A Year Of War and Loss In Ukraine | Crooked Media
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February 23, 2023
What A Day
A Year Of War and Loss In Ukraine

In This Episode

  • Today marks the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Rolling Stone correspondent Jack Crosbie joins us from Kyiv to reflect on his time covering the conflict. We also check in with Julia Knyupa, a Ukrainian refugee who fled the country on the first day of the invasion, about how her life has changed.
  • And in headlines: federal safety investigators said there was little warning before the Ohio train derailment, R&B singer R. Kelly received more prison time for child sex abuse, and Tennessee could become the first state to ban drag performances.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, February 24th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day where we are experiencing a psychic premonition that Marianne Williamson is about to jump in the race for president. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s giving Charmed. I don’t know if y’all ever saw Charmed, but that’s what it’s giving. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s giving Charmed. It’s giving Raven. It’s giving– 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A lot of things. [laughing] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the site of the Ohio train derailment. Plus, Rihanna is gearing up for another big TV performance. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, today marks the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. It is really just wild to think about how much the world has changed and has suffered in just one year because of this war. I will never forget the night the invasion started. We’d been discussing the possibility of it happening for quite some time. We actually finished recording our show for the night. I was heading to bed, but we got word that the invasion had started, so we scrapped whatever we had done before and we rerecorded the show. It was me and Gideon. Yeah, I’ll never forget it. It was really surreal. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. I remember being at home, minding my little business and then getting the news alerts, right, that it had happened was happening. Um. Definitely a really interesting moment to say the least. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s one I feel like we all remember where you were, what you were doing when it happened. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And so as we were putting together today’s show, we went into the archives to revisit that night. Take a listen to this clip from our episode from February 24th, 2022: 


Priyanka Aribindi: Things are changing really quickly. There are explosions being heard around the country in Ukraine right now, and I’m sure there will be many more new details by the time that you’re hearing this. But this is the latest as of now. In a televised speech early Thursday, Moscow time, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a, quote, “special military operation to protect Donbas,” the Russian backed separatist held region in eastern Ukraine. Here is a clip of CNN’s Matthew Chance, who we’ve spoken to multiple times, reporting live from Kyiv. 


[clip of Matthew Chance] Oh, I say, well, I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I told you we shouldn’t have done a live shot here. There are big explosions taking place in Kyiv right now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just watching the news, listening to anything in those first days, just that uncertainty and that chaos. It didn’t stop for a very long time. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and for many people. Right. It still hasn’t stopped. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. I mean, so much has happened since this invasion began. A refugee crisis of massive proportion and massive scale has devastated so many people. The world economy has faced huge consequences. And there is this crisis of energy. Many countries are rethinking where they get their energy from. But Tre’vell, now that we’re in this moment, can you give us the latest news coming out of Russia and Ukraine? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So perhaps the biggest development lately is that yesterday the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution demanding Russia withdraw its forces from Ukraine, though the resolution is non-binding. It was supported by 141 of the 193 members of the assembly, so that’s 73% of them. The resolution calls for an immediate end to the attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, and it highlights the need for Russia to be held accountable for any crimes committed during the conflict. Now, Russia hasn’t too much cared about what the UN has had to say this entire past year. So I wouldn’t hold your breath about–


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –what this will actually mean. But the vote did kind of show where different countries allegiances lie. Right. So you have China, Iran, India and 29 others that abstained from the vote. And today, President Biden and other G7 leaders will be meeting virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to coordinate support efforts, especially as Putin has basically warned that the Kremlin is plotting a, quote unquote, “revenge attack” on the anniversary of the invasion. And I’ll just note kind of the energy on the ground in Ukraine. They’re basically prepping for the worst. Schools across the country have been advised to switch to remote learning by the country’s education minister. As we know, Russia has a history of targeting schools and other civilian gathering centers. And then specifically in the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson, which we’ve talked about a lot on the show. Authorities have advised residents to avoid any unnecessary trips outside, and they’ve asked humanitarian groups to not encourage large gatherings. So they’re bracing themselves for the worst. But as you know, Priyanka, throughout this past year, we’ve talked to a little bit of everybody about this situation, foreign policy experts, journalists and regular, degular people whose lives have been impacted. Looking back, what stands out to you? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, there really is so much so many unforgettable stories and things that stand out. But in the days following the initial attacks, journalist Jack Crosbie, who was on the ground in Ukraine, actually sent us a voice note. Take a listen. 


