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

Let all stormy skies leave us.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Donbass [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

And hail Donbass and the city of Slovyansk.

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael schwirtz

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

lyubov vasilyevna

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 11:30 AM on Friday in Kyiv.

Last night, in the city there were a lot of airstrikes and it seems like they’re getting closer. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker 13

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[music]

The airstrikes are beginning again. You can hear the siren. We’re trying to decide whether to leave.

Our colleagues, a few of them drove out this morning because it’s really unclear what’s going to happen. Will there be a big fight with the Ukrainian military? Or will the Russians just come in? What will happen if they take the city? And it seems like that is imminent.

So we’re trying to make arrangements. Our hotel doesn’t have a generator, which means we would be out of power if the power gets cut off in the city, which is a pretty good chance.

Yeah. We’re trying to figure it out.

I guess, like a lot of people here, we’re trying to make that decision. Should we leave or should we stay?

michael barbaro

As of Friday afternoon in Kyiv, Ukrainian officials were bracing for an attack on the capital city as Russia’s military offenses pressed closer to the heart of the government.

volodymyr zelensky

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael barbaro

In a televised address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that at least 137 Ukrainians, military and civilians, had already been killed. And he called on Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russian forces, saying that nobody else would come to their rescue.

volodymyr zelensky

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

michael barbaro

Zelensky, who was unshaven and in a t-shirt said that he himself was now Russia’s number one target. Followed, he said, by his own family.

[music]

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

On Thursday, three former Minneapolis police officers were found guilty of federal crimes for failing to intervene as a fellow officer, Derek Chauvin, killed George Floyd by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes. The case is believed to be the first time that the federal government has charged police officers for inaction when a more senior officer was using excessive force.

Two of the officers were rookies at the time of Floyd’s death, but the jury rejected their defense that they had been trained to obey superior officers, like Chauvin, and to carry out orders without question.

Today’s episode was produced by Rob Szypko, Rachelle Bonja, Lynsea Garrison, Rachel Quester, Kaitlin Roberts and Clare Toeniskoetter. It was edited by Lisa Tobin and Lisa Chow. Contains original music by Dan Powell and Marion Lozano, and was engineered by Corey Schreppel. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landfurg of Wonderlake.

The Daily is made by Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Robert Jimison, Michael Benoist, Liz O’Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Kaitlin Roberts, Rachelle Bonjour, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Anita Badejo, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Chelsea Daniel, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens, Rowan Niemisto, Jody Becker, Rikki Novetsy, and John Ketchum.

Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Paula Szuchuman, Cliff Levy, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Sofia Milan, Des Ibekwe, Erica Futterman, Wendy Dorr, Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Jeffrey Miranda, Renan Borelli, Maddy Masiello, and Daniel Friedman. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you on Monday.

The Battle for Kyiv

Reporting from the Ukrainian capital as the once vibrant, bustling city turned into a war zone. Released on February 28, 2022.
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0:00/27:38
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transcript

The Battle for Kyiv

Reporting from the Ukrainian capital as the once vibrant, bustling city turned into a war zone. Released on February 28, 2022.

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.

sabrina tavernise

It’s 7:30 in the morning on Saturday in Kyiv. Last night, President Zelensky was standing outside the government building and — trying to reassure his people. He was standing with other government officials. He was holding the phone, was kind of shaky, and he said —

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Good evening.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The head of the fraction is here.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The head of the presidential office is here.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The prime minister is here.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

I’m here.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

— and points to each of the men standing behind him.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

And he’s telling people we’re here —

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

— we’re going to defend our country.

archived recording (volodymyr zelensky)

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

archived recording

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. Over the weekend, the battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces came to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, transforming a once vibrant, bustling city into a war zone. And the question was, would the Russian military quickly overrun the city, or would Ukrainians, despite being outgunned, somehow find a way to defend it? Once again, Sabrina Tavernise reports from Kyiv. It’s Monday, February 28th.

sabrina tavernise

It’s 10 a.m. in Kyiv. I’m walking out to the Main Street in front of the hotel. I just saw an ambulance go by.

Another ambulance go by. A fair number of cars on the street this morning.

We’re on our way to a blood bank and a recruiting center where people are getting guns and volunteering in civilian defense forces.

It was a really loud night. There was fighting as close as the zoo, which is kind of in the western part of the city, so Russian forces reached quite far, in fact, into Kyiv last night.

And it was — there was also small arms fire, which might have been kind of a saboteur group of Russian soldiers or fighters, not far from the hotel. I heard that one as well. Several times during the night, big explosions. And, yeah, we’re going to go out and check things out this morning. OK.

So I’m standing outside an office where people are signing up to do territorial defense work or receive weapons. The line is quite long. It’s sort of a courtyard. A lot of men milling around, holding rifles on their backs guarding the gate.

man 1

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The man says, where do we sign up? And this gentleman is sending them to a different building.

OK, I’m going to go try to talk to some people who have come to sign up.

Hello. Hi. My name is Sabrina. I’m a journalist from The New York Times. Can I talk to you?

andriy

Nice to meet you.

sabrina tavernise

Nice to meet you too.

andriy

My name is Andriy (sp).

sabrina tavernise

Hi, Andriy. Why are you here today?

andriy

Why am I here? OK. I’m living here, just in that area.

sabrina tavernise

Oh, right here.

andriy

Yeah, right there.

sabrina tavernise

This is where you live, this neighborhood.

andriy

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

What’s it called, Andriy, this neighborhood?

andriy

It’s Tartarka.

sabrina tavernise

Tartarka.

andriy

And I feel I need to protect my house, my home place. They think they get us free, but it’s lie. It’s completely lie because they want to destroy us. They’re quite stupid because for all of that time, for 30 years, they didn’t identify us as a nation, but it’s true. We are. [LAUGHS]

sabrina tavernise

They always said, oh, Ukraine is not a nation. But Ukraine is a nation.

andriy

Ukraine is. So they need to kill a lot of people to kill a nation, and it’s not possible. Just not possible.

sabrina tavernise

So we’re walking along the site of this really major firefight. There’s a Ukrainian position dug in over the railroad tracks, and there’s debris all over the street — pieces of branches, pieces of concrete. Looks like various glass, shrapnel.

Oh, wow. My god. Oh my god. Look at the truck. So a major, major firefight here.

Two trucks — look like two transport trucks —

speaker

Everything up there is burned too. That might be the tank.

sabrina tavernise

Very, very strong smell of burned maybe tires, rubber. Two completely burned out and just smoldering transport trucks. There’s kind of a slick, oily stain around one of them.

Right now, the Ukrainian soldiers picking through the wreckage of the two trucks. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven Ukrainian soldiers.

They’re putting what looks like munitions in small wooden boxes that they have salvaged from this firefight.

Andy, what time is it?

andy

It’s about 1.

sabrina tavernise

It’s about 1 p.m. in Kyiv on Saturday.

This is the sound of an Ukrainian soldier digging positions above the highway.

Hello.

alexander

Hello.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

alexander

Nice to meet you.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN] It’s nice to meet you. You’re digging a position here.

alexander

Yes. Yes.

sabrina tavernise

What’s your name?

alexander

Alexander.

sabrina tavernise

Alexander, nice to meet you. Why are you doing this?

alexander

Why?

sabrina tavernise

Yeah.

alexander

I don’t want die. And you know this problem in Ukraine. Yeah.

