May 23, 2022 - Podcasts

How the war in Ukraine is breaking families

Ukrainian Corporal Andrii Shadrin and news producer Kateryna Malofieieva are at the heart of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Both are based in the Donbas, a region that’s been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. The battle for the Donbas is critical to the outcome of this war. And in the meantime, Andrii and Kateryna’s families are being torn apart.

  • Plus, what waning homebuilder confidence tells us about the housing market.
  • And, a wild weekend of weather with deadly consequences.

Guests: Ukrainian Cpl. Andrii Shadrin; news producer Kateryna Malofieieva; Axios' Dave Lawler and Matt Phillips.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, May 23rd.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: what waning homebuilder confidence tells us about the housing market. Plus, a wild weekend of weather with deadly consequences.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: how the war in Ukraine is breaking families.

KATERYNA MALOFIEIEVA: The shell landed on the next street from them. And more than 17 people died and much more were injured.

ANDRII SHADRIN: When the soldier suffers and dies, it is sad, but it is a part of his job. When it happens to a civilian, that's insane.

Those are the voices of a soldier and a journalist who’ve been at the heart of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian Corporal Andrii (Andree) Shadrin (Shaw-drin) and news producer Kateryna Malofieieva (mah-lo-fee-AY-va] are both based in the Donbas, a region that’s been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Axios’ Dave Lawler reports for the latest episode of How It Happened: Putin’s Invasion, that the battle for the Donbas is critical to the outcome of this war. And in the meantime, Andrii and Kateryna’s families are being torn apart.

I sat down with Dave in Washington D.C. recently and asked him how he found Andrii’s story.

DAVE LAWLER: We really wanted to access this place, but you know it's a hard place to reach we sort of friend of a friend we found our way to this guy uh who's not only on the front lines in the Donbas, he's actually from Crimea, which is another part of Ukraine that Russia moved into back in 2014. And he's actually been fighting this war for eight years. so he knows the place as a soldier, he's been fighting there. And right now you know he's facing some of the heaviest bombardments, the heaviest fighting of any of the Ukrainian soldiers. The thing that really stuck with me was how this war has separated his family. Uh his parents are Russian nationals living in Crimea, they are on the other side of this war and they think that he's been brainwashed now to fight on the Ukrainian side.

ANDRII SHADRIN: Unfortunately, that is a massive disconnect because I am a Nazi for them and I'm brainwashed with the propaganda. And I, I haven't heard it personally, but it was between the lines in the dialogues I tried to keep on with them.

DAVE: So that is an incredibly difficult thing to carry with you as you're fighting this war he's not in touch with his parents.

NIALA: Dave how have Andrii and his family moved so far apart on their views on this war?

DAVE: Sure so this goes all the way back to 2014 and Crimea is a part of Ukraine that has a lot of Russian nationals it's where the Russian language uh is quite heavily spoken. Russian media is really a very dominant source of news there. And so when Russia moved in to his hometown and to the peninsula where he lives and claimed it as part of Russia that's something that his parents were happy to accept. But him as someone who wanted to be a European who saw Ukraine as a strong independent country wanted democracy in his country uh he felt very differently about that obviously to the extent that he decided to fight in a war against the Russians. He enlisted in the military fighting against the country that his parents really feel like they're part of. And so they're very much on opposite sides of this war. For a while he was texting them once a week to say he was still alive. He told us those texts have stopped at this point. Um so it's really quite a tragic situation but I think it tells us a bit about what this war has done to this country.

NIALA: The other person you spoke to is news producer Kateryna Malofieieva. She also has had a very big rift with her family because of the war.

DAVE: Yeah and this is a physical separation so she's from Donetsk which is in the Donbas but it's also in the area that's been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Uh so she stayed for two years. But eventually she moved to Kiev and since that time she's been separated physically from her family. And unfortunately her mother passed away just a couple of weeks ago. And her father is still living there in Donetsk in a Russian controlled part of the Donbas. She's able to speak with him a couple times a week. It's not easy but they're still in touch but definitely the physical disconnect that this war has wrought between her and her family has also taken quite a toll.

NIALA: And then the other toll for Kateryna is her family that's in Russia. Let's hear how that's affected her.

KATERYNA MALOFIEIEVA: None of my relatives expressed any condolences to me when I lost somebody who was the most important person for me, my mom. They didn't even dare like, send me a message and say, “Katya, we are sorry for your loss.” So I blame them for that and I blame the propaganda for this. She's in the Eastern most part of Ukraine but most of her family is across the board in Russia. The distance is not that vast but obviously in the scheme of this war it's quite a vast you know gap between the two of them and you can kind of think about you know, how many families not only are they on two different sides of the front lines but also two different lines of the information environment here right. They're getting very different narratives about who's responsible for this war. Both think that there are war criminals here but they both blame the other side right. And yeah I think we can think about Andreii’s story, Kateryna’s story and then think about how many other families are affected in similar ways across Ukraine and Russia as well

NIALA: Dave Lawler is the world editor for Axios and he's hosted this season of How it Happened. He and Naomi Shavin did the reporting for this latest episode. It’s called The Fight for the Donbas and you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks Dave.

DAVE: Thanks Niala.

In a moment, we’re back with the latest on the real estate market in the U.S.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo. An economy story you may have missed last week: confidence among homebuilders is almost at a two year low. Why does that matter? It’s another sign of the real estate market cooling as mortgage rates rise. Axios’ Matt Phillips writes the daily markets newsletter and is here with me in Washington, D.C. to talk about this. Hey Matt.


NIALA: First, can you explain what home builder sentiment looks like now?

MATT: Sure. It's fallen sharply in the last month and it's down for about five months in a row. It's not at cataclysmic levels or anything,

NIALA: And we're talking about sentiment. So what effect does that actually have on the home market?

MATT: Well, there's kind of a feedback loop at play. It's almost more the other way. So as rates have gone up, that makes housing less affordable and effectively shrinks the pool of potential buyers that are out there. So if you're a home builder, you look at that and say, well, that's not good news for me. At some point over the next year, I'm going to see fewer people walking through the door.

NIALA: That's because the cost of owning a home has gone up. Do we know exactly how much?

MATT: Well, I don't have the dollar figure but we do know that mortgage rates have jumped from about 3% to about five and a quarter, you know, in the last couple months, it's really a sharp move. And you know, that alone will add hundreds of dollars to your monthly payment easily.

NIALA: What else do we know about how the Fed's actions on raising interest have slowed, what has been a pretty red, hot housing market?

MATT: It has been really hot. But there is some anecdotal evidence that houses are staying on the market a little bit longer. We're maybe not seeing quite the frenzied bidding wars that we're seeing two to three months ago. So there's early indications that it is having an impact, you know, as, as it's supposed to, I mean, this is an intensional thing the Fed is trying to do. They're trying to slow, slow this runaway ramp in housing prices.

NIALA: Matt Phillips writes the markets newsletter for Axios. Thanks, Matt.

MATT: Thank you.

NIALA: Three more stories from this weekend, for you:

Anthony Albanese (Al-ban-easy) was sworn in yesterday as Australia’s 31st prime minister…the surprise win was marks just the fourth time a Labor leader ousted a Liberal prime minister since World War Two. In his victory speech, Albanese promised to make combating climate change a priority, something his opponent Scott Morrison had rejected.

This Australian commitment to climate-conscious politics came as extreme weather spread throughout North America this weekend. In Canada, at least five people died after severe thunderstorms with winds over 80 miles per hour cut through parts of Quebec and Ontario Saturday. Hundreds of thousands more lost power throughout the weekend. And millions of Americans saw extreme weather conditions