[clip of Jack Crosbie] The past 12 hours um have been uh sort of strange and surreal and and bewildering, sort of just walking around the city. There’s a very strange sense of just like kind of lost and abandoned, just kind of trying to make plans for how the next couple of days will shape out but um I think the one thing that we’ve learned from this conflict so far is that plans aren’t going to get you too far in this because it’s still a very volatile and very changing situation. 


Priyanka Aribindi: One year later, we got in touch with Jack again. He is back in Kyiv. He’s actually gone back and forth several times since. And he has talked to several Ukrainians whose lives have been impacted by this invasion in a variety of ways. I started out by asking him to reflect on what it’s been like there in Ukraine now compared to the time that he spent there before this invasion started. 


Jack Crosbie: Something that’s really profound right now is that in a lot of the country, there’s been this sort of sense of normalcy that very much has been restored at certain points over the past year. The last time I was in Ukraine was in June. It was the middle of the summer and I spent the better part of a week in Kyiv, the capital, and things were shockingly normal. I got a haircut at a place down the street from my apartment. I was going out with friends to bars every night. There was this nightlife that had kind of reasserted itself. There were parties and raves and fashion events and concerts and everything like that that were going on. But throughout all of that kind of like this fundamental undercurrent that the war was very much still going on, the concerts would often be a benefit for the armed forces. The hairdresser who cut my hair was saying that like his mother was living under occupation in the Kherson region. And what’s happened over this past year is we’ve seen Ukrainians really struggling to reclaim that normalcy all over the country and then just periodically having it shattered. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Jack Crosbie: You know, this winter what’s been very hard is that when Russia stepped up its attacks on Ukraine’s electrical grid and infrastructure, a huge amount of even cities that weren’t previously kind of under direct military threat were very much feeling the effects of this war, that there were constant power outages in Kyiv, the heat would go out. People are buying solar chargers for their phones, service is going in and out. And so this year has really seemed like, as it’s been a very direct kind of push and pull of forces on the front lines. It’s also been in kind of Ukrainian society and among civilians, this like push and pull of them trying to find some way to come back to their normal ways of life in spite of this and then having that, you know, periodically disrupted. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. I am curious about what that has been like for you as someone coming back. Do you ever get scared to be there? Like, what is it like for you, your experience when you are there? 


Jack Crosbie: Ukraine at the moment, I think, feels a bit more like it did um in the very early stages of this conflict in 2014 and 2015. At the time I covered the conflict in 2015 when it was very static, um the front line was in a designated place sort of in the Donbas region, and where you knew you were going to be exposed to risk was a very specific part of the country. The scope of the conflict is much, much larger now. And of course, there are widespread air raids and things like that going on all over the country. What’s happening now is I now know that if I’m in Kyiv, things are pretty safe, things are stable, um and you know which parts of the country are hotspots. That’s a huge difference to how the beginning of the war felt, which I had never felt as someone who covers conflict and crisis and protests and things like that. I’d never felt a sense of like uncertainty and exposure like I felt like that before where at any point in any part of the country, you could be threatened. In the early days of the war, I was I was in Kharkiv when the war started far out east, right on the Russian border. So it was very direct and immediate then. But even after I left Kharkiv and I was following like this refugee path, you didn’t know if there was going to be an airstrike in the city next. You didn’t know what those airstrikes were going to be targeting. And when you’re traveling through some regions, you even didn’t know which roads would be open if you went up to a checkpoint. In the most extreme cases, you didn’t know which military would be behind that checkpoint. So that specific situation doesn’t exist as much anymore. It’s more manageable. But the intensity of the conflict is very much still it’s sort of an unprecedented level. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So all of this, you know, involves very real people who are trying to live their lives. What have you heard from them, especially the people you’re interacting with on a daily basis in Ukraine about how their lives have changed since this conflict started? 