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

alexander

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

alexander

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] We don’t want to die.

alexander

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] And we understand that war is inescapable now, so we’re digging in positions.

alexander

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] The war, it’s not that it’s inescapable. It’s already started.

alexander

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] We have to protect all of the peaceful people —

alexander

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] — who stayed here and who are trying to leave Kyiv so that they can peacefully leave. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sasha 1

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] I’m 29 years old. Sasha, [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN].

Sasha has some blood on his cheek.

sasha 1

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

He said it’s just a scratch. Bye, Sasha. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sasha 1

Bye-bye.

sabrina tavernise

I think we should try to talk to them. God.

That is really quite terrifying sight. These trucks — God.

God. [EXHALES] Hello.

speaker

Hello. Documents.

sabrina tavernise

Documents? Yes.

speaker

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

My documents. New York Times. Sabrina.

speaker

Ah.

sabrina tavernise

Tavernise.

speaker

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

We’re going back to our car.

speaker

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

Thank you.

Very, very jumpy here. Oh, a bunch of Molotov cocktails. Watch out, they’re going to freak out if you take a picture.

A bunch of Molotov cocktails here at the base of a tree, a box of — it looks like they’re actually in beer bottles. Oh, man. God. I still can’t believe this is happening in Kyiv.

Cannot believe it.

woman

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

So we’re going down into the parking garage of this building where the firefight was outside of to look, to talk to people. There’s a trail of blood going into the parking garage. The gentleman who’s leading us says it’s a shelter.

interposing voices

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

So we’re going down into kind of a cavernous area. Clearly, a parking garage. There are men and women walking up on the other side of us.

lynsey addario

Can I go here?

man

No. No. No. No. Don’t go over there.

lynsey addario

There’s a woman.

sabrina tavernise

I’m walking along and seeing blood. I see blood on a footprint, so somebody’s footprint with blood. And it’s leading to a boot that is lying by itself. I can’t tell.

It’s clearly wet, but —

I’m looking at the boot, and it seems to have — oh, look. Look at the plastic. The plastic thing has blood on it as well. Yeah. God.

speaker

Oh, shit. Yeah, it is blood.

sabrina tavernise

Yeah, it is blood.

OK, what happened here?

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The young man was saying that it happened around 4 or 5 in the morning, and he helped bring the wounded down into the parking garage that’s now a bomb shelter.

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

He’s pointing out, look, there’s the blood. There’s the trail. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] He didn’t die. He survived.

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] He’s in hospital now.

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] Look, that’s the trail. That’s the trail of the blood. That’s where he came from. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

You dragged him.

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] We dragged him, and we carried him with our hands. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

sabrina tavernise

We’re going upstairs to the blood donation. This appears to be some sort of a hospital, or health center, or something.

And people are lined up along the stairs. Hello. So I’m a reporter from The New York Times. My name is Sabrina. What is your name?

sasha 2

Nice to meet you. My name is Sasha. Yeah, Irina is my sister.

sabrina tavernise

Irina.

sasha 2

Brother and sister.

sabrina tavernise

Hi. Nice to meet you.

irina

Nice to meet you.

sabrina tavernise

Why did you guys come today? What drew you here?

sasha 2

I think it’s just a little thing which we can do right now to support our guys who are fighting for our —

irina

For our life.

sasha 2

— independence.

irina

I want to be Ukrainian. I’m OK on my land. I’m OK in my country, and it’s just a little thing what I can do. I’m a psychologist. I support my people, and now I can take just a little of my blood just to support the bodies of my people.

sabrina tavernise

Yeah.

irina

I’m crying. Sorry.

sabrina tavernise

That’s OK. Did you sleep last night? How was last night for you?

irina

Just a little bit because it was bombing and was siren.

sabrina tavernise

Sirens.

irina

Siren.

sasha 2

There were bombs, yeah.

irina

Sirens. Yeah, so we were scared just on the first day, but now it’s OK. It’s OK. We are together. We are on our land, and we will stay here.

sabrina tavernise

Irina, how are you, yourself, feeling right now?

irina

I’m calmed down and angry. I’m calm and angry. I’m sometimes scared, but I’m calm.

sabrina tavernise

And what is the anger?

irina

Anger. You see this good weather, this wonderful weather. It’s the sun. It’s spring. The birds is singing, and I want to live my peaceful life. I don’t want to have war on my land. That’s why I’m angry.

sabrina tavernise

Thank you.

irina

Thank you.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

It’s 3:42 on Saturday. Driving around Kyiv, lots of boarded up windows and tape and plastic on windows to prevent them from shattering. Really, really has the look of a city that has closed down and expects a storm.

I’m on my way to go inside the metro, where people are taking shelter overnight.

We’ve arrived. The metro is called University. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

There’s now a checkpoint to get into the metro, and the guy who’s guarding it is asking me for my passport, so I have to show it to him. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

guard

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

guard

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[LAUGHS]

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

ticket taker

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

OK. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

Talked to the ticket taker. She said the metro isn’t working, but you’re welcome to go down. This is about 3:30 p.m., so it’s getting close to curfew.

These Soviet metros are deep — built deep, deep into the ground because they were originally designed as bomb shelters by the Soviets in the event of a nuclear attack.

This one is very deep off the street, has three escalators, and white marble walls. And there’s a giant kind of semicircle, very thick metal-plated opening that is the entrance to it, but that can be closed up in the event of a bomb attack — kind of like being sealed up in a safe.

So I’m walking down. Hello.

One woman sitting there.

So when I look and stare down this escalator, it’s really almost as far as the eye can see. It is hard to overstate just how deep into the Earth this escalator goes.

And, yeah, I’m just going to walk down. It’s going to take me a while.

Still walking.

OK, we’re getting close to the bottom.

The train is just sitting on the tracks in front of them with its doors open.

I see blankets, someone’s black purse, a few wheelie bags in this one. Hi.

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

andriy

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

andriy

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

andriy

Andriy.

sabrina tavernise

Andriy. So we have Yulia (sp) and Andriy (sp), and two very, very cute little kids. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

yulia

Ilya, Gleb (sp).

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN] Hi. Ilya, how old are you?

yulia

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

ilya

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sasha

Four.

sabrina tavernise

Ilya says, I’m four. And Gleb is a year and a half. Hi. Hi. How are you guys doing? [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sasha

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

yulia

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] We’re here for a second night. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

How was last night? Did you hear anything? [TRANSLATING] No, we didn’t hear anything. I’m hoping that it will be safer than home. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

interposing voices

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

I’m saying I can’t understand that this is happening. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

It’s just like a complete nightmare. It’s like a movie. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

lena

Lena.

sabrina tavernise

Lena. So I’m speaking with Lena. OK.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] My grandmother told me how terrible it was when there was bombing and she had two little children, about these aged children.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] She grasped the two children to her chest.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] And the Germans were shooting down. Lena.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] This is like that. This is like my grandmother running from the Germans shooting. It’s the same. I, myself, am a grandmother, and these are my grandchildren. And I am in the same situation.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] It’s just impossible. It’s impossible.

lena

My father and my mother [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN].

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] My father and mother have passed, and I’m really glad that they haven’t seen this because it would be impossible for them to bear. These are my grandchildren.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] I just want it to finish as fast as it can.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] What should we do? There’s no work.

