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As Russian troops advance to Kyiv, Ukrainians try to cope anyway they can

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

As the unrest continues in Ukraine, people are trying to cope in any way they can. Rachel Martin checked back in with a college student she met a month ago.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's hard to comprehend just how much life has changed for Ukrainians in such a short amount of time. I met Daria less than a month ago at a cafe in Kyiv, along with some of her friends from university, in what now feels like a totally different world.

Hi, guys. I'm Rachel.

DARIA: I'm Daria.

MARTIN: Hi, Daria. Nice to meet you.

DARIA: Nice to meet you, too.

MARTIN: Things felt tense then, but Daria and her friends were still logging on to their classes, going to movies at night. Daria told me she had developed tricks to try to stay calm.

DARIA: For example, I ask a question. What can I do now? If I can do something - for example, to make international passport - I go and do this.

MARTIN: Like, keep occupied, keep busy.

DARIA: Yes, yes. Not concentrate on this situation because it will be crazy.

MARTIN: The crazy arrived.

DARIA: Our sky was just bombed, and I hear planes.

MARTIN: You heard planes overhead.

DARIA: Yes.

MARTIN: I reached Daria on a rough phone line yesterday from the town of Chernivtsi in the west of Ukraine. We're using just her first name to protect her security. She was still in Kyiv when the Russians first attacked last Thursday morning. She left with her brother and some friends. With all the traffic and the roadblocks, a drive that should have taken five hours took them 15. The rest of Daria's family is still in Kyiv.

Why did your parents stay behind in Kyiv?

DARIA: Because we have my grandma in Kyiv, and she didn't want to go to Chernivtsi. So they decided to stay.

MARTIN: Were your parents supportive? Did they want you to leave?

DARIA: Yes, to be more safe.

MARTIN: But you're still worried about them.

DARIA: Yes, I'm still worried about them. I asked my parents how they feel. And recently, we woke up - we knew that a military base that is really close to my home was completely bombed.

MARTIN: Daria's parents and her grandma told her they were safe in a shelter, but she's still worried for them. She's still anxious. She doesn't sleep at night. The air raid sirens don't help. She hears them, too. And when that happens, she and the friends she's staying with all go to the basement of the house.

Can you describe what those moments are like when you are gathered in those basements?

DARIA: I felt really anxious because I know that Russian army can bomb innocent people. So that - I feel really anxious, and I, like, every moment think about - that I can be dead.

MARTIN: I can be dead, she tells me. This young college student who a few weeks ago was chatting with her friends in a hip neighborhood coffee shop in Kyiv now suffers from the kind of anxiety that quickly turns to trauma.

DARIA: Even now, when I talking to you, I feel a little bit in danger because I know if Russian government will know about this conversation, I probably also be in danger.

MARTIN: She does what has worked for her before. She's keeping busy, volunteering in the city center, helping other Ukrainians who fled their homes, too, and those who have picked up arms to fight.

Are there any light moments in your day?

DARIA: Memes about war (laughter).

MARTIN: Memes about war.

(LAUGHTER)

DARIA: Yes, on Instagram.

MARTIN: You need something, right?

DARIA: Yes.

MARTIN: When you are volunteering to try to get clothes to the military, what is the feeling there?

DARIA: I feel really inspired by Ukrainian nation and all those people who can - who help a lot. And I don't have anxiety when I working because I see all these people, and they really - I'm so proud of them.

MARTIN: Daria is also proud of the stories she hears about individual Ukrainians standing up to Russian forces. Before we hang up, I ask her a big question.

Do you think Ukraine has the strength to push Russia out?

DARIA: Oh, we don't have any choice.

MARTIN: Daria, thank you so much.

DARIA: Thank you.

MARTIN: Take good care.

DARIA: OK. OK.

MARTIN: Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS' "PLACE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW")

MARTINEZ: That's our colleague Rachel Martin speaking with a college student in Ukraine about what's keeping her going in the midst of war.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS' "PLACE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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