Speaker: Kraina FM.
David Remnick: Welcome to the New Yorker Radio Hour, I'm David Remnick. Kraina FM is a radio station broadcasting in Kyiv, playing Ukrainian language, Rock and Pop music. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Kraina FM began broadcasting news about the war. It gave out logistical information to aid the war effort and collect supplies. They've even been doing things like telling stories for kids, during the stressful nights of war time.
As Kyiv came under the heavier and heavier assault from Russian forces, Kraina FM relocated its production facilities outside the city, but they're still broadcasting in Kyiv, and around the country.
Bogdan: On the second day, when we came here, we went to the local military station and we said, "We are here. What do you want us to do?" They asked what you can do, and we said, "We can do radio." They said, "Go and make radio."
David: Contributor Nicolas [unintelligible 00:01:25] visited the station just a few days ago.
Nicolas: What is radio [foreign language], mean?
Bogdan: Radio station of national resistance.
Nicolas: This is the radio station of national resistance?
Bogdan: That's what we call it. We decided me Roman in the morning. We have to do something. We cannot just say we are Ukrainian fam and we are playing only Ukrainian music. No, not now. You should make your stance public and attitude public. That's the general idea.
David: Nick, who were you talking with there, and where were you?
Nicolas: I can't say exactly where we were for security reasons. We were in a small village a couple of hours, south of Lviv in the Carpathian mountains, in a makeshift radio station that had been set up in an accountant's office. I spoke with Bogdan Bolkhovetsky and Roman Davydov. They ended up in this town, to which they had absolutely no connection, almost at random, after they fled Kyiv.
Bogdan: When we came back to our senses, we started discussing who was doing what, at the moment, when Putin started bombing. I remember I woke up at 2:30 from a terrible nightmare, just terrible, like Stanley Kubrick movie nightmare, I mean, top grade nightmare. It's graphic. Absolutely. I woke up and then at 5:00, I'm browsing browsing and I click constantly this [unintelligible 00:03:05].
In the same moment I see this red line that Putin is addressing the nation. I start hearing bombing in Kyiv and I just get the bags. My family was asleep in the next room, and I'm starting packing the bags. I'm putting in anything I see and we move. We left Kyiv. Everyone was scattered for two or three days. Roman was in different part of the country. I'm a general manager and he is the program director, and the voice of the station actually.
Roman: [foreign language].
Bogdan: We were lucky, extremely lucky that Roman, from some of his remote, he had the microphone in the trunk.
Roman: I record news. In the first day, it was just news, of course. In three or four days, we decided that we should meet up somewhere. By that moment, it was very intense in terms of bombing and everything. By pure chance we found this place, because that was the only place vacant. They had the room where we could stay up, and then we set up a small studio here.
Nicolas: Do you mind if I just record you as you record news.
Roman: Yes. [foreign language].
Nicolas: While I was there Roman read a news brief for the station.
Roman: [foreign language]
Nicolas: One of those announcements was that a New York Times journalist was shot.
Roman: It's near Kyiv.
Speaker 1: After the revocation of the people, they passed the checkpoint and they've been shot. They've been hospitalized, right?
Roman: One of them.
Speaker 1: One of them and another one?
Nicolas: That was the day that the news broke about Brent Renaud, one of the journalists who was killed covering the war. Initially, it was thought that he was a New York Times journalist, but it actually transpired that he was working for Time magazine.
David: Nick, what are the mechanics of this operation? How was it all working?
Nicolas: Bogdan and Roman have this little studio in the village. It's in a little wooden room, almost like a log cabin where they record news, and they record promos. Then they send it out to people doing production in other cities. Those people get the signal to the broadcast towers. Like everyone else these days, they're relying on the web.
David: Nick, do you have any idea how many radio stations this is being broadcast on?
Nicolas: Bogdan guessed that at the moment it's being broadcast on just over 20, but he really has no idea how many they are broadcasting on at the moment. Normally, it's around 28 stations. Have you heard from listeners, have you heard from people telling you--
Bogdan: They text us. We don't have the set up to taking calls, but they text us. Of course they like it.
Nicolas: Your programming still involves a lot of music or?
Bogdan: It's music, short news and mostly announcements on what is needed right now, in a very specific place. That we decided would be our angle. Right now, right here in this place. I will give you an example. Yesterday, the guys from Kyiv military called, and they said, "Listen, we know you are broadcasting and we need about 100 laptops because the warehouse was damaged or something happened. We need about 100."