My son-in-law isn’t working.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] He can’t work. The jobs are closed. But what to do? He can’t. There’s no money to feed the children.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[TRANSLATING] It just can’t be. It cannot be. It cannot be my life.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Lena is saying, we don’t know how to be. We just don’t know.

lena

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Everything was great. It was peaceful.

lena

Oye.

sabrina tavernise

Oye.

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

It’s hard.

All right. I’m going to go back up. Good luck you guys. [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

man

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

God be with us. God be with us.

Now I’m walking out back up the longest stairway, the longest, deepest escalator in the city.

Curfew is almost starting.

[music]

michael barbaro

On Sunday, as Russian and Ukrainian forces battled for control of Kyiv, the two countries agreed to hold their first negotiations since the war began. But even as the talks neared, Russia dispatched more troops to Kyiv. Satellite imagery showed a miles-long convoy of hundreds of Russian military vehicles bearing down on the capital city.

Meanwhile, Western governments intensified their efforts to punish Russia and to rally around Ukraine. A growing list of European countries banned flights from Russia. The U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions that personally targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary, and in an extraordinary declaration, Britain’s foreign secretary said she would support British citizens who wanted to travel to Ukraine to fight against Russia. As of Sunday night, according to Ukrainian officials, Russia’s assault has killed 352 Ukrainian civilians, including 14 children.

We’ll be right back.

[music]

Here’s what else you need to know today. Congressional Democrats are promising the swift confirmation of President Biden’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge who would be the first Black woman to serve on the high court. All 50 Senate Democrats previously voted to confirm Jackson to the appeals court, a level of support that would be sufficient to put her on the Supreme Court. The question for Biden is how much support Brown will win from Senate Republicans.

archived recording (mitt romney)

Look, her nomination and her confirmation would or will be historic. And like anyone nominated by the president of the United States, she deserves a very careful look, a very deep dive.

michael barbaro

Over the weekend, Republicans like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, in an interview with CNN, said he was open minded.

archived recording (mitt romney)

And I’ll provide fresh eyes to that evaluation and hope that I’ll be able to support her in the final analysis.

michael barbaro

And U.S. regulators have issued new guidelines for living with Covid-19 that could allow about 70% of Americans to stop wearing masks and social distancing, including schools in certain communities. Unlike previous guidelines, which were based on the number of infections in a community, the new recommendations are based on measures such as Covid-related hospital admissions, which have fallen significantly.

Today’s episode was produced by Michael Simon Johnson, Kaitlin Roberts, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Alexandra Leigh Young. It was edited by Larissa Anderson, Lisa Chow and Lisa Tobin and was engineered by Chris Wood. Original music by Dan Powell and Marion Lozano.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Lynsey Addario, Andriy Dubchak, Valerie Hopkins and Marc Santora. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

On the Road With Ukraine’s Refugees

We reported alongside Ukrainians as they made their escape from Russia’s increasingly brutal invasion. Released on March 7, 2022.
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transcript

On the Road With Ukraine’s Refugees

We reported alongside Ukrainians as they made their escape from Russia’s increasingly brutal invasion. Released on March 7, 2022.

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

In response to Russia’s increasingly brutal campaign against Ukrainian towns and cities, an estimated 1.5 million people, most of them women and children, have fled Ukraine over the past 10 days, the fastest displacement of people in Europe since World War II.

Today, Sabrina Tavernise traveled alongside them as they made their escape.

It’s Monday, March 7.

sabrina tavernise

We’re leaving the hotel room. What time is it, Valerie?

valerie hopkins

I think it’s about 4:10.

sabrina tavernise

It’s 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday, and we’re leaving the hotel room in Kyiv, walking through a very dark hallway to an elevator that will bring us down to the car, where we will drive south and west.

sabrina tavernise

Last Tuesday, The New York Times made the decision to pull a group of reporters out of Kyiv and bring them to a city in Western Ukraine that was safer, called Lviv. I was one of those reporters, and so was my colleague, Valerie Hopkins.

valerie hopkins

I didn’t realize we were going all the way.

sabrina tavernise

The drive was supposed to take seven hours. Instead, it took us two days and two nights. And just as we closed the trunk in the parking lot of the hotel, we heard this huge bang and then another.

sabrina tavernise

We just heard some artillery. Unclear if it’s incoming or outgoing.

sabrina tavernise

We got into the car and drove out and —

sabrina tavernise

There’s some ambulances driving by.

sabrina tavernise

— later we would discover that those two booms were Russian military trying to blow up the television tower in downtown Kyiv.

sabrina tavernise

The traffic lights have stopped working. They’re all just blinking.

(WHISPERING) It’s really, really sad.

valerie hopkins

Oh, god, the roads are empty.

sabrina tavernise

They’re so empty.

[cell phone chimes]

sabrina tavernise

We’re just driving through an intersection where there are some very serious-looking barricades, a bunch of sand bags and probably a couple of dozen men in black uniforms walking across the street, holding rifles.

sabrina tavernise

After driving down those back roads out of Kyiv, under that really dark, low sky, we stayed in the town of Bila Tserkva. And we were woken up by another enormous boom. We kept driving that next day.

[music]

And we thought we’d pretty easily be in Lviv by dinnertime. But we just kept getting stuck. I mean, it was checkpoint after checkpoint and this unbelievable crush of cars.

sabrina tavernise

It’s 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday.

And we’re in a line of cars as far as the eye can see on the highway going west toward Lviv from Vinnytsia.

Everybody has cars packed with kids, animals, suitcases.

[CAR PASSING]

A woman holding a little boy just waved at me.

Lots of cars with handmade signs in the window, taped to the windows, saying children, “ditey.”

It’s just stretched on for miles and miles and miles, just going slowly, maybe 5 kilometers an hour. And we’re kind of neck and neck. So I’m going to stick my head out the window here and see if someone will talk to me.

Do you speak English? Po russki?

Po russki?

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

valeri

Kropyvnytskyi.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

valeri

Kropyvnytskyi.

sabrina tavernise

Kropyvnytskyi — [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] He’s coming from Kropyvnytskyi.

valeri

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We’ve been driving for six hours now. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

valeri

Valeri (sp).

sabrina tavernise

Valeri. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

valeri

Yeah, yeah.

sabrina tavernise

His name is Valeri. And he has little kids in the back. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

valeri

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I’m really feeling quite down because my family is going out, and I’m going to need to stay.

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

valeri

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I was in Odessa before. There are already explosions starting in Odessa.

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

I’m saying, what are your feelings in your heart right now? And they said, very heavy, very pressed down. And his wife is starting to cry. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN TO ANOTHER CAR]

dimitry

Chernihiv.

sabrina tavernise

They’re coming from Chernihiv. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

dimitry

Dimitry (sp).

sabrina tavernise

His name is Dimitry. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

dimitry

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Oh, they left the day before yesterday. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

dmitry

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We were really tired of sitting in the basement, in a coffin. The planes were flying overhead.

dmitry

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) There above my house was a war going full force.

