Life As A Ukrainian Refugee, Part II | Crooked Media
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March 30, 2022
What A Day
Life As A Ukrainian Refugee, Part II

In This Episode

  • Over 3.9 million people have fled Ukraine and become refugees since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, according to the United Nations. About 2.3 million of those people have gone to neighboring Poland, and another 600,000 people have crossed into neighboring Romania. Julia Pashkovska, a mother who left her home in central Ukraine, joins us to discuss her experience fleeing the country.
  • And in headlines: A Palestinian gunman killed 5 people in Tel Aviv, the FDA approved a second booster dose of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID vaccines for older adults, and the House Jan. 6 committee found a 7.5 hour gap in former President Donald Trump’s phone logs from the day of the insurrection.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, March 30th. I am Gideon Resnick.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we can finally go back to our normal lives now that the American truck or convoy is over.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, for some people it wasn’t disruptive, but we took it really hard because of the five trucks that were in Washington, DC.


Priyanka Aribindi: True healing cannot be rushed, so please respect our privacy during this trying time.


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, the FDA approves another COVID booster dose for some Americans. Plus, the Trump White House is missing almost eight hours of phone records from the day of the insurrection.


Priyanka Aribindi: Where could they have gone? But first, let’s start with the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine that continued on Tuesday. Over a month into this war, it certainly felt like there was progress in the conversation. So Gideon, what happened here?


Gideon Resnick: A lot, apparently, Priyanka. So after about three hours of negotiations in Turkey, here’s where things stand as we go to record at 9:30 Eastern on Tuesday night. So let’s start with Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said that they would commit to being permanently neutral, i.e. they would not seek to join NATO. And that has been a really big demand from Russia before all of this began. And in exchange for that, they were talking about a kind of security system should the country be attacked in the future, whereby other nations like the US, Germany, Turkey and others would provide military assistance. Now one important thing about that is we don’t know whether any of those countries have agreed to that idea in principle just yet. So then there was a territory side of all of these talks. So Ukraine offered up this 15-year timeline for negotiations over Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The New York Times reported that the eastern Donbass region that we’ve talked about quite a bit on this show could be up for further discussion in a later conversation actually between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.


Priyanka Aribindi: OK. Those seem like some pretty big potential concessions. Is that actually in the cards? What else is Russia proposing here?


Gideon Resnick: The meeting itself definitely seems like it might be in the cards. It certainly seems more likely after yesterday’s events, for sure. Now, from the Russian side of things, they’re substantive contribution was saying that the country would quote, “drastically reduce its military actions around the cities of Kiev and Chernihiv in an effort to quote, “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations.” So Zelensky and President Biden viewed these promises a little warily, with Biden saying in part quote, “We’ll see if they follow through with what they are suggesting.”


Priyanka Aribindi: Right.


Gideon Resnick: It is possible also, observers have been saying, that Russia is more prepared to negotiate at this point because of resistance from Ukrainian forces, that they might have been pushed into this position. The New York Times reported that a member of the Ukrainian delegation said that it would take two weeks or more to iron out more details with Russia and the other countries who could possibly be involved in this. Turkey has said that it will continue to act as an intermediary here—a whole other interesting subplot to this. So we’ll hold out hope and keep following all of that. But now Priyanka, fill us in on some updates on the ground in Ukraine.


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course. So, during his nightly address on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that despite positive negotiations during their peace talks quote, “these signals do not silence the explosion of Russian shells.” Russia’s military strikes and Ukraine’s counter-offensive have continued across the country. In the southern city of Mykolaiv, at least nine people were killed and another 28 were injured after a strike on a regional government building.


Gideon Resnick: And as we talk about all of the violence, there is this video that has been circulating over the past few days of soldiers in Ukraine allegedly shooting Russian prisoners of war near the Kharkiv region. What more do we know about that?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So this video was posted online on Sunday, and it shows that, as you were saying, Russian prisoners of war were being shot in their legs by what appears to be Ukrainian soldiers, based on the colors of the armbands that they’re wearing. The video has been circulating on social media and pro-Russian media channels. Its location in the Kharkiv region was traced by an open source researcher and confirmed by The Washington Post. Some Ukrainian officials have dismissed the video as Russian propaganda, but an advisor to President Zelenskyy said on Sunday that they will investigate and that if the video is found to be credible, Ukraine will punish the people who are responsible.


Gideon Resnick: I would imagine so. Yeah, it seems very disturbing. So, as this invasion continues, more and more Ukrainians continue to be displaced from their homes. How many people have left so far?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, according to the United Nations, as of now, over 3.9 million people have fled Ukraine and become refugees since the beginning of this war. 2.3 million of those people have gone to neighboring Poland, and another 600,000 people have crossed into Romania, which also neighbors Ukraine. As part of a series we’re doing here at What A Day, we have been speaking to some of the refugees. Earlier, I spoke with Julia Pashkovska, she is an environmental activist, a photographer, and a mother who left her home in Poltava, which is in central Ukraine, with her nine-year old daughter to flee to Estonia. I started by asking her what it felt like to leave her home and how she decided to do so.


