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Here's what some people in Kyiv, Ukraine, have to say about the tension with Russia


We have just arrived in this city to report here for the coming days, so we wanted to make our first stop at the heart of the city. This is Maidan. We're standing on Independence Square, where all of the protests that changed this country were unfolding in 2013 and 2014. We wanted to hear what's on people's minds today.

NICOLAI POTOPALSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).


LOUISE KELLY: The first person we meet is 76-year-old Nicolai Potopalsky. Through our interpreter, he tells us he's worried about war.

Are you worried that something will happen in this city? Are you worried for the future of your country? What?

POTOPALSKY: (Through interpreter) Actually, I'm worried about the future of the whole country.

LOUISE KELLY: He thinks that if something happens, it will happen here in Kyiv. But he's confident that Ukrainians can come together and defend themselves.

POTOPALSKY: (Through interpreter) I'm old person, but I'm ready to fight to protect my grandchildren.


LOUISE KELLY: Nicolai has four grandchildren.

POTOPALSKY: (Through interpreter) I can still hold the weapon, and I remember how to use it.

LOUISE KELLY: He's laughing as he says this, but I'm looking at his face. He's serious. We walk a little farther towards the statue of the archangel Michael, meant to provide protection for the city. Here we meet 32-year-old Yana Yarosch. She's an artist, a painter. She says she is trying not to think about war.

YANA YAROSCH: People say that the war is coming, but I do not read news, and I'm trying to keep calm.

LOUISE KELLY: Still, she says her mom has stockpiled a basement with food, just in case.

Are you confident in the government here?

YAROSCH: (Laughter) Are you kidding me? No. That's a good joke, actually, to be confident in the government. No, no. Personally, I do not trust what they say.

LOUISE KELLY: A lot of people we approached waved us off. No politics, no politics, said one woman as she brushed past us. And when we approached 51-year-old Medina a few minutes later, she too was wary of an interview. So we agreed to use her first name only.

MEDINA: I am worried, but we are a little bit tired of being worried. We've been worried for over eight years now.

LOUISE KELLY: Going back to the invasion of Crimea in 2014. And as for now...

If Russia does invade, can Ukraine defend itself?

MEDINA: Only with your help, guys (laughter). So we really need your help.

LOUISE KELLY: America's help.

MEDINA: Yeah, yeah - because Russia is much bigger.


LOUISE KELLY: We've just wandered a few blocks now from Maidan. We're now standing just at Golden Gate. This is the lone original gates to the city - and a lot of bars, a lot of pubs, shops around here. We're just going to see if we can catch a few people coming in and out of these big swinging doors leading down into the Golden Gate metro station.

People like Anastasia Gorashchenkova, who we interrupt as she's scrolling on her phone. She is 17, a first-year university student. She tells us she's confused by how calm Zelenskyy, the president, is acting. She does not feel so calm.

ANASTASIA GORASHCHENKOVA: In my family, personally, we bought some groceries, gas. You know, when the hard times are coming, you have to buy something.

LOUISE KELLY: They've stockpiled tins of fish, potato chips and so on. She says her parents have an apartment in western Ukraine, in the city of Lviv. And her plan, if Russia invades, is hop a train and flee there.

We pause for a quick bite, then head into the metro station, deep, deep beneath the streets. It is heaving - jammed with commuters mostly wearing masks, everyone bundled up in down parkas or long fur coats, people all around us going to work, going to school, going about their normal lives. Then on the train platform, our interpreter checked his phone. Kyiv's mayor had just identified metro stations as the main bomb shelters for the city. The mayor said those stations, quote, "God forbid," will stand ready to shelter people during a possible attack.



And you can hear Mary Louise's interview with the former prime minister of Ukraine elsewhere on the show tonight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.