[ENGINES RUMBLING]

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Children are crying. The old people are stuck in the houses. There are planes flying over. They can’t get out.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Just tell them to help. Tell them to — to stop this. Tell them to stop what’s happening.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) if you can tell somebody, just communicate this. You have to stop this somehow.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) My friend remains there.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We just left. They told us it was mined.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Please tell them to stop it.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

There were lots of moms consoling children —

sabrina tavernise

How are you feeling? [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

— sitting on their laps, sitting in the back, playing with toys.

sabrina tavernise

It’s really heavy. It’s really heavy. Children in the back.

sabrina tavernise

One little baby had a stuffed mobile hung above her head made of cloth mushrooms.

sabrina tavernise

Hello. Hi. I’m a reporter from The New York Times. Will you talk to me?

speaker

Yeah, I have a second. Of course.

sabrina tavernise

OK.

sabrina tavernise

Everybody talked about what it was that pushed them to actually go.

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) There were so many explosions last night. The children were very afraid. We live near the airport.

sabrina tavernise

And for the most part, it was explosions, bombs.

speaker

So we’re trying to get somewhere that is safe.

sabrina tavernise

Children feeling terrified, having to go down into basements all the time. And parents just decided they’d had enough.

sabrina tavernise

Where are you coming from?

speaker

From Kyiv. I am from Kyiv. We are all from Kyiv. Thank you too. You’re welcome.

sabrina tavernise

Good luck.

speaker

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

[ENGINES RUMBLING]

Oh my goodness.

sabrina tavernise

Whoa, we finally reached the checkpoint. [EXHALES]

interposing voices

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

By the end of the day on Wednesday became pretty clear that we were never going to make it to Lviv that night. It was already getting dark. And we needed to stop for the night. And we were calling everywhere, any hotel. And everything was full. Nothing had rooms.

And at some point, my colleague Valerie reached someone in a town called Viitivtsi who said there was actually space at a kindergarten in their town. And it didn’t seem like a great option, but it was dark and it was snowing. And at that point, we didn’t have a better idea. So we drove to the town.

And we got out. And a man greeted us and introduced himself as the mayor of the town. And he said we just needed to bring our passports up to the second-floor register, and then we could have the room in the kindergarten.

sabrina tavernise

Hi, I’m Sabrina. Hi.

speaker

Nice to meet you.

sabrina tavernise

Nice to meet you too. Thank you for being here.

sabrina tavernise

They took us into the kindergarten. And it was this —

sabrina tavernise

Oh, we’re in a kindergarten. And there’s a little — aww, there’s little cubbies.

sabrina tavernise

Really brightly painted series of rooms.

sabrina tavernise

Little cubbies, little child-sized seats. There’s a painting of a giraffe and a palm tree on the wall and a lot of spider plants. Little silk flowers.

sabrina tavernise

And lots of little child-sized mattresses.

sabrina tavernise

Uh-huh. Come here, come here.

speaker

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

Oksana is showing us the kitchen. Oh wow. Oh, tea, uh huh. The tea — the teapot.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Instant coffee, and then there’s tea bags.

sabrina tavernise

So we started to settle in for the night. And a very kind woman who ran the kindergarten made food for us. She made us tea. She made us spicy rice with chicken. And she had a huge jar of pickles that she had made herself that she brought out. And we each took a pickle. We had dinner at a tiny little child-sized table, sitting on tiny little child-sized chairs.

sabrina tavernise

They’re asking if this is the other family. Can I say hello?

sabrina tavernise

And pretty soon, another family showed up.

sabrina tavernise

OK, so Luda.

family member

Anya.

sabrina tavernise

Anya.

family member

Anna, Ira.

sabrina tavernise

Ira.

max

Max.

sabrina tavernise

Max.

max

Max.

sabrina tavernise

OK. So Luda is grandmother, and then three grandchildren.

family member

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

Yeah, nice. How old?

family member

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

You’re 12. How old are you?

valerie hopkins

Doesn’t she look so much older.

ira

19.

sabrina tavernise

19?

ira

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

Aww. How old are you, Max.

max

15.

speaker

You’re 15.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

ira

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Oh. (TRANSLATING) We were driving for 12 hours. Yeah. Did you come from Kyiv?

interposing voices

No, no.

max

Cherkasy.

sabrina tavernise

Oh, Cherkasy.

family member

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Uh-huh. They came from Cherkasy, a little bit below — [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

max

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[RUSSIAN] I’m saying, what happened in Cherkasy? They’re saying, explosions. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) My family was living in Poland.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) And my mom was calling every day. She’s really worried.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) She’s crying.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) The truth is, I would actually like to stay.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I think I would be helpful in some way.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) But my mom — I mean, I want to be with her. Really I want to be with her. Ira, [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

What are you feeling, right now, in your heart?

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I was going in the car, and I was feeling like I was going to cry because I felt like I was leaving my country. And it was actually war, and I was leaving my country.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) It’s a really horrible feeling, actually.

ira

[CRIES]

sabrina tavernise

Oh.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Yeah.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) You hear this every day. It’s horrible.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Yeah.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) My dad is still in the town, and so is my boyfriend. And my boyfriend actually went to man the checkpoints. And that can be a dangerous thing in town, to man the checkpoints. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

ira

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

He stayed there, and he won’t leave.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) On one hand, I’m really proud.

ira

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) On the other hand, I was trying to convince him not to do it. But then I thought, no, OK, go.

[SOMBER MUSIC]

ira

[CRIES]

sabrina tavernise

Oh, beautiful.

luda

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

luda

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Luda is offering us — offering us little pancakes with meat. And they’re so good. [LAUGHS]

sabrina tavernise

While we were there, standing in the kindergarten, talking, a woman walked in. Her name was Larysa. She owned a hotel right down the street. And she told us it was overflowing.

sabrina tavernise

(HUSHED) So we’re going upstairs. Lots of people are sleeping. So we’re going to try to not make a lot of sound.

sabrina tavernise

She took us to her hotel. And when we went inside, we saw people lying everywhere.

sabrina tavernise

There’s a man. He’s sleeping in the corridor. There are two —

sabrina tavernise

In the hallways, under tables.

sabrina tavernise

This is another little place for sleeping, underneath a piano. There’s a place for —

sabrina tavernise

Next to a piano.

sabrina tavernise

So Armin is showing me where they’re going to be sleeping. He’s carrying a little child.

sabrina tavernise

In a back room that was very small.

armin

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Sometimes it feels like it just is an old movie that you’re watching in front of your eyes, something from Tsarist times.

What is he saying? Come in, come in, welcome. You’re going to sleep under the table. There’s two women and a young child who just came through the door.

sabrina tavernise

And suddenly we heard these air raid sirens.

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

Hey, Valerie, where are you going?

sabrina tavernise

And everyone in the hotel moved toward a trap door in the floor, and climbed down to the basement.

speaker

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Oh, it’s scary, the little girl says.

[child crying]

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) They’ve suffered such days, my children. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We heard huge blasts. They were shooting.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We hear how people are suffering.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) When we left — I was trying not to cry in Kyiv, but when we left Kyiv, I started just crying and the tears wouldn’t stop.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We really want the Ukrainian army to win, to succeed. We see how it’s so unjust what’s happening. So unjust. We want the Ukrainian army to win.

[murmur of women and children talking]

sabrina tavernise

So we’re going back out of the shelter now, back out of the basement. I guess the danger is over. What time is it, you guys?

speaker

Let me check.

sabrina tavernise

It’s 10:26.

sabrina tavernise

When we got the all-clear after about half an hour, the families climbed back up the stairs, into their hallways and back rooms and next to the piano. And we went back to the kindergarten for the night.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Bye. Good night.