Julia Pashkovska: Oh, it was actually very, very hard decision. I think one of the hardest in my life because I love Ukraine and I love my city. But I also have a small daughter. As we are very close to Kharkiv and, you know, our sky is not closed yet in Ukraine, so they could start the bomb any city in Ukraine. So this is a huge problem. So I need to take my daughter to bring you to more safe place. And I talk with my psychologist and she told me, You know, Julia, I know how your decision is hard for you, it’s heartbreaking, actually, but now we need to save our children.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I want to ask you more about your daughter. How did you tell her what’s going on? How did you explain that you’re leaving your home?


Julia Pashkovska: She’s a nine-year old, so of course she understand everything. And she knew from the first day that war had started. And actually, you never can believe in such news. Of course, there was a lot of talks about, Oh yes, Russia gonna attack Ukraine, but you still cannot believe until the last second. And my daughter, she was the first day I start to worry very much, even maybe panic a little bit. She was not panic, but she was sad and she was worrying what is going on, actually. So I told her, You know, sweetie, unfortunately, war has started, so we are in a type of danger but of course, when you’re with me, you are safe, and everything and everything. And the next few weeks, we just try to find some balance. It was very hard because every day, alarm, few times per day, you need to stay in corridor or in bomb shelter. And it was also emotionally hard, for sure.


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. What were the ways over the past few weeks that you’ve been able to stay mentally OK, psychologically OK? I imagine this is just like an incredibly difficult situation, as you’re saying.


Julia Pashkovska: Yes, I think adrenaline helped us so very much. There was no place for panic and disappointment, for crying, even. Maybe only on third day, I really started to cry. I was so like, very tired emotionally, so probably cried a few hours and then it becomes much better. The hardest time started when I flee Ukraine, when I flee my home. You take you with your roots and you bring you yourself to another country but you don’t want to put you with your roots in the ground in this country because you want to come back home, you know?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I want to ask you a little more about, you know, leaving. Now you’re in Estonia. What did you have to do to get there? How long did you have to pack up your things? How did you decide you know, what you take, what you leave?


Julia Pashkovska: So I always had my documents, all our documents with, power bank and mobile phone and the laptop and my camera. So all my life, you know, I had with me in my backpack always. And then we stayed in our home and we thought that it’s a safe place. But then we decide to leave the country, I pack all things just in one bag. It was not a huge bag, like just maybe a few dresses for me, few dresses for her. And you know why, do not buy a lot of things here, do not spend a lot of money because we do not know now how everything will go and for how many time we will stay here, when I will have enough job because life in Estonia are quite more expensive than in Ukraine.


Priyanka Aribindi: You’re obviously a mother, you’re also a photographer, you’re climate activist. How do all of those aspects of who you are kind of changed how you see the war and how you have been processing all of it?


Julia Pashkovska: Now we are concentrated on how to support people, how to support affected people, how to make any affordable humanitarian aid, or what we can do for food security of communities. So we are mostly concentrated what we can do for our country to get to victory in this war.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Now that you’re away from Ukraine and you’re not trying to make a plan all the time to get out necessarily or be safe, do you have more time to process what’s going on, or are you still kind of in that adrenaline-response state and feel that way?


Julia Pashkovska: Only now, I do not hear a alarm, there was some phantom sounds. From time to time I hear it in sounds of some plane. I also started to think, Oh my God, this is a plane which will bomb us. It’s strange psychological reaction.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right, it’s still with you in that way.


Julia Pashkovska: Yes. Yes, yes. Now it is not. After week hear in the safety. So every night I have a safe night. I do not need to wake up because of air alarm. So I’m starting now to recharge. I’m starting now to put more my efforts to our team work for fundraising, for example, for supporting communities. I am very privileged person because I have very good friends and they hosted me here. I do not need to stay somewhere in refugee camp as hundreds of thousands of people are saying now. A lot of people are in very complicated conditions now. I always trying to remember about it. And we’re just waiting when all of this madness will stop truly, because so many people are dying in Ukraine.


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my chat with Ukrainian refugee Julia Pashkovska last week. We’re going to put some ways our listeners can help people like her in our show notes. That is the latest for now.


Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: A Palestinian gunmen opened fire on passersby and an ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv Tuesday night, killing five. Police shot and killed the gunman as well. And while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, Hamas praised it, though the group did not take responsibility. It is the fifth attack in Israel in less than two weeks, in which 11 people total have died. And today, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is holding an emergency security meeting out of concern that violence will ramp up in the coming days and weeks—that is when three important religious holidays, Ramadan, Passover and Easter, will overlap, and there is a fear that clashes will break out between worshipers. This most recent attack also comes days after Israel held historic diplomatic talks with several Arab countries, talks that, notably Palestinians were not invited to, nor were a major focus of conversation.


Priyanka Aribindi: That is really awful news. I hope those fears do not come true. The FDA approved a second booster dose of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID vaccines for adults who are 50 and older yesterday, along with a third booster shot for immunocompromised folks ages 12 and up. The move comes after the CDC updated its vaccine guidance on both demographics, saying they’re quote, “the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time.” Both booster shots are expected to be available starting today, so book an appointment for yourself if you’re eligible, otherwise your parents or elderly mentors, grandparents, anyone who could possibly use your help scheduling one online. These extra jabs come just in time to fight another COVID variant. Yesterday, the CDC said that the Omicron BA-2 variant, the same one that’s currently tearing through Europe and China, is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. According to officials, big bad BA-2 accounts for more than half of the new COVID cases in America, and the region with the most BA-2 cases is in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey, which is great news for me and Gideon, who are recording this live from New York City.


Gideon Resnick: More like BA-boo—get the hell out of here, we’re done with you! You know that people haven’t tried insulting the coronavirus yet to get it to stop infecting people, and that’s my method. It’s scientific. Much like a lovesick teen from 20 years ago, Trump does not want us snooping on him while he’s on the phone.


Priyanka Aribindi: Can’t imagine why.


Gideon Resnick: Cannot imagine. After reviewing White House records from January 6th, the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection has found a seven and a half hour gap in former President Donald Trump’s phone logs. According to these records from the National Archives, which were turned over to the committee earlier this year, Trump somehow did not make or receive any calls in his office between 11:17 a.m. and 6:54 p.m.


Priyanka Aribindi: Called a mental health break. He took a walk. He put down his phone for a while, got the screen time down. It makes perfect sense.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, he was trying to get his daily average down. And honestly, who can blame it? This mysterious gap conveniently overlaps with the time period in which rioters were violently forcing their way into the Capitol that day. The gap also contradicts recent reports of calls the former president had with his allies on January 6th, including confirmed chats to Republican Senators Mike Lee and Tommy Tuberville, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The seemingly incomplete call log has prompted the House Committee to investigate whether the former president was using other forms of communication on January 6th like a burner phone—or, you know, maybe yelling into a banana in a fit of panic that was so extreme his allies could hear him from miles away. That banana notably does not come with the Diet Coke button. The committee itself hasn’t officially commented on the matter. However, one of its members anonymously told The Washington Post that it is investigating a quote, “possible cover up” of the records in question. Mm hmm. Also in January 6th news Former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner—and my personal sleep paralysis demon—is expected to speak with the House Committee this week, according to ABC News. We’re predicting that he will use his star power and charisma to make the whole investigation go away. If he follows through, Kushner would be the highest ranking member of Trump’s team to sit for an interview thus far.


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know if I’ve heard him speak ever.


Gideon Resnick: It’s interesting. You should spend some time after this.


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know if I need to look that up.


Gideon Resnick: No, I think you do, for your own personal knowledge.


Priyanka Aribindi: There’s an old saying that goes “don’t believe everything you read, but do repeat everything you read if you are a lawmaker in Nebraska and you have a Fox News-related brain parasite.” Nebraska State Senator Bruce Bostelman was following that guidance on Monday when he said this on the floor of the State House:


[clip of Bruce Bostelman] We don’t know what furries are, it’s were schoolchildren—.


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my God.


[clip of Bruce Bostelman] —dress up as animals, cats or dogs, during the school day. Then meow and they bark, and they interact with their school, with the teachers in that in this fashion. And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?


Gideon Resnick: I agree. It would, you know, if somebody was bringing in a litter box, I would have a lot of questions. So, you know, he’s just asking questions, of course.


Priyanka Aribindi: God! Bostelman isn’t the first Republican official to call attention to this very obviously made-up problem. Rumors of children meowing and litter boxes in schools have been circulating since last December among luminaries like the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and often on the platform that is the litter box of the internet, Facebook by the one and only Meta. Numerous school boards have had to debunk these flare ups of furry panic, which is clearly related to conservative efforts throughout the country to police children’s gender identities and more. For his part, Senator Bostelman issued a retraction hours after making his initial statement on Monday. He said quote, “It was just something I felt that if this was really happening, we needed to address it and address it quickly.” Which makes me wonder, what if hypothetically, there were problems the people of Nebraska were running into that didn’t seem like they were designed in a lab to upset Tucker Carlson? What would happen then?


