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Ukraine marks one year of war with defiance and trepidation

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We also spoke with NPR's Joanna Kakissis in Kyiv.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Steve, this is a very somber day for Ukraine. And here in Kyiv, just think about how different this city was a year ago. It was so vibrant and full of life, and now many residents of the city are dead. Many others are refugees. Others are on the front line fighting. And you don't - you know, you walk around the city, and you see relatively normal life. Some restaurants are open. People are going to work. People are walking along, you know, holding hands with their kids. But you don't have to go too far out of the city to see destruction.

In the suburbs, you see bridges that have been bombed - homes, shopping malls, all destroyed. And these are also places that saw horrors - you know, people tortured, people executed. And that pain hasn't gone away. But this invasion has also united Ukrainians. It's made them defiant. And so the government is holding a series of events today to acknowledge these deep feelings of pain and defiance.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHURCH BELLS RINGING)

KAKISSIS: Those are the bells of St. Michael's cathedral. And this is where we met Olha Komarnytska. She said her husband Ivan was killed on the front lines three months ago. She was at a ceremony today where his portrait was hung on a memorial wall for fallen soldiers.

OLHA KOMARNYTSKA: (Through interpreter) Today, I have no words. It's hard. It's complicated. This year has gone by as if it were a month - a long, long month. I can't even bring myself to say the name Russia.

KAKISSIS: So President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called this the longest day of our lives in an early morning video address, and he's expected to speak again later today.

INSKEEP: So that's what it's like to be in Kyiv. How are other countries observing this one-year mark?

KAKISSIS: Well, you know, Ukrainians are worried that Russians will mark this day with even more attacks. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. And yesterday, there were very public signs of support in major cities. In London, activists painted the street outside the Russian embassy in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. And in Brussels, pro-Ukrainian demonstrators filled a neighborhood with teddy bears, representing the thousands of Ukrainian children who have been forcibly moved to Russia.

INSKEEP: So that is how the world is marking this day. What do you hear from Ukrainians about the immediate future?

KAKISSIS: So I saw a public opinion poll the other day that said that nearly 80% of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine is going to win. And by win, they mean reclaim every inch of territory that Russia has occupied since 2014, including the southern peninsula of Crimea. The West has given - you know, let's remember, the West has given Ukraine billions in military and humanitarian aid. Western weapons have helped Ukrainian forces hit Russian targets and reclaim occupied territory. And Western aid has helped Ukraine restore some of its power grid after it was almost destroyed during months of Russian strikes. Ukrainians are very grateful for all this, and they want to show the West and the Kremlin and even themselves that they are rebuilding even as Russia continues to attack.

INSKEEP: NPR's Joanna Kakissis, thanks so much.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.

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