Joanna Kakissis Joanna Kakissis is an international correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine.
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Joanna Kakissis

Jodi Hilton
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Jodi Hilton

Joanna Kakissis

Ukraine Correspondent

Joanna Kakissis leads NPR's bureau in Kyiv, coverage of Ukraine and Russia's war on the country.

Since the Kyiv bureau officially opened in January 2023, Kakissis and her team have documented the war through those fighting and living through it: The network of citizen-spies who helped liberate their city from occupation, and how, a year later, that city is still attacked by Russia every day. The children's writer murdered by Russian soldiers and dumped in a mass grave, and the rising young novelist who sought justice for him — only to be killed herself in a missile strike. The reconnaissance and special forces soldiers setting the groundwork for a daring counteroffensive front on the Dnipro River, and the catastrophic flood they faced instead. A talented young musical duo silenced by a Russian missile just minutes after performing near their hometown. The soldiers trained by NATO engaged a slow, painful counteroffensive. The de-mining experts trying to remove explosives from a heavily-mined frontline. The volunteer rescue worker who evacuated thousands from his hometown before it was destroyed. The village burying a sixth of its population after a bombing — and betrayal. The second-graders attending classes underground in a besieged city.

Kakissis began reporting in Ukraine shortly before Russia invaded in February 2022. She covered the exodus of refugees to Poland, staying for several weeks to profile the Polish families taking in Ukrainians, the unlikely volunteers trying to join the Ukrainian army, and an all-female driving service keeping Ukrainian women safe.

She returned to Ukraine several times in 2022 to chronicle the human costs of the war, reporting on the displaced, the families of prisoners of war and the search for collaborators. She introduced listeners to a theater troupe who survived the Russian destruction of their city and reunited on a new stage, and a ninety-year-old "mermaid" who swims in a mine-filled sea. She highlighted the tragedy for both sides with a story about the body of a Russian soldier abandoned in a hamlet he helped destroy, and she shed light on the potential for nuclear disaster with a report on the shelling of Nikopol by Russians occupying a nearby power plant.

Kakissis started working with NPR in 2011 from Athens, Greece as a freelancer and traveled extensively throughout Europe for the network over the next decade. Her work focused on the forces straining European unity — migration, nationalism and the rise of illiberalism in Hungary. She led coverage of the eurozone debt crisis and the mass migration of mostly Syrian refugees to Europe. Her coverage included a profile of an Eritrean teenage refugee trapped in Libya during COVID, the Hungarian Roma writers translating Amanda Gorman's poetry, a Greek island devastated by climate change-fueled wildfires and a series on Uyghurs in Turkey.

She's reported extensively in central and eastern Europe and also filled in at NPR bureaus in Berlin, Istanbul, Jerusalem, London, Paris and Rome.

Before joining NPR's staff in 2022, she was a contributor to the award-winning audio documentary program This American Life and also wrote for The New York Times, TIME, The New Yorker online and The Financial Times Magazine, among others. In 2021, she taught a journalism seminar on nationalism and migration as a visiting professor at Princeton University.

Kakissis was born in Greece, grew up in North and South Dakota and spent her early years in journalism at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Story Archive

Friday

People visit the graves of fallen soldiers in commemoration as citizens and families of Ukrainian servicemen who killed during Russia-Ukraine war, take part in a ceremony to honor the memory of fallen soldiers on the eve of the 2nd anniversary of the Russian-Ukrainian war, where 'rays of remembrance' are lit into the sky above the Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, February 23, 2024. Pavlo Palamarchuk/Anadolu via Getty Images hide caption

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Pavlo Palamarchuk/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Two Years On

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As Russian troops advance, Kharkiv residents are determined to stay in the city

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Thursday

Monday

Russia's military forces Ukrainian troops out of a strategically important town

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Saturday

In this file photo, a Ukrainian soldier sits in his position in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Aug. 18, 2023. AP Photo/Libkos/AP hide caption

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AP Photo/Libkos/AP

Ukraine withdraws from Avdiivka, in Russia's first major battlefield win in months

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Thursday

Ukranians in Sumy are still living under attacks from Russia

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Wednesday

A soldier meets his partner at the train station in Sloviansk. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Ukraine's Train of Love

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Yulya Dmytrieeva and her husband, Vadym, who have been together for over a decade, embrace in the snow in Sloviansk. They will spend a few days together while he has a break from the trenches on the front lines. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Ukrainian soldiers' valentines arrive by 'train of love'

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Train of Love: When Ukrainian soldiers get a break, loved ones travel to see them

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Tuesday

Armored car repair shop workers build an experimental version of a military vehicle in the facility of the Ukrainian Armor Design and Manufacturing Co. Oksana Parafeniuk for NPR hide caption

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Oksana Parafeniuk for NPR

With Western military aid increasingly uncertain, Ukraine builds its own weapons

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Thursday

Ukraine shakes up its military leadership

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Thursday

Hungary ends opposition to giving Ukraine aid, freeing up $54 billion from the EU

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Tensions between Ukraine's president and a top general have boiled over

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Wednesday

Traffic police officers block off a road near the crash site of the Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane outside the village of Yablonovo in Russia's Belgorod region on Wednesday. Stringer/Reuters hide caption

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Stringer/Reuters

Thursday

A Vital Ukrainian Port Survives Despite Russian Attacks

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Saturday

How Ukrainian commercial ships are evading Russia's blockade

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Friday

People react near the memorial for the victims of a Russian rocket attack in the village of Hroza near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 8. A report by U.N investigators has pointed a finger at Russia as likely being responsible for the deaths of 59 civilians at a village café hit by a missile in eastern Ukraine in early October. Alex Babenko/AP hide caption

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Alex Babenko/AP

Accusations of Betrayal in One Ukrainian Village

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Monday

A Ukrainian serviceman holds his daughter as they take part in Christmas celebrations in the village of Pyrogove, near Kyiv on Monday. Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Breaking with tradition, Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 this year

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Sunday

Ukraine is celebrating Christmas on the Western calendar this year

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Tuesday

Ukraine isn't the only country partially occupied by Russia

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Monday

Ukrainians worry over wavering U.S. and EU support as Christmas approaches

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Friday

Ukraine has $52 billion EU aid package veoted by Hungary

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Thursday