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Many at a maternity hospital in Kyiv made their way from cities facing attacks


As people here in Kyiv are starting to pick up the pieces, as more and more Ukrainians from the capital start returning to their homes, Russian troops have not let up in other parts of Ukraine. NPR's Elissa Nadworny has been following developments from here in Kyiv. Hey, Elissa.


DETROW: So Ukrainian officials and also Western military analysts are issuing new warnings about renewed fighting in the east. What do we know about that?

NADWORNY: Well, troops from around Kyiv are now moving into the east, and we're seeing increased Russian military attacks on residential areas in places like Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk. Earlier today, at least four people were killed waiting for humanitarian aid in Donetsk. And officials are urging people who are remaining in the east to evacuate further west.

DETROW: So this feeling of relief from here around Kyiv, not the case in the east. And it seems like that means a lot more displaced Ukrainians.

NADWORNY: That's right. Yeah. And here in Kyiv, I've talked to a lot of people who've had to leave their homes. And I want to tell you about a maternity hospital I visited here.


NADWORNY: On the second floor, in a room at the end of a long hallway, I find Alina and her husband, Marco. She's in a hospital gown in a chair next to the bed. Marco is pacing at the foot of that bed.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

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

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: It's been a long road to get to this moment, this hospital room.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Alina and her husband escaped from Bucha, where so much devastation happened. They hid in the basement for that first week. Then a volunteer helped them leave.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "Everything was destroyed," Alina says.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: She says she closed her eyes when she walked to the car. She didn't want to see the horror. She was thinking of the baby, of trying to stay calm.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

ALINA: She remembers feeling stressed and scared. They drove from Bucha to Irpin, but it wasn't safe there, either. Russian forces had advanced and trapped them. They slept in a church.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Alina says members of the military helped them walk across the rubble of a blown-up bridge, like so many others.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I'm grateful to God that we were able to flee," she says. Finally, in Kyiv, they've spent the last two weeks living in the basement of her husband's office.

ALINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "It's been really hard," she says, her eyes welling up with tears. Her husband, Marco, steps in.

MARCO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "Let's finish the interview," he says. She needs to relax.

ANDRE VALENSKY: We see complications, hypertension. I think that these complications influenced on stress.

NADWORNY: Andre Valensky (ph) is a trained pediatrician. Now he's the director of this maternity hospital in Kyiv.

VALENSKY: I think it's very difficult times for families, for mothers and for babies.

NADWORNY: Most of the women they've treated here have come from other regions.

VALENSKY: Dangerous district. For example, Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel - a lot of terrible stories.

NADWORNY: They've endured so much, he says.

VALENSKY: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "We've been doing our best here," he says, "to make them forget there is a war behind the windows." He pauses and starts to cry. He apologizes.

VALENSKY: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: He hasn't really cried yet from all of it.

VALENSKY: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: He switches back to English for a final thought.

VALENSKY: I think that this situation shows us that life more strong than death.

NADWORNY: Valensky takes us down to the shelter below the hospital. They've set up an entire wing down below.

VALENSKY: It's our intensive care department.

NADWORNY: Around the corner is the intensive care area for babies.

VALENSKY: Before war, it was a cafeteria for staff.

NADWORNY: The oxygen is now next to the coffee machine. The walls are painted with vegetables and fruit. Back up in the lobby, we find Valentina (ph) holding her 3-day-old granddaughter, Katia (ph).

VALENTINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Valentina's daughter, who just gave birth, is at home recovering. The baby is back today for a checkup.

VALENTINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: She says, "little innocent Katia." She represents hope amid all this news of death.

VALENTINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: She tells me her husband, Katia's grandfather, planted two apple trees in the yard in honor of her birth. She hopes to eat the fruit one day with her. She's the future.

VALENTINA: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I want peace in Ukraine for her," she says.

DETROW: That's NPR's Elissa Nadworny. And, Elissa, I understand an important update to the story.

NADWORNY: That's right. Yeah, I have some good news. Alina and Marco, the couple who escaped Bucha, had a healthy, happy baby girl. And they've named the baby Diana.

DETROW: That's great. Life can be stronger than death, as he said in the story. NPR's Elissa Nadworny, thanks so much.

NADWORNY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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