Raising a newborn during war In the first two months of the war in Ukraine, 15,000 babies were born. Their parents are raising the next generation of Ukrainians — children now as old as the war.

Meet the parents raising Ukraine's next generation, babies now as old as the war

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Ukrainian soldiers entered the city of Kherson to cheers and chants.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in non-English language).

NADWORNY: Kherson is the capital of a Ukrainian region that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed into the Russian Federation, and it was one of the first cities that fell to the Russians early in the war. Many people there today are breathing a sigh of relief because, for the last nine months, their lives have been interrupted, like many families across Ukraine, including those who had children during the war. In just the first two months of the war, 15,000 children were born in Ukraine.


NADWORNY: Their parents are raising the next generation of Ukrainians - children now as old as the war. Women gave birth in shelters and basements and in hospitals under attack. And I want to introduce you to three of them.


NADWORNY: We met Anna Mordiukova outside her mother-in-law's house in a small village near the city of Chernihiv.


ANNA MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Crying is OK, too.

MORDIUKOVA: (Laughter).

NADWORNY: You can tell her that that's OK.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Mordiukova laughs, bouncing her 7-month-old baby, Victoria.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Crying is all she does," she says. Victoria was born weeks after Russia's invasion on the floor of their basement. Russian forces were occupying the area. Their house had been destroyed. It also destroyed the baby gear they'd accumulated all winter.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: She recalls giving birth, saying there was no medicine, no supplies. Enemy soldiers brought a Russian doctor and a local nurse to help. Mordiukova's older daughter, who is 4, watched it all unfold. Her husband asked the soldiers and the Russian doctor - is there anywhere you can take us to get help?

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: They were told the only option was a hospital in Belarus, but there were no guarantees. Would they ever be allowed to return to Ukraine? So the family decided, on that cold basement floor, to stay in Ukraine.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Mordiukova says she'll be forever grateful to Marina, the local nurse who cut the umbilical cord.

Seven months later, the Russians are gone and Victoria is healthy and restless.

We can walk if you want.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Music helps, Mordiukova says, as she pushes the stroller. But their house is destroyed, and they're now staying with her mother-in-law. Her husband is trying to find work, and they're still traumatized by what happened on that basement floor.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: She says they're still waiting to feel relief - to feel like they have control over their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Her older daughter, who's 4, worries when she hears any new or loud sounds.

MORDIUKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: But, she says, they are happy to at least be here - alive and in Ukraine.

NELYA HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Three hours away, in Kyiv, Nelya Hilenko is with her 8-month-old baby, Tadei, in their high-rise apartment.

HILENKO: (Laughter) Tadei?

NADWORNY: You're such a quiet baby.

HILENKO: (Laughter).

NADWORNY: He's teething, and he's beginning to crawl. Hilenko tells me there are similarities between living with a newborn and living in a war - like how everything is in the present tense.

HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I'm here in this moment right now," she says.

HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "My world is sleep, eat, sleep, repeat," she says. And being present helps protect her from worrying about the war.


NADWORNY: But recent power outages have been a nightmare. They're on the 24th floor. No power means no elevator. They can't cook or have hot water. And the missile attacks last month in Kyiv have brought her right back to the explosions she heard while giving birth. They'd fled Kyiv for Zhytomyr, a city further west, where they had family.

HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: The hospital where she went for a C-section came under attack. All the windows were broken from nearby missile explosions.

HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: She ended up in the basement shelter. It was her post-op room. It was her everything, she says. They stayed in Zhytomyr with relatives for three months before they returned to Kyiv. Now, they think about leaving again - to Poland. She can already see baby Tadei picking up on her stress, her worry. But staying in Ukraine, she says, has lessons, too.

HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I want him to understand just how precious life is," she says, "especially his life as a Ukrainian."

HILENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I always thought about myself as a Ukrainian citizen," she says. "And his birth made me even more sure. It's our home."


VOLODYMYR POLISHCHUK: Elissa, nice to meet you. Volodymyr (ph).

NADWORNY: Volodymyr.


NADWORNY: And who is this?

V POLISHCHUK: This is my daughter - Anna the name.

NADWORNY: Across the city, Volodymyr Polishchuk and his wife, Tatyana, are pushing baby Anna in her stroller to a playground near their apartment.


TATYANA POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: They're spending lots of time with the baby, who they call their little cabbage, because the war has caused their work in construction to dry up.

V POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: They argue about who she looks like more. They can't help but share funny videos. Look, here's one of Anna laughing at a ball.


NADWORNY: With the power frequently out, they play games by candlelight. And they're wanting to slow down time, to revel in every moment, even though they also want to speed up time to when there is no more war - to when the power is back.

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Tatyana also gave birth in a hospital shelter in Kyiv back in April.

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: She's been having panic attacks on and off since.

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: There's the lack of sleep, but Tatyana isn't sure if it's from feeding the baby or her nightmares from war. And the war is always on her mind. When she's breastfeeding, she sits with her back to the window just in case there's an explosion.

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Have you thought at all about what you'll tell her about her birth?

T POLISHCHUK: Whoo. (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I'm not going to lie to her. A child should know their history," she says, "but I don't want her to grow up hating."

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken, crying).

NADWORNY: "I don't want her to really even know the word war," she says, wiping away tears.

V POLISHCHUK: It's very interesting. The brain, it's - don't understand. It's normal. And you can just live and (non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Volodymyr, who is now holding the baby, says he's been wowed by the brain's ability to normalize fear - to allow them to feel extreme joy and extreme sadness at the same time. He looks down at baby Anna, all bundled up.

V POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "The baby is our little victory," he says, "and I am a happy father." Tatyana cuts in.

T POLISHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken, laughter).

NADWORNY: "And even despite everything," she says, "I, too, am a happy mother."


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