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Kyiv is in mourning after Russia's large-scale aerial attack across Ukraine on Friday

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is observing a day of mourning following Russia's large-scale aerial attack across the country on Friday. It was the deadliest day for civilians in the city since the war began, killing 28 people, wounding dozens more. NPR's Elissa Nadworny is in Kyiv and sent us this report.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: At a commercial warehouse in Kyiv, one of the places hit in Friday's big attack, the ceiling is completely blown off. Inside, I can see there's fire damage and glass and debris all around. Across the country, rescue workers spent the weekend searching for bodies amid the debris left by the missile and drone attack, the largest since the war began in February 2022. In Kyiv, more bodies were found in the rubble since yesterday. Olena Chernovska is across the street from one of the sites that was hit, looking up at the damaged buildings and wiping away tears.

OLENA CHERNOVSKA: (Through interpreter) What kind of New Year's mood can be when you look at all sort of things like that?

NADWORNY: It's a sentiment felt throughout the city on a somber and subdued New Year's Day.

At Lisove cemetery, Polina Soboleva is taking yellow roses and some sweets to the grave of her husband, Olexander, who died last February on the anniversary of the war.

POLINA SOBOLEVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "It's my first New Year's without him," she tells producer Kateryna Malofieieva. "And it's important to be here today with him now."

SOBOLEVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: She says it's hard to walk past these graves and think, how many more will end up here?

In other parts of the city, families are trying to find normalcy, some happiness where they can. At a winter market across the city, there are stands selling popcorn, waffles and hot mulled wine. And there's a skating rink with twinkle lights strung up above. Mia, who is 6, and her older sister Deanna...

DEANNA: I'm 9 years old.

NADWORNY: ...Were among the skaters.

DEANNA: Last year, we couldn't even stand on ice. One year, we was on roller skates. And now we could stand. It's very great that we can - we would just stand.

NADWORNY: Deanna tells me she's been looking forward to this market for a while.

DEANNA: We are drinking Coca Cola, eating this chocolate and the corn.

NADWORNY: Sounds like a pretty good day.

DEANNA: Yes.

DIMA: Today was - it was great.

NADWORNY: That's the girls' father, Dima.

DIMA: You cannot sit in the ground, floor somewhere and just close inside yourself. You need somehow to keep on moving.

NADWORNY: Parents here tell us that with kids who don't fully understand what's happening to their country, this is especially important. Andrii Forsah is here with his son, Platon. It was the 4-year-old's first time on skates. He fell and got up without tears.

ANDRII FORSAH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "We're trying to enjoy the moment while there's still a possibility to do so," he says.

FORSAH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "We've had hard times," he says. "We just wanted some joy between the air raid sirens." But their fun is short-lived. They've just received an alert on their phones. Drones have been spotted above the region to the north, possibly heading for Kyiv.

HANNA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Let's go," his wife Hanna says.

FORSAH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "It's time to rush home."

Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, Kyiv. 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.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.