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The Russian invasion of Ukraine is creating an exodus of civilians seeking safety

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Russian invasion is creating an exodus of Ukrainians. With a population of over 40 million, the number of those displaced is growing. Yesterday, I reconnected with a woman I met in Kyiv a few weeks ago. She's a journalist and human rights activist named Dariia Hirna. She talked to me from her car, as she and her husband were trying to leave the capital city.

DARIIA HIRNA: Me and my husband, we are now about to leave Kyiv. It's our second try. And we are on our way to leave to my hometown.

MARTIN: So you say this is your second time trying to leave the capital city. Why didn't the first time work?

HIRNA: Because it was, like, huge traffic. So it was really impossible. And now we are not sure that we will do that because we see the Google Maps, and it actually shows us that it's all red.

MARTIN: Why did you decide that now was the time to pick up and go?

HIRNA: Now we see that it, like, got very tense, so it's not safe to stay there. And the shelter that the city council have proposed us, it's - not look safe. There is not any necessary, like, bathroom or a toilet. So we don't see any chance we can, like, spend here our night safely.

MARTIN: Can you say more about what this has meant to have this attack actually happen?

HIRNA: It feels really horrible. And it was, like, scariest day of my life, I would say. I never felt anything like this before. And it's really hard times for Ukraine. And I really hope that the international community, our partners, will help Ukraine.

MARTIN: You are trying to get to your parents' house, closer in the West. What are they telling you?

HIRNA: They're really nervous right now because, actually, they had to go to my hometown this weekend because I was going to become a mother in God for my nephew. And...

MARTIN: A godmother, yeah.

HIRNA: Yeah, a godmother. And now, like, we won't be able to do that, obviously.

MARTIN: Is there anything else you think we should know about what you're seeing or what you're feeling?

HIRNA: The thing is, Ukrainian nation doesn't want to be with Russia in any union. We don't want them here. We want to decide our future by ourselves. And I just can say to all the Russian people that - just get out of Ukraine, you know? Like, it's a huge catastrophe that is going on right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ESPERANZA'S "AUTUMN LEAF")

MARTIN: Ukrainian journalist Dariia Hirna. We spoke with her as she and her husband were trying to escape from the capital city Kyiv.

(SOUNDBITE OF ESPERANZA'S "AUTUMN LEAF") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.