Gideon Resnick: I don’t know. I also wonder like, what you do to address it quickly. You’re like, Well, I guess we got to get a lot of cat litter scoops for the classes, or something.


Priyanka Aribindi: He didn’t quite get to the solution part, I will say. Would love to know what the plan was. What was he cooking up? If anyone could get that information to us, we’d love to see it.


Gideon Resnick: Bruce Bostelman is personally scooping the poop. That’s what we’re just going to assume until given additional information. Those are the headlines. We are going to be back after some ads with a meditation on the best movie to ever combine aerial combat and beach volleyball: Top Gun.


[ad break]


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday WAD squad, and today we’re discussing a trailer that dropped yesterday for the sequel to a movie that changed the way we look at men in white T-shirts and light colored jeans.


[clip from Top Gun 2] Good morning, aviators. This is your captain speaking.


[clip from Top Gun 2] And we’re off.


Gideon Resnick: Oh, hell yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: That was a clip from “Top Gun 2: Maverick” which comes out on May 27 after nearly two years of pandemic-related delays. This movie might be a two-hour long ad for war, according to Gideon, probably going to be closer to three, I would think.


Gideon Resnick: I imagine, I have a guess. Yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: But despite that, our excitement for it is truly exploding into the danger zone. That is because the first film had such a huge impact on so many people. One of those people was Joni Marine, the mom of our beloved associate producer Jazzi Marine. You could say that the movie changed both her and Jazzi’s life. And to explain why, we wanted to share a clip of Joni talking about her experience of watching Top Gun. It’s a moving ode to the power of movies and the power of Tom Cruise in a bomber jacket.


[Joni Marine] It was the summer of 1986 and I was engaged to get married to a guy named Guy. And I went to see the movie Top Gun. And all I remember is that scene where he’s driving on his motorcycle and the sun is beginning to set and he jumps off his motorcycle and he runs to Kelly McGillis, and he gives her this big kiss. And I thought, Whoa, I need more passion in my life. And that’s what changed my life. I canceled my engagement, and the rest is history.


Gideon Resnick: Wow!


Joni Marine: Oh my God!


Gideon Resnick: Wow! Wow. Joni, also, besides the point, if I may call her Joni, Mrs. Marine, remarkable storyteller as well.


Priyanka Aribindi: Remarkable.


Gideon Resnick: That was told beautifully well. Here to discuss this clip with us is Jazzi ‘Maverick’ Marine herself. Jazzi, welcome.


Jazzi Marine: Hey, guys.


Gideon Resnick: How did you feel hearing that? The same as we felt?


Jazzi Marine: Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think it was pretty badass of my mom to cancel her wedding. And she and my Dad have a really good relationship. I think she found the passion. I don’t know. So I’m pretty grateful for it. And yeah, it’s pretty crazy.


Gideon Resnick: It’s amazing. Do you feel when you look back on everything that you kind of, oh, your life the Top Gun?


Jazzi Marine: Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, when I tell people that I’m here because of Top Gun, they’re pretty confused. But you know, it’s a really good conversation starter. They ask a lot of questions.


Priyanka Aribindi: You said it today in our meeting and we were like, What!? Say more.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah.


Jazzi Marine: I know. And then we all break out into song, and Take My Breath away. And, yeah!


Gideon Resnick: So you have to be going to see this when it hits theaters, right? More importantly, is your mom going to see it?


Jazzi Marine: Yes. I think that we should do a WAD-Marine family outings sponsored by Crooked Media.


Priyanka Aribindi: 100%. Love that.


Jazzi Marine: I think we should all get like pretty into it. Maybe dress up, wear some aviator glasses, some leather jackets, some uniforms. I don’t know. I think it could be really fun.


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh yeah.


Gideon Resnick: No question. No question.


Priyanka Aribindi: Incredible. We’re doing it.


Jazzi Marine: Can’t wait.


Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you to Joni Marine for sharing her story with us, to Jazzi, for being here and for being born. I don’t know about you all, but I feel the need for speed.


Gideon Resnick: Hell yeah. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, take the highway to the danger zone, and tell your friends to listen.


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just heavily-redacted call logs like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick


[together] And you can relax. The convoy is over.


Gideon Resnick: The trucks are back in their truck houses and they’re loving life.


Priyanka Aribindi: Everyone could chill out now. We can go back to normal.


Gideon Resnick: You can drive in beautiful Washington, D.C. again.


Priyanka Aribindi: You got to find a different excuse. If you’re late to work, if you’re late to something, can’t blame it on them anymore. Sorry.


Gideon Resnick: Right, right. Ah, the metro, I guess, is the fallback. Yeah, sure, OK. 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 Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.