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A resident of Odesa, Ukraine describes life amid Russian missile and drone strikes

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Odesa, a famed city along the Black Sea, has been shaken by wave after wave of Russian missile and drone strikes nearly every night for several days. This is after Russia withdrew from a deal that had protected the critical flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea to markets around the world. We've reached a lifelong resident of Odesa, Vadym Herbanovskyvi. Mr. Herbanovskyvi, thank you for being with us.

VADYM HERBANOVSKYVI: Greetings to everyone. I'm really glad to be here with you.

SIMON: What's it like in Odesa now? What's it been like this week?

HERBANOVSKYVI: It's been tough, especially for the last two weeks, because we had a huge amount of rockets from the Russian side especially during the night. So if you pick up any person from Odesa and ask about their state, they will be very, very sleepy and tired emotionally and physically because, still, we are doing our best to save the economy, to work. So, you know, during the night, you're sitting in a shelter if you have a shelter and praying not to be dead until the morning because of the missile strikes. And same time in the morning, you wake up and go to do your best in this life.

SIMON: How have you been living? How have you been eating?

HERBANOVSKYVI: We are all trying to survive in these circumstances, you know? It really works on the motivation to help our guys who are military since we all know that they are in a way worse condition, and they are living their lives on the front line. It doesn't help much when you don't sleep for, like, three or four days in a row. But still, you keep this in mind and try to do your best for your families. I know that a lot of people have changed their place of living to the other cities on the western part of Ukraine, which is a bit safer. So at least they are not suffering from the rocket strikes as much as we are. I know that a few rockets were launched on Lviv, so they're not in a 100% safety place, too. But still, people are trying to help each other. Coffee is definitely the most important product in our ratio (ph) that we have now.

SIMON: Coffee to stay awake.

HERBANOVSKYVI: To stay alive, I will say.

SIMON: Yeah. When you go out during the day, if you do, what's the destruction you see?

HERBANOVSKYVI: When you're walking out on a city center, you know, it looks very dehumanizing, I would say - a lot of damaged buildings, people who are living without windows. At this moment, outside is very rainy, and to be honest, I don't know how do they manage the situation. On the next day, when rockets striked (ph) the church, the cathedral one...

SIMON: This is the Transfiguration Cathedral.

HERBANOVSKYVI: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The whole city was there to help fix the damages, to save whatever we can save. Everyone is trying to help the person from the city like providing the shelter for at least a few days to stay, providing the food, and there are some hygiene kits - or anything with that. But it's scary because you see buildings, the areas that you have been living whole your life, where you've been playing as a child, being totally destroyed. And you understand that this war has no human face from their side. They don't care. If you will open any telegram, chat or Facebook page where they post the information about the missile strikes being damaged, you know, in Odesa, you will see a huge amount of people who are laughing and being sarcastic and having fun because of us suffering because they don't think that we are humans.

SIMON: May I ask, Mr. Herbanovskyvi, do you know anyone who's died?

HERBANOVSKYVI: Friend of mine, just to stay safe, she ran on the corner of her flat a few seconds before the explosion, and the whole flat was damaged from the inside because of windows and the explosion wave of the rockets. Not my friends, but the parents of my friends had died during the last days. And this is a huge loss for the people. They were just staying in their houses, and the rocket launched directly to the house.

SIMON: Forgive me for not knowing. Do you have a family?

HERBANOVSKYVI: My family is not here at this moment, only my father. They are in other country because I asked them to go away since the war started. And I'm here doing my best to help the people in the occupied territories because I also work as executive director of the charity. If you could ever see the disaster they made on those territories, this is, like, the most horrifying thing that I have ever seen in my life.

SIMON: What would you like the world to know about Odesa right now and the people there?

HERBANOVSKYVI: I have a feeling that a lot of people from other country who are not deeply involved in the situation in Ukraine, they may be tired of news about us. And I understand that if you hear from day to day the news about country being - suffering from the attack of another country and you don't have any relatives here or friends here, at some point, you may feel that, why are we still participating in this? But even in the worst-case scenario, if I won't survive, my friends won't survive, our people from Ukraine won't survive, nothing will stop here. We are just the front line of the normal civilized world.

SIMON: Vadym Herbanovskyvi in Odesa, Ukraine, thank you so much.

HERBANOVSKYVI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.