That's a lot, 100 laptops, and we made an announcement and we were playing this announcement like every 15 minutes, or 20 minutes.
Roman: [foreign language].
Bogdan: They called back in two hours saying, "Stop it. We've got them. People brought it in." What other reason do you need in this moment?
Nicolas: In addition to laptops, the station has put out calls to collect helmets, sleeping bags, nails, gloves, thermoses, even pots to transport food to the front. What about your families? Where are your families?
Bogdan: Our families were with us. Like Roman's family moved out to Europe this morning at 5 o'clock in the morning. My family moved out to Europe two days ago because it's complicated. I have a wife and I have a kid. Roman also has wife kid and a dog.
Nicolas: How do you feel about your family's having left?
Bogdan: Who having left, sir?
Nicolas: Your families.
Bogdan: Do you have a family? You have kid. Do you have wife? Then it means nothing what I tell you. [laughs] Terrible, terrible, like never before. It's not compared to anything in my life. To anything. It's complicated. It's better to be by ourselves. It's easier because you don't care, in a good way. Has everyone eaten? Has everyone slept well? You just send them to safe places. They will take care of themselves, and we'll take care of business and ourselves. That's the setup right now.
Nicolas: Kraina FM started out as a music station, but as the war has gone on, they've actually evolved.
Roman: In the first day, it was just news, of course, because news is most simply with production. Now, we make some features with humor. Of course, in the first week, we don't think about some funny, and now it's humor. [Ukrainian language].
Nicolas: That's a joke about shooting down Russian helicopters. They've done pieces that include poetry.
Roman: [Ukrainian language]. And fairy tales for children to the [unintelligible 00:10:18] because so many children now in shelters, and they scared. [Ukrainian language].
Bogdan: Plus we get recommendation from psychological recommendations, different types of psychological recommendations. Like what to do in shelter, what to tell your kid, how to calm down your kid.
Roman: It's not from internet it's from [unintelligible 00:11:02].
Bogdan: No, it's from live person who is recording this on her phone being in a shelter, then she sends us here, we produce it and then we'll put it in there, play it.
Speaker 3: [Ukrainian language].
Nicolas: The psychologist is talking about caring for children whose parents are fighting in this war. She's giving advice like show affection, show love, listen and don't contradict what the child says. How many people normally work at the station?
Nicolas: Where are all those people now. It's you, Roman.
Bogdan: It's me, Roman and we have two young creatives who are more freelance, they were just in an area.
Roman: In Kyiv, we have two, few people who doing some content, some news in Lutsk, in Poland. It's all our workers, but all of them in other places now, and some of them type texts, some of them are recording voices, some of them in production do something for production for us. Some of them, it's not our people, but they helped us from Russia.
Bogdan: This type of work, it consumes so much energy, because internet is-- I shouldn't say this word. The internet connection is very bad, is very bad. It's just touch and go, touch and go, touch. You guys know the feeling when you're trying to upload something and it stops at 98% and so there's upload and you re-upload. Then we might send audio piece or audio clip to the production and the guy is not there because he has no internet connection, then you ring everybody up.
Then you should find somebody who has internet connection send it to him, you send it to him. By that moment, the second guy got the internet connection, then you have to call the third guy to cancel this, it's chicken farmer disease. You know this joke about chicken farmer disease? No? The chicken farmer goes outside and he was about to milk a cow and then he sees that his chickens are not in place, and he goes after the chickens.
Then she sees that some pig is out of the cage, he goes after pig, and at the end of the day, he didn't milk the cow yet. He do a lot of things which interfere into the normal workflow. That's what we do right here. That's not very efficient in terms of work, but that's all we have right now.
Roman: [Ukrainian language].
Bogdan: I want to stress this out publicly off the record, on the record, that we're not doing anything heroic, we're just doing what we're doing, okay? Like any farmer would do, like any driver would do, like any coffee maker would do, nothing heroic happens here. By no means we are still in a lot of luck, having what two have right now, in a lot of luck.
Thousands of people are not that lucky as we are, and by no means we want this to sound like, "Oh, here are the guys, they've managed." We've got off pretty easy, we're just doing what we can under these very, very unusual circumstances.
David: You can hear Kraina FM on the web. K-R-A-I-N-A FM.ua. Nicolas Niarchos spoke with Bogdan Bolkhovetsky and Roman Davydov. You can find Nic's story and much more of the invasion of Ukraine at newyoker.com.
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