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Many Ukrainian civilians are struggling with rapidly deteriorating conditions


For the past month, our co-host Leila Fadel has been reporting from Ukraine. In the time she's been there, 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes for safer cities farther from the Russian border or in other countries. But tens of millions of others have stayed behind to face the Russian bombardment.


Some make the choice to stay, unwilling to be forced out. Others are stuck in besieged parts of the country with no way out. These are some of their voices.


OKSANA MALCHENKO: (Through interpreter) It's dangerous to leave the city right now. You can run into Russian soldiers and foreign soldiers. In the first days of the war, these soldiers weren't interested in us. Now they're mad and shoot at civilians without warning.


KONSTANTIN SALAHUDIN: The Russian forces in the city, they control the main buildings. They are really dangerous, especially at the beginning of the occupation. They really kill a lot of people. We have a real big problem with medicine. Every day, this list of these drugs that you are not able to buy became bigger and bigger.


OKSANA TRANZA: Hello, everyone. My name is Oksana. I'm recording this message from a relatively safe location in Ukraine while my mother stays in Kupiansk, a small town in Kharkiv region occupied by Russian troops. The infrastructure of the city is collapsing. Stores are running out of food. Salaries and pensions are not being paid. All the bridges in the city have been blown up by Russian military, and there are checkpoints of Russian soldiers on the roads. There is no internet anymore - only TV and mobile connection. Despite this, the Kupiansk residents did not give up and even staged a rally. Men and women of the city came out on the main city square with the slogan, Kupiansk is Ukraine. They surrounded Russian military equipment and armed soldiers. Kupiansk people stood there with Ukrainian flags instead of weapons, shouting at invaders who were holding machine guns in their hands.

Every day, I start with a text message - how are you? - and a guilt-flavored breakfast. Did my mom eat breakfast today? I try to think only about the present day because it's impossible to think about tomorrow. Tomorrow, she might run out of food. Tomorrow, Russian soldier might enter her house. Tomorrow, a bomb may be dropped on her home. Tomorrow, her city may become one among many destroyed cities, another cold fact in foreign media. Recently, she has become more sentimental. She wants to talk to me about moving when the war is over. I realize that my mother is afraid of death, or rather afraid of dreams that did not come true and may never come true. I'm scared to see her like this. My mother is a simple 50-year-old woman who works at a bakery factory in a quiet provincial town. She did not live the most eventful life, and I don't want the war to sum up her life completely.

My father, who lives in Russia, is still silent. I can only assume the course of his thoughts. I think that he does not hate Ukrainians but rather is simply apathetic and inactive, that he just doesn't care that I wake up every morning to the sound of sirens and run to hide in the corridor, that I might lose my loved ones in the war, that I might get hurt, die, never see my mother, that I have nightmares about the war from which I wake up bellowing, still in the war.

FADEL: That was Oksana Malchenko from the eastern city of Sumy, Konstantin Salahudin of the southern port city of Kherson and Oksana Tranza (ph) in the western city of Lviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.