Jack Crosbie: The most consistent thing that I’m hearing from people is how much of a disruption the conflict has been in the social units that they kind of relied on. Obviously, the most direct thing is, you know, families that have been split up, mothers and children that have gone to different countries. Fathers that had to stay home here in the war. You know, Ukraine still has provisions up that mean that military age men cannot travel outside of the country in case they’re needed for service. But I would say that it is remarkable, I think, to see the level of resolve that people have in the national identity of Ukraine, that really feeling of a shared experience that people have being under attack by an outside force has created a pretty profound feeling in a society that I haven’t seen before, that they want to retain that national identity no matter what happens. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Rolling Stone correspondent Jack Crosbie. Tre’vell, you also had a chance to reconnect with someone else we spoke with last year. Tell us more about that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That is right. I talked to another friend of WAD, Julia Knyupa, who is originally from Cherkasy, a city in central Ukraine. We first spoke with her last year after she fled the country on the very first day of the war. And as you might imagine, her entire life has changed. I asked her to take us back to the moment she decided that she had to leave her home. Take a listen. 


Julia Knyupa: I had a feeling that the war will happen a few months before. I had a plan that if uh the war will start, I will leave because unfortunately, my mental health is not allowing me to stay there. Like the very first day it happened, I panicking so much that I literally left on the very first day of the war. It took me a few days to leave the country because it was not easy and the lines on the border were very long. But I left and my first country who hosted me was Poland. And later I moved to England when they opened the special program for Ukrainians. I hope to visit Ukraine hopefully in May, but it’s still a very flexible plan as it’s still very dangerous and not safe anywhere, even in the cities which are not constantly bombed. But it’s still very unpredictable. As for the future, of course, I see myself with Ukraine in Ukraine because, you know, I have other life circumstances. I want to continue my education. I met a guy here. I don’t know how we decide with our future. So. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You mentioned that yourself, so many of your friends have been displaced because of the war. Are you still in touch with people who are still in Ukraine or who have gone through this experience with you? 


Julia Knyupa: Yes, of course. I keep in touch with all my friends. The war didn’t change anything. We still meet just online. Unfortunately, we already experienced COVID isolation time, so we used to talk to each other online, so it was kind of a preparation. A few of my friends are still in my native city. My best, very best friend cannot leave or don’t want to leave because she doesn’t want to leave her husband. They just married literally a few days before the war and she said, I will not leave him. I totally understand this. And as a human being, we are very adjustable and adaptive and a lot of them have such a high level of resilience nowadays that they can literally work and live their usual lives during air alarms. But of course, some of them shared that it’s really difficult to work when you don’t have electricity or internet. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What message do you have would you like to share about how this war has impacted your life and impacted the lives of Ukrainians that you think our audience should be aware of? 