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

[music]

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

[rustling]

[footsteps]

[brushing teeth]

sabrina tavernise

In the morning, we all got up together. There was just one bathroom, and at that point, probably 50 people in the kindergarten. So we all took turns.

sabrina tavernise

(WHISPERING) Oh. Someone’s here to say hi. What’s your name?

caroline

My name is Caroline.

sabrina tavernise

(WHISPERING) Caroline. What a nice name. I’m Sabrina.

caroline

[INAUDIBLE]

sabrina tavernise

Yeah. And where are you going? Where are you going today?

caroline

To Poland.

sabrina tavernise

You’re going to Poland. So I’m a journalist. I’m a journalist from The New York Times. And I’ve been talking to people about where they’re going and why they left.

Why did you leave? What was happening?

caroline

A lot of bombs.

sabrina tavernise

There’s a lot of bombs, Caroline said.

caroline

Yes.

sabrina tavernise

And is there something that you left behind that you wanted to bring?

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

What is it?

caroline

My grandma, my dad.

sabrina tavernise

Your dad and your grandma are still there?

caroline

And my — we have hamster.

sabrina tavernise

Hamster?

caroline

It’s in the village with grandma.

sabrina tavernise

With grandma. What’s the hamster’s name?

caroline

Busya.

sabrina tavernise

Busya. What does Busya mean in Russian?

caroline

Busya [RUSSIAN].

sabrina tavernise

It’s like a pearl?

caroline

Yeah, pearl.

sabrina tavernise

Wow, little Pearl, Pearl the hamster.

caroline

He is white.

sabrina tavernise

He’s white. Oh, good name. Good name.

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

There’s a little girl trying to get into the bathroom. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] What’s her name?

caroline

I don’t know. I don’t ask her.

sabrina tavernise

OK. I’m asking Caroline all the children’s names, but she doesn’t know them.

Bye, Ira.

ira

Bye.

sabrina tavernise

Bye. We’re leaving the school now. OK. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

It’s a very snowy road.

Whoa. It’s 12:30 on Thursday. And we’re in a checkpoint line in Western Ukraine that’s stretched at least two hours, if not more. We’ve seen mothers taking little kids off onto the field on the right side of the road here to pee and go to the bathroom. One woman was pulling up her little boy’s green underpants just a bit ago. And we saw a woman helping an elderly woman, babushka, down this sort of grassy area to get to the bottom so she could go to the bathroom. And she fell. And then she tried to help her. And she was helping her up.

It’s just an incredibly long line that’s all of these people from all of these parts of Ukraine, from all over, are waiting in to get out. This is what happens when an entire country tries to evacuate in a week.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

We’re at the very beginning of the checkpoint line that we’ve been in for two hours. And we’re just pulling up. 12:37

speaker

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Hello. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker

Passports.

sabrina tavernise

Passports.

Looks like a territorial defense guy checking our passports. He says, OK, go, go, drive.

[interposing voices]

valerie hopkins

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

speaker

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

We finally got to Lviv in the afternoon on Thursday. The city was packed and overflowing. The train station was swarming with people. Lviv is a place where people say goodbye.

Men go back to their towns because the men couldn’t leave Ukraine. Women and children go on to Poland.

[RUMBLING]

sabrina tavernise

We’re driving up to the train station. And it is quite crowded streets. The sidewalks on either side of the street are just packed, lots of children. And now we’re going to get out and go with Alina, the volunteer who’s going to take us to the train station.

sabrina tavernise

When I got to Lviv, I went to the train station with a volunteer named Alina Avremenka (sp). She’s working to help refugee women and children. And she works with them mostly in the train station.

sabrina tavernise

This is a packed sidewalk. People are leaving the train station. Just a river of people leaving the train station. Oh my god, this is an unbelievably packed train station. You can’t move. It’s like a concert.

alina

It’s a queue for the Poland.

sabrina tavernise

Oh my god.

alina

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

This is a queue for Poland.

alina

It’s really big. But now we are going for the waiting hall for mothers and their children —

sabrina tavernise

OK.

alina

— where our volunteers is situated and from where we are coordinated.

sabrina tavernise

Great.

alina

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I’m trying to get through and we can’t get — [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Very huge bags right at my knees. Ooh, OK.

alina

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

sabrina tavernise

Backpack in my face.

alina

We are going toward the hall, the waiting hall.

sabrina tavernise

Oh. Oh my god. Oh, there’s a little boy holding a parakeet, a green parakeet, in a clear plastic container that looks like it used to have cherry tomatoes in it. It’s a little parakeet. Oh my goodness.

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

People are grabbing their bags, moving really suddenly and kind of with some urgency and desperation.

sabrina tavernise

And while we were walking through the main terminal —

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Now talking to the crowd.

sabrina tavernise

— there was this surge forward in the crowd. Everyone was moving toward this tunnel, a kind of underground passage that was packed so tightly. This long line of people trying to get on the train to Poland. Alina is trying to explain.

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I’m speaking. Be quiet.

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) These are volunteers here. There are not many of us.

We need order here. No panic. Don’t break the rules. Don’t let things get out of hand. Stop it. Be quiet.

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

A woman says, we’ve been standing since 11:30.

[shouting]

sabrina tavernise

Alina is saying stop.

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Alina is saying, three lines, three lines.

speaker

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Make way for us, make way for us, make way for us.

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

Oh my god.

[interposing voices]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Let us through. Please let us through.

speaker

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Let us through.

Oh, My god. Look. [SIGHS]

[child crying]

alina

So now I —

sabrina tavernise

Holy shit.

alina

Yeah. Yeah, it’s —

sabrina tavernise

Oh my god.

alina

It’s even less than it was. [LAUGHS]

sabrina tavernise

Now we’ve gotten up to the platform. We’re going up to the women’s and children’s room?

alina

Yeah. And our medicine room and our hospital staff, [SPEAKING RUSSIAN].

sabrina tavernise

Our headquarters.

alina

Yeah.

sabrina tavernise

Headquarters.

alina

Yeah, yeah.

sabrina tavernise

So we’re going up a stairway.

And we’re going up to the headquarters of the volunteers. It’s also the place where the women and children can rest.

alina

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

speaker

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

A lot of women — people sitting on pieces of cardboard. Oh, rugs.

speaker

[SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Oh wow.

This is a hall of, I would say, probably 400, 500 people in it.

[CHILD CRYING]

Lots of little babies. There’s a woman in a black puffer jacket just changing her son’s underwear.

[CHILD CRYING]

A little boy in a blue jacket, crying, just sobbing on a chair.

The little boy is really sad.

