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A Bennington College student on being home in Ukraine during Russia's invasion

A photo showing a city with rooftops rising into a hazy sky.
Efrem Lukatsky
Associated Press
Lviv, the main city in the region of western Ukraine. Diana Chipak's family lives in a small town about an hour away.

Ukrainians are on edge as the Russian invasion of their country continues. The hosts of VPR's daily news podcast, The Frequency, spoke with one of them — Diana Chipak, a student at Bennington College, who is home with her family in the western part of the country.

This interview was produced for VPR's daily news podcast, The Frequency. Subscribe below.

Diana Chipak: I developed a migraine for the past two days. I'm constantly taking — it's not antidepressants, but it's a kind of herbal medicine that helps me to calm down. We're all taking them.

I have two sisters and a brother. I'm the oldest of four. We're just a regular working class family. I feel stressed. I cannot sleep for more than a couple hours. I stopped working — I started a new job on the 14th.

I'm just constantly thinking, what is it I can do? So today I was trying to coordinate a bulletproof vest delivery from Poland. My life has been divided: until war and after war.

Anna Van Dine: I am thinking about somebody in Vermont hearing you talk. And I wonder if you could describe a bit more just about what it is like to be you. What did it feel like to wake up this morning and go about your day before this call?

More from VPR: A vigil for Ukraine in Montpelier spotlights unfolding humanitarian crisis

Diana Chipak: I wake up in the morning, terrified that while I was sleeping, something major has happened. Most of the fighting happens at night. So every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is to pick up my phone and check the news.

After that I go to eat. Most of the time I have no appetite. Because — we describe food as an undesirable necessity. And then I put myself together and go to the town to volunteer.

Today, we bought sticks for shovels. Basically, to protect yourself from tanks, you make barricades. And the way you do that, you take bags and you fill that with the sand and you pile them up together. We have two military bases here in my town. So. I live close to them. And there is a possibility that my town will be one of the targeted ones. And after that, I came back home tired and exhausted, but still thinking of ways — what else can I do?

I came back home tired and exhausted, but still thinking of ways — what else can I do?
Diana Chipak

Henry Epp: You talked about sort of dividing your life now from before the invasion to after the invasion. Could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing and what life was like before the invasion?

Diana Chipak: I was at Bennington. I had my first exhibition called "Those Behind The Scenes." It comprises of 50 photographs of Bennington staff members. So I had a little accomplishment, to have my exhibition. It's still up at Bennington. I spent a few weeks in New York with my friends. And then I came back home to spend time with my family before leaving for a study abroad program in Germany.

Henry Epp: And so you were in — you'd come home to be with family for a while before that program began?

Diana Chipak: Yeah. So my program, my language orientation program starts in four days.

More fromVermont Edition:How Russia's invasion of Ukraine impacts people in our region

Anna Van Dine: Are you going to go?

Diana Chipak: No. Not right now. You know, I find my purpose right now, to spread the word about Ukraine and to let people know what we're currently going through and what are the repercussions.

Anna Van Dine: What do you want people in Vermont to understand?

Diana Chipak: I think the main thing I was trying to pass on to people is, that words of support are not enough. And you know if you're gonna take the time to express something to somebody, if you have a Ukrainian friend, colleague, an acquaintance, please do something.

What I want people in Vermont to know [is] that freedom, safety and democracy are very sacred. And that here on the ground, we are really making our best to fight for it. And we just need your support from wherever you are to help us get there.

Henry Epp: Do you intend to stay as long as you can?

Diana Chipak: I'm really hopeful that this war is going to end soon. And I'm really hopeful that you know, if I push just enough right now, and we all do, everyone, it will come to an end soon and I can happily go continue doing things like taking classes and going to restaurants, you know, having a normal student life.

Diana Chipak on a trip to New York City.
Diana Chipak
Diana Chipak on a trip to New York City.

The Frequency is Vermont Public Radio’s daily news podcast.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a messageor tweet us @TheFrequencyVPR.

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Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
Anna worked for Vermont Public from 2019 through 2023 as a reporter and co-host of the daily news podcast, The Frequency.
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