Julia Knyupa: I would say that this huge challenge made us even more a nation. So from just a population, we become a real nation. This war united us even more. Ukrainians who are now abroad are also suffering just from a different circumstances because living in another country is not a tourism, it’s a forced emigration. So the life is not easy. And uh my message to the world would be please support Ukraine. The war is still going on and it becomes a part of daily life, but it’s real lives of real people still. And we believe that we are going to win. So please support us. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was Julia Knyupa, a Ukrainian refugee now living in London. We will, of course, keep you all updated on any new developments in the war. And of course, we hope that this time next year, we won’t be acknowledging yet another anniversary. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’ll take a quick break and be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Convicted rapist and former movie producer Harvey Weinstein will very likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. A Los Angeles jury sentenced him to another 16 years in prison yesterday. He was found guilty of rape and sexual assault charges late last year. This comes three years after a jury in New York sentenced him to 23 years in prison in another sexual assault case. The 70 year old will have to serve his time in New York first. Meanwhile, in Chicago, R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for child sex abuse. Last year, a separate federal jury in Brooklyn gave him 30 years for racketeering and sex trafficking. But the judge in Chicago ruled he can serve all but one year concurrently with his previous sentence. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like he’s getting out, and if he does, he will be very, very, very old when that time comes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, a headline with two of the most awful people on our planet. I can’t say I like any part of it. Three people were killed in a shooting spree in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday, including a nine year old girl and a local TV news reporter. It unfolded as a reporter and photographer for Spectrum News 13 were reporting on a homicide that happened earlier that day. That is when sheriff’s deputies said that the alleged gunman returned to the scene and opened fire, killing the reporter and critically injuring the photographer. The suspect then went into a nearby house and shot a woman and her nine year old daughter who later died. Authorities say that the suspect, who is 19, is now in custody, but they have not yet established a motive. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Federal investigators said Thursday there’s no evidence that the crew operating the train that derailed outside of East Palestine, Ohio, did anything wrong. That’s according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board, which also noted the three person crew barely had any notice that something was wrong. More specifically, that the train’s axle was overheating and that they did everything they could to cool it down and alert their dispatcher with what little time they had to act. Also on Thursday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to East Palestine to see the wreckage firsthand. A day after Donald Trump showed up to the small town. Buttigieg clapped back at the former president’s criticism of the government’s response to the disaster, saying, quote, “One thing he could do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Pete always coming with the receipts. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We love to see it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got to love it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Despite the GOP’s best efforts to make decisions for other people’s bodies and their health care. Most Americans support abortion in all or most cases. That is according to a new report from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. It found that support for abortion access has actually been steadily rising for more than a decade, long before last year’s Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v Wade. And the study also shows that the share of hard line abortion opponents has dropped significantly since 2010. Back then, 15% of respondents said that abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared to just 7% by the end of last year. The report even found a similar trend among Republican voters. And while we’re armed with that knowledge, reproductive rights advocates are bracing for an upcoming federal court decision out of Texas. A Trump appointed judge there is expected to rule as early as today over whether to overturn the FDA’s approval of a drug, mifepristone, which is used in about half of all abortions in the U.S.. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Nothing scares the streets quite like a Lady Gaga lip sync and a stunt proof wig. The Republican led Tennessee House passed a bill yesterday that will prohibit drag shows from public property limiting performances to age restricted venues. Additionally, the bill would classify, quote, “male and female impersonators” as adult oriented performances that are harmful to children, which would be restricted under the state’s existing obscenity laws. Representative Chris Todd, the bill’s sponsor, filed the bill after protesting a public Pride drag performance where he called the family friendly show child abuse before admitting he had no idea what the show entailed. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Of course he doesn’t know because none of them know anything. The current version of the bill will now make a second pass through the state Senate where it is likely to pass. Because they all hate us. Before heading to Governor Bill Lee’s desk, if signed into law, it remains unclear how the bill will be enforced. But it could leave drag performers and venues even more vulnerable to difficult legal challenges. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it would be very cool if Republicans wanted to legislate or do anything that would actually help anyone. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Uh. Instead of doing this. But–


Tre’vell Anderson: Here we are. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Great. I feel like it is par for the course at this point. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Rihanna will not be stopping the music after all, as it was confirmed yesterday that the singer will be performing her original song from Black Panther Wakanda Forever at the 95th Academy Awards in March. Rihanna is one of seven Black women nominated for Oscars this year. Six of whom are nominated for their work on Wakanda Forever. Her song Lift Me Up, written alongside Tems, Ludwig Göransson and Ryan Coogler, is nominated for Best Original Song alongside Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand from Top Gun Maverick and Natu Natu from Indian blockbuster, RRR. I am so sorry to Rihanna. I gotta root for RRR in this case. [laugh] It’s been a busy month for the pop star who announced her second pregnancy during her Super Bowl halftime performance and last week debuted photos of her family on the cover of British Vogue. Let’s hope that all of this exposure means that she is ready to drop another bombshell in the coming months, maybe something that is roughly the shape and size of an album. At least ten tracks, maybe some features wouldn’t even be mad if there were no features she could do by herself. She proved it at the Super Bowl. Just a though. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, as someone who has been patiently waiting for an album, particularly after the Super Bowl, I said to myself that like, we just need to give it up. We’re not getting one, it’s not happening. And so we might as well just buckle up for her Lift Me Up performance. I’m sure it’ll be riveting, to say the least. [laughing] I’m sure the Oscars performance will be good? [laughter] 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, I’m sure she will be there at the Oscars. Of that, I’m sure. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, interpret the vibes, and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just which awards Rihanna still needs to EGOT like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I am Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And just give us a single Rihanna. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just only one. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just a little banger, hold us over for the summer. Could be fun?


Tre’vell Anderson: She said y’all better lift up this Black Panther song and hold it down because I got a baby to, you know, procreate or percolate. Whatever you say. Whatever babies do, incubate? [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. A lot of options. A lot of options there. 


Tre’vell Anderson: A lot of options. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto, are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producers are Lita Martinez, Michael Martinez and Sandy Girard. Production support comes from Leo Duran, Ari Schwartz and Matt DeGroot with additional promotional and social support from Ewa Okulate, Julia Beach and Jordan Silver. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.