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN] Do you speak English?

ilona

Yes, I do.

sabrina tavernise

Oh, excellent. My name is Sabrina. I’m a reporter for The New York Times. Can I talk to you a little bit?

ilona

Yes, you may talk.

sabrina tavernise

Tell me your name.

ilona

But I speak English so-so.

sabrina tavernise

It sounds very good. It sounds very good. So what is your name?

ilona

My name is Ilona.

sabrina tavernise

Ilona. Nice to meet you.

ilona

It its nice to meet you too.

sabrina tavernise

Ilona, where did you come from?

ilona

I’m from Zaporizhzhia.

sabrina tavernise

Zaporizhzhia — a lot of people from the train station today from Zaporizhzhia.

ilona

Yes, yes, there are a lot of us. Yes.

sabrina tavernise

Ilona, how are you feeling right now?

ilona

[SIGHS] It’s very — we are scared. We are scared. And we don’t know where we come, what will be in our future. We don’t know. But we all — everything will be better, we think. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We’re hoping for the best.

ilona

Yes, we are hoping for the best. Yes. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I was leaving yesterday with my daughter. And I just was sobbing in the train. I left my whole family there, my husband, everybody. Everybody’s still there. I didn’t take anything with me, just my daughter.

ilona

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) We both cried yesterday on the train. And this morning, she asked me the question, as if she was a grown-up girl, she said, was it the right decision to leave? And I said, I don’t know.

Ilona. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

Do you feel yourself a refugee?

speaker

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) It’s a bad question, but yes, right now, I’m saving my daughter.

And I left my husband.

I didn’t want to leave my husband. I’m not leaving the country. I’m only going to Western Ukraine. I’m not leaving the country. And I know I’m going to be returning.

I don’t want that status. No, I love my homeland.

ilona

Yes, yes. [SIGHS] [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I’m trying to make the right decision. But I don’t know. Am I making the right decision? My husband tells me I need to take her. We’re responsible for her life. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

ilona

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I don’t know if it’s right, not right. I just had my family gather all of our stuff and said, go, you must go.

ilona

Yes.

[music]

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I’m just sending thoughts out to the cosmos that it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK.

ilona

Yes. Yes.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

[music]

[murmur of voices echoing in train station]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Tim. Your name is Tim.

sabrina tavernise

The last person I met in the station was a little boy named Tim. He was waiting by himself on a pile of suitcases.

sabrina tavernise

Tim, how old are you? [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

tim

Seven.

sabrina tavernise

Seven.

tim

Seven.

sabrina tavernise

Cool. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) She’s upstairs. She went to get us tea.

tim

Upstairs and downstairs.

sabrina tavernise

Downstairs, exactly. Good, Tim. You know upstairs and downstairs. What else do you know in English, Tim?

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I speak Russian. I speak Ukrainian. And I speak English. [SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Right now, I don’t know where I am.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) But I came from Slovyansk. That’s where I came from.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) My coat that my grandmother gave me for the journey, it’s like my grandmother’s, very warm.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Yes.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) Let me tell you a secret.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[RUSSIAN]

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

(TRANSLATING) I want to tell you a secret that, when I was in the car, I pulled out one of my teeth — actually two, this one and this one — with my glove.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Tim was curious about my English. And he said —

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

— how do you translate Kyiv?

sabrina tavernise

Kyiv.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

I asked him what he meant. He said, I mean the city, Kyiv.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[RUSSIAN]

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

That’s where my dad was when there was still no war.

[music]

sabrina tavernise

So Tim has this excellent LEGO thing. It looks kind of like a big robot.

Tim, you’re taking this apart, this thing.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Tim’s saying, I’m redoing it.

I’m redoing it.

tim

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

It looks a little bit like a cat. It’s very fluffy.

[music]

michael barbaro

On Sunday, for the first time, American officials said that Russian attacks against Ukrainian civilians could constitute war crimes and that the United States was collecting evidence that could eventually be used for such a charge. A few hours later, journalists for The Times witnessed the Russian shelling of a street used by civilians to flee fighting north of Kyiv. One of the Russian missiles killed a woman, her two children and a family friend. Photographs showed the dead children still wearing their backpacks.

As of Sunday night, according to the U.N., at least 364 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and 759 have been injured since the start of the war.

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

Over the weekend, Russian police arrested more than 4,000 anti-war protesters who had taken to the streets despite a set of draconian new laws put in place by Vladimir Putin that make it a crime to oppose the war in Ukraine. One of those laws could even make it a crime for Russians to call it a war since Putin has instead described it as a special military operation.

archived recording

[PROTESTERS CHANTING]

michael barbaro

Nevertheless, protesters across Russia were defiant, chanting “no to war.”

Today’s episode was produced by Lynsea Garrison, Sydney Harper, and Kaitlin Roberts. It was edited by Michael Benoist, contains original music by Marion Lozano, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

One Man Flees Putin’s Draft

Kirill, a 24-year-old from the Moscow region, took desperate measures to avoid being conscripted to fight in Ukraine. Released on September 29, 2022.
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transcript

One Man Flees Putin’s Draft

Kirill, a 24-year-old from the Moscow region, took desperate measures to avoid being conscripted to fight in Ukraine. Released on September 29, 2022.

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.

sabrina tavernise

From “The New York Times,” I’m Sabrina Tavernise. This is “The Daily.”

anton troianovski

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Last weekend, my colleague, Anton Troianovski, called a woman who lives in a small town above the Arctic Circle in Northern Russia.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

She told him she was in line at the pediatrician, with sick kids, when she first heard the news.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The woman next to her got a phone call. Someone’s son had just been drafted to go fight the war in Ukraine.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

When she overheard that, she said, I felt like ice inside.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Like some kind of darkness had fallen.

Then, she started hearing about other men.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Her husband’s business got a letter. Seven employees had to respond to the draft office.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

The band director at a local school got the call.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Then, the draft came for her extended family.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

They’re taking my second cousin. They’re taking my first cousin. They’re taking my nephew.

She’s worried that with winter coming, there won’t be enough men to run the coal plant that heats people’s homes or take care of the reindeer that her community depends on.

speaker 1

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

She said she doesn’t understand the logic of taking so many people from a place where there are so few.

[SPEAKER SIGHS]

[CROWD YELLING]

draft that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a week ago is disrupting lives all over Russia. Russians described getting draft notices while they’re at home and at work.

[CROWD CHANTING]

Notices are even being forced into the hands of those arrested for protesting the war.

[CROWD CHANTING]

Today, I talk to one man facing conscription about how his life has changed since the day the war came to Russia. It’s Thursday, September 29.

OK. Tell me your name, just your first name — because I know the sensitivities — your age, and where you live.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

My name is Kirill, I’m 24, and I live in Moscow Oblast.

sabrina tavernise

So Kirill, going back to the beginning of the war when Putin first ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, take me back to that moment in your life. What did you think when you saw that?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

On the 24th, I woke up not very early, kind of like usual, around 11:00 in the morning.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

My friend in the morning said that war had begun. If I’m being honest with you, I don’t actually remember that day very much, because I didn’t fully understand and comprehend the magnitude of what had happened and how horrible it would all be.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I remember that I went home that day and began talking to my parents. I didn’t really want to talk about it with my parents, because I don’t talk about political topics with them. We have very different points of view, and I like to avoid those things with them.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

The year before, I had gone to a protest against Putin. I hadn’t understood until that moment how different we were and how different we had become. By the mere act of going to that protest, they saw me as someone who was against the policies of Putin, and that was true.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Kirill, did they support Putin? What were their views about him?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

So my parents didn’t openly support Putin, but did believe what he was saying about the war.

