Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its 12th day as civilians across Ukraine are shelled while trying to flee for safety. More than 1.5 million refugees have now left Ukraine in what the United Nations is calling the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. We speak to Kateryna Ivanova, who ran a dental clinic with her husband just outside of Kyiv, about the toll of war on daily life as medical professionals risk their lives by staying behind to meet the shortage. “We cannot work as a dental office at the moment, but I really want to be of use for my neighborhood and for my country, so I’m doing what I can,” says Ivanova.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
As we continue our coverage of Russia’s invasion, we go now to Ukraine, where we’re joined by Kateryna Ivanova. She’s a former journalist who once worked with Ukraine’s Regional Press Development Institute, now running a dental clinic with her husband near Kyiv.
Kateryna, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the situation on the ground where you are, near the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv?
KATERYNA IVANOVA: Hello. I live in a small village in the suburbs of Kyiv. It’s on the side where the international airport is. So far, it’s quiet in our place. We can hear the explosions and shelling, but it sounds far away.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about, overall, the situation, if you’re thinking of leaving? You have what the U.N. is describing as the largest refugee crisis developing in the world since World War II, with one-and-a-half million Ukrainians leaving.
KATERYNA IVANOVA: Well, a lot of people have left their houses and in search of a safer place. And I can understand them. I have two children, and I also faced the question: Should I leave, or should I stay? We decided to stay until it’s possible. Well, if there is a direct danger to my kids and my family, we would leave, of course. Many people have stayed, though, and with the intention to fight and to protect their houses, to protect their land.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to happen now, Kateryna?
KATERYNA IVANOVA: Well, I could hear the talks about the peace deal, but I don’t know if there is any sense to set any agreements with Putin. The history has showed not for just once that he promises, and he lies. He promised to organize a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, Kherson and other cities that are under heavy shelling. He lied. So, he can promise anything to Ukraine and to the world and lie again. I don’t believe in any treaties with Russia.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you —
KATERYNA IVANOVA: The only — you know, here people say that if Russia stops fighting, there will be no war, but if Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no Ukraine. So that’s the deal.
AMY GOODMAN: You worked as a journalist for years before helping to run this clinic. Can you talk about the coverage of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine?
KATERYNA IVANOVA: Well, if you ask about the coverage in Ukraine and in all the world media, it’s basically the same. It’s only Russia that keeps telling that they don’t have any victims of war, that Russia keeps forbidding to call the war “war.” They say it’s a special operation. And they shut down social media. You know, I strongly believe that those who have nothing to hide, they need no censorship. So, if they are trying to hide something, that means that there is bigger lies to be hided.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what the Russian resistance means to you, the protesters, 13,000 protesters arrested since the beginning of the invasion, also calls for Russian mothers to pick up their sons in Ukraine, the fighters?
KATERYNA IVANOVA: There is such an initiative. Ukrainian people created a database with the data of all the soldiers that have been killed or that are here in Ukraine. But as far as I know, this database is also banned in Russia. Moreover, I have seen the pieces of news that now Russian soldiers are being taken their passports away, so no one could recognize them and inform their relatives. So, basically, they are the mass without any name, you know.
AMY GOODMAN: You and your husband run a private dental clinic. You’re using your connections to supply medicine to the Ukrainian territorial defense units. Can you describe what you’re doing?
KATERYNA IVANOVA: As a dental clinic, we have a contract with a big company that supplies medicine and stock, like for hospitals, for pharmacies. So, basically, what we are doing, we are ordering medicine that cannot be bought now in pharmacies, both for territorial defense units and for local community, because since the pharmacists — most of the pharmacies are not open, people with chronic diseases, with heart diseases, diabetes, and now the other illnesses, they have no medicine, no necessary drugs for them to live. So, what we do, we collect the information about the needs both in local communities and territorial units, and then order it from this big warehouse and distribute. We cannot work as a dental office at the moment, but I really want to be of use for my neighborhood and for my country, so I’m doing what I can.
AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday hundreds of refugees from Ukraine boarded ferries crossing the Danube into Romania. This is a Ukrainian woman named Stasya from Odessa.
STASYA: Right now we’re heading for Bulgaria. We have some friends there and some family. But, like, our family was basically torn apart because I had to leave my parents and my husband at home. And I hope that when this is over — and I hope this is over soon — we’ll still have a home to go back to. … When I left, the situation was very troublesome. We did hear some shots. There were sirens every other night, every other hour, so we had to go into hiding and to hide in bomb shelters. And some people were just hiding in the parking lots of their houses.
AMY GOODMAN: Kateryna, can you tell us how old your children are and what you’re telling them? And talk about your plans to stay in Ukraine, unlike so many others.
KATERYNA IVANOVA: I have two children, a son and a daughter. My son is 12, and my daughter is 15. I think my son doesn’t really understand all the consequences of the situation that we are facing. My daughter, though, understands really well, and it’s really difficult for me to see them panicking and crying and having trouble sleeping. For the first five days, we were sleeping on the floor, on the first floor, under the stairs. So my son called this little shelter the Harry Potter’s room, which is kind of cute, but it just breaks my heart. We decided to stay until it’s possible to stay. We also have pets. And my neighbors left the country and left their dog. So, I’m trying to take care of their dog also, trying to find, you know, new senses and keep living. It’s a really difficult situation to leave the house and leave your life.
AMY GOODMAN: And your husband —
KATERYNA IVANOVA: So we decided to stay until it’s possible.
AMY GOODMAN: Your husband would have to stay, no matter what?
KATERYNA IVANOVA: My husband is a doctor, so he — well, none of the men can leave the country at the moment. But besides of that, my husband is a doctor, and he can be called in any second, so we’re just staying and waiting, basically.
AMY GOODMAN: Kateryna Ivanova, we thank you for being with us, running a dental clinic with her husband near Kyiv. She’s a former journalist, previously worked with Ukraine’s Regional Press Development Institute.
Coming up, we talk to a Russian historian and activist after over 5,000 antiwar protesters were detained on Sunday as part of a sweeping crackdown on Russian civil society and the media. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Don’t Be Scared,” by Yoko Ono, covered by We Are King. There’s a new album out of Yoko Ono covers. And again, every night for the month of March, Yoko Ono is transmitting the message “Imagine Peace” on electronic billboards in six cities around the world.