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A Ukrainian mother fears what will come next in Russian-Ukraine conflict

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Throughout the program today, we're bringing you the voices of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary events underway in Ukraine. And next, I want you to meet Ivanka Gonak. She's a tour guide in the city of Lviv. That's in the west of Ukraine, more than 350 miles from Kyiv. I reached her earlier today.

What's it like there today? Is it calm?

IVANKA GONAK: It's actually warm, and the spring is coming, and the sun is shining. We have a beautiful, peaceful blue sky.

KELLY: A beautiful, peaceful blue sky - that's not what I expected to hear from anyone in Ukraine today. What about the streets? Are they busy? Are people home scared? What's it look like?

GONAK: The streets are rather empty. Well, today we were out of some everyday things, and we went to a big supermarket, to Auchan, and made our shopping.

KELLY: You have kids, I'm told. How old?

GONAK: I have three kids. And my eldest one is 13, and the youngest is 3.

KELLY: What - I'm thinking of your younger kids in particular. What do they understand of what is happening in your country today?

GONAK: The youngest one is not yet ready to understand anything, while the middle one - 7 years old - he's scared. He feels the atmosphere, and, well, we had a long talk. Luckily on the internet, there's, like, short recommendations from the psychologists - how to talk with kids about war and what's happening and what to give them in a moral support way. And yeah, we had a talk today. And that's awful, actually. I would never think that I have to have such a talk with my children.

KELLY: No. I mean, you can't imagine having such talk. It's a hard one. It's a hard one. Do you have a plan if things were to get worse in Lviv. Would you stay? Would you go? What would you do?

GONAK: Yeah, I have a plan. Well, it's absolutely peaceful today, comparing to many other Ukrainian cities - absolutely peaceful. So far, Lviv is untouched, and oh, God, help us to stay that way, though. Yeah, we're invited by our relatives in the village to go there, and maybe we will. And we have friends abroad which are welcoming us as well. So far, I know that there is long lines on the border because panic already started.

KELLY: Yes. I'm thinking - just today I have spoken to someone near the capital near Kyiv who sent her daughter to Lviv because she thinks she will be more safe there. And I'm also talking to a friend who I know who lives in Lviv who's trying to leave, who's trying to cross the border and get into Poland and leave Ukraine. It sounds like people are both coming to your city and trying to leave.

GONAK: Well, today I've invited my friends from Kyiv and from Kharkiv to come to us. Our Kharkiv friends are in the village nearby to Kharkiv. Our Kyiv friends believe in the army - stay in the city. So I guess I have the brave friends.

KELLY: Brave friends.

GONAK: Yeah.

KELLY: Do you have friends who speak Russian, who are in Russian, who are maybe sympathetic to what Russia is doing?

GONAK: No. All of my friends that are Russian - they say that they're very sorry, that they feel awful shame of what's happening. They say that it wasn't their choice and nobody was asking them. And they cry, and they beg us to forgive them for what their country is doing. So far, that's my experience.

KELLY: Yeah. Well, thank you for speaking with us. We'll be keeping you in our thoughts. Best wishes to you and your family. Stay safe.

GONAK: Thank you so much.

KELLY: We've been speaking with Ivanka Honak in Lviv in western Ukraine.

I was about to hang up. I thought we were done. But Ivanka stayed on the line. She wanted to say one more thing.

GONAK: Well, I did everything I could.

KELLY: Yeah. Yeah.

GONAK: And actually, I'm close to panic 'cause it's damn scary. Everything looks perfectly normal here. But it's just - I have kids. And that's responsibility, though our men are leaving to fight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ILLUMININE'S "DEAR, DOLORES [JULIEN MARCHAL REWORK]") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.