My parents aren’t exactly part of that really toxic part of the public that’s really, really for this war, that puts stickers on the back of their car. They’re not those people.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It’s hard for me to quite describe to you, but I will say that they are people who try very hard not to notice the lawlessness that is going on around them.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

And I came to them and said, the war is a catastrophe. There’s no reason in the world that one country should attack another country. It just seemed so clear to me. And they said, what do you mean by war?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Are you saying that they’re lying to us and you’re the one who knows the truth?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Did you argue?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Yes, we argued very badly. I love my parents. That’s clear. We each said our position and never returned to the topic, because we understood we just had different points of view.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

So the time started going by, yes, and I basically turned into a person that was just constantly updating the news on my phone.

The strange thing was, there was a war. I could see it happening.

But in the first three months, I didn’t really feel it at all.

Nothing around me changed.

The first thing I noticed was that the prices really started going up in the stores.

I didn’t have a very big salary, and I felt it a lot. The price of fruits, the price of vegetables were going up very sharply.

I was seeing that some of the factories were closing, and a lot of the Western firms were leaving Russia.

I was working in a company that was doing this cargo loading, and a lot of it was parts for airplanes. And there were firings. Big portion of our colleagues were transferred to a, quote unquote, “leave without pay.” They were — continued to be held on the books, but there was no money, and really, they were just all sitting at home without a job.

I worked for another 2 and 1/2 months. I had started volunteering at a nonprofit that helped homeless people. And I heard that they actually had an opening for a paid position.

I applied for the position and got it, and it was slightly better paid, and it’s the thing that’s given me strength in these months.

But if you talk about the quality of life, it didn’t really change that much. I was in horror, looking at this, but there was really nothing radical at all. Nothing much changed.

And that is what was most disturbing for me — the contrast.

A number of years ago, a very famous rock musician said this about the Chechen War. He said the most disturbing thing was being at the war and seeing the mud and the death, and getting on an airplane and flying back and landing in Moscow, and seeing people walking around on the streets, and children playing on jungle gyms, and people shopping.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

The most frightening thing is for people to have their lives keep going on and not feel the pain that is being caused in this other place. It really just didn’t concern our lives.

sabrina tavernise

Were you ever worried that the war would come to you?

interpreter

In the most direct sense, no.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

If it was going to affect us, the war, it would really only be kind of tangentially, sort of on the sidelines, you know, that the prices had risen, and my father was having problems at work because of the war.

sabrina tavernise

What were the problems your father was having because of the war?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

My father repairs and sells imported equipment for the milking of cows. And the sanctions really hit that. It was a firm that worked in Russia, and it left.

sabrina tavernise

How did that affect your father’s point of view about the war?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Not at all.

He kept repeating that it was much worse in the 1990s, so we’ll be fine. We’ll survive.

sabrina tavernise

What did you think of that?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I was really sad.

Because I just didn’t understand that logic. I wanted to live in a better way and not constantly be comparing ourselves to a worse way.

sabrina tavernise

Where were you the moment that you heard about this so-called partial mobilization?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It was two days ago. I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm clock, and I saw the news. I saw the news in the face of the president.

vladimir putin

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I saw the banner headline with little lightning bolts next to it. That was telling me this was important that he was announcing a partial mobilization.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

And I understood that given my health, my age, and my former military service, that I fit the criteria, 100 percent.

sabrina tavernise

How did you feel in that moment?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I guess I just felt this sense of resignation, kind of futility. Like, I was just going to go to work, but I was going to be called up in this draft and go to war.

sabrina tavernise

What was the feeling in your heart?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

None.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I felt this emptiness. Not anger. Kind of, almost nothing.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I just thought, what do I do next?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Because I realized at that moment that the war had finally come to me.

sabrina tavernise

We’ll be right back.

Kirill, you talked about your military service. How long did you serve in the military?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I was there for a year.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I tried to maximally escape any mandatory military service, because I was too nervous. I didn’t get into a university. I got into a technical school.

But when I graduated from my technical school, I was drafted, and I didn’t have money to buy my way out of it. The only people who really go to the army are the ones that can’t buy their way out of it.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’m looking at a lot of the videos about the Russian soldiers who were captured in Ukraine, the Russian prisoners of war. And I tell you, 8 out of 10 of them say that they just went because it was the path of least resistance. They didn’t have the money to buy their way out, and they didn’t want to go to prison for 10 years, so they chose this.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It’s not a choice to go off to defend the fatherland. It’s about poverty and the desire to feed their families.

sabrina tavernise

So going back to when Putin first announced the mobilization, what did you start to do? What was the first thing?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

First, I started researching where I could go to get out, where I could go to get out that wouldn’t require a visa and wouldn’t require a lot of money, because I don’t have a lot of money.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Physically, I started to feel bad. I had a really bad headache.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I was very afraid. I’m not going to hide it from you. I was terrified.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Then, I just sat down, breathed in, caught my breath, and I went to work.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I got there, and there were several other young men who were in the same category as me.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

We sat there, and we were drinking coffee together and kind of laughing and just talking about it, and it felt better.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

We were talking about what was the information out there, who was going to try to leave, what we were going to try to do, what were they saying about us. We were just trying to find the logic in a very illogical decision.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

As the hours went by, and I was texting with my friends and watching the news, it became very clear how many lies had been told. They said they wouldn’t draft students, and we saw many students being called up. They said they wouldn’t draft people who were in their 50s and 60s, and we saw many people in their 50s and 60s being called up.

So it became clear that this was something that was really going to affect everybody. Then, I began to feel really in danger, that they’re going to come for me right now.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

And I saw, when the news had been announced about a partial mobilization, all of these people going out to protest.

[CROWD YELLING]

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I wanted to go out to the protest, and it’s clear that in Russia, of course, the protests don’t influence or affect anything.

But it was really the only true and honest thing I could have done at that moment.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

But I stayed home, because I was very afraid that if they got me, if the police got me, that would lead to my drafting.

[CROWD CHANTING]

sabrina tavernise

How do you feel about that?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I feel regret that I didn’t go.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I think it was wrong that I didn’t go.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I don’t know.

sabrina tavernise

Why do you think it was wrong not to go to the protest?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Because I understood that I was just hiding behind the backs of other people.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It was as if I had just kind of abandoned the mission, as if I was saying, OK, young women, young men, you people not of drafting age, you go out and say your piece, and say it on my behalf.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Ah, these people will be receiving bruises and wounds.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I think in retrospect, to sit at home and do nothing is actually harder than that.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I feel like I’m dramatizing this. I don’t want to be dramatizing this.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

No, no, no. No, no. I don’t want you to be thinking that I’m in some sort of terrible situation. It’s just a lot of people are in this situation now.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’m warm. I feel good. I’m under a roof.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

The thing that I’m feeling right now has nothing, nothing in comparison to the thing that people are feeling who are in the war. I don’t want to have any comparison drawn there.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

So two days after Putin’s announcement, my father got a call. A friend of his in the police station gave him a call, and he said there’s a draft notice for your son tomorrow, for the next day, and that he was going to bring it over.

I had this feeling of helplessness. I didn’t know what to do.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

And I’ve been at work for the past couple of days.

sabrina tavernise

You live at work now?

interpreter

Yes, I’m living at work.

sabrina tavernise

You’re sleeping there? You’re brushing your teeth there? You’re taking a shower there?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Yeah, actually. I — all of the above. And it’s actually not that hard, because I’m working in an organization that is for homeless people, so there’s lots of creature comforts and things that we have for people around.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’m hiding here, because I don’t want to be in a place where people recognize me and people could come and give me this draft notice. The way that it has been working is that people are being given these things on the streets, at protests, when they come out of the metro. And this is something that I’m trying to avoid. So I’ve been here at work, and I don’t think they will find me or get me if I don’t go out.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

There were a few people in my company that met the criteria for the draft. We put a few plans together, which we’re now trying to carry out. Our coworkers are trying to gather all of our documents and figure out, from embassies and from different places, where potentially we could go and get a visa to get out.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’m hugely grateful to them, but I understand that variant is really unlikely, that it’s basically not going to happen.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

So if that doesn’t happen, and I don’t think it will, then the second thing we’re thinking of is to get to the border with Kazakhstan. And we’re hoping that the border doesn’t close.

sabrina tavernise

When would you go to Kazakhstan?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

So I’ll probably be in this work space that I’ve been in for the past couple of days until the 28th of September. But if I get a visa, there’s still a danger, because they’re looking for people in the airports, and they could be looking at my passport in the airport so airports are not a safe place.

In the train stations, they’re checking people even less, and the least of all, the checking is by car.

sabrina tavernise

Do you plan to go by car?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Probably, yes.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN] How far is it to the Kazakh border?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Right now, I’m looking, I’m looking. It’s about a 20-hour drive.

sabrina tavernise

That’s very far.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

But again, there’s a complication. I don’t have a car, so this would mean maybe finding a group that was going, or asking someone to drive me to the border.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

So far, I don’t have any options before me, but there are some options here. My father — my father has a car. Maybe with him.

sabrina tavernise

Kirill, would you ask your father? Would you ask your father to drive you to the border?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I asked them to come see me on the weekend. It’s probably going to be on Sunday. And I’m going to personally ask if they would be amenable to that option.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

They’re having a hard time understanding the risks. They see only what is told on television, which is that young people won’t be sent to the war. They’ll first get some training. So it’s hard for me to explain that I risk prison time, and that I’m not going to go to this draft.

sabrina tavernise

What will you say to them?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’ll tell them that I don’t want to die purely for the reason of one person who’s doing this completely senseless thing.

I’ll just explain in a very practical way, and I hope that we can find a common language.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I think, for them, I’m more valuable than some type of abstract idea about the war or victory.

sabrina tavernise

They love you.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

What do you think that they’ll say back to you?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

They’ll probably be translating all of the things that they’re hearing on television, that this won’t really concern you, it won’t reach you, it’ll be OK, maybe we should just go out to the country for a while.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’ll just be coming from how I see the situation. And I’ll ask them for help. And if they refuse, then I’m going to find a way to get to the border.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Kirill, if your parents do refuse or simply say back what they’re seeing on television, is that painful to you that you might not be able to find a common language, even when it’s about your own life?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

No. It’s not painful.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

If I had also been steeped in the propaganda for so many years that we have external enemies, that we need to be vigilant, I think I would probably have the same view.

sabrina tavernise

If you don’t make it to Kazakhstan, what will happen?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It depends on if they stop me. If that happens, then I’m going to have to hide somewhere inside the borders of Russia.

sabrina tavernise

Kirill, when you think about going to war on behalf of Russia, wearing a Russian uniform in Ukraine, when you think about having to do that, how does that make you feel?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

That’s the most terrifying thought of all.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I’ve already decided that it’s better to go to jail than to go off to that absolutely insane and senseless war.

sabrina tavernise

Why is it such a terrifying thought for you, being in Ukraine in a Russian uniform?

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It’s not even about the fear of being killed, but of killing someone.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It’s horror.

sabrina tavernise

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

I said, how are you doing? He said, I’m OK. I just didn’t sleep very much, and I’m not thinking very well right now. Oh, my goodness, Kirill.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I had these plans. I had plans for a vacation. I had plans to read. I had plans for the next couple of weeks, and now, I’m just constantly obsessively watching the news, and trying to figure out how to get to the Kazakh border.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

Strange that I had these plans.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

It’s a very strange feeling — kind of a funny feeling, almost, for me now, because I feel at home here. And I feel happy here in this job. I myself am not very outgoing, and they’ve really made friends with me. And I want to stay.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

I can’t really describe it. I can just concentrate on the one thing I know, that I have to leave this place, and that I have to leave the closest people to me in my life. But —

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

interpreter

— feels like it’s just going to be a long weekend, that I’m going to go away, and then I’m going to come back, and I’ll be right back here at the homeless shelter, talking with the residents.

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

kirill

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

sabrina tavernise

Two days after our conversation, Kirill texts me. He says he’s heard the borders might be closing soon, and he needs to leave now. So he packs a small bag, his flashlight, his headphones, his favorite T-shirts.

He buys some Snickers and some bottles of water for the road. His father can’t drive him, so Kirill decides to take the bus with a friend. They ride through the night.

When they reach the border with Kazakhstan, they find a line of cars waiting to cross, that stretches for 10 kilometers. So Kirill and his friend find a checkpoint where they can cross on foot.

He texts me a picture of the crowd. Thousands of people are waiting. Many of them are young men in sweatshirts, their hoods drawn against the cold. He records a video of a border guard taunting the crowd, insulting them for trying to leave Russia.

[MEN TALKING IN BACKGROUND]

And then, he stops texting, for almost 20 hours. I don’t hear anything.

Then, on Wednesday night, I get a message.

“Sabrina, hello. Everything is good. I crossed the border.

A few of the guys who were with me were not allowed to leave. I so far don’t have a local phone. Almost no internet. And for now, I’m answering only my loved ones and my friends.”

Since Putin announced the draft a week ago, an estimated 200,000 Russians have fled the country. We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you should know today.

frances robles

I am in Key West, Florida. I am at the intersection of Eisenhower Drive and Truman Avenue, which, you can tell from the roaring sounds of waves, is now underwater.

sabrina tavernise

Hurricane Ian made landfall over Florida on Wednesday as a severe category 4 storm. It unleashed 150-mile-per-hour winds and 12-foot storm surges that submerged cars, knocked over houses, and left more than 1 million residents without power, from Fort Myers to Key West, where my colleague, Frances Robles, documented the flooding.

frances robles

It’s interesting, because this area was actually dry an hour or two hours ago when I came out earlier. And the authorities keep saying that even though Hurricane Ian passed during the night, that the worst of the storm surge was going to come afterwards, that it was going to come today, that it’s going to come tomorrow, and maybe even Friday. And lo and behold, exactly what they said was going to happen is what happened.

sabrina tavernise

The greatest damage seemed to occur on Florida’s Southwest coast off the Gulf of Mexico, where video showed entire neighborhoods underwater.

ron desantis

Now, it is our meteorologists’ view that the storm surge has likely peaked and will likely be less in the coming hours than it has been up to this point.

sabrina tavernise

During a news conference, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that the worst appeared to be over, but that Ian would still go down as one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the state.

ron desantis

But the fact is, there’s going to be damage throughout the whole state. And people in other parts of the state, be prepared for some impacts. And you are —

sabrina tavernise

The storm is now expected to move north and inland, to cities like Orlando.

Today’s episode was produced by Lynsea Garrison and Will Reid. It was edited by Michael Benoist, contains original music by Elisheba Ittoop, Dan Powell, and Marion Lozano, and was engineered by Chris Wood.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Valerie Hopkins and Anton Troianovski.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Sabrina Tavernise. We’ll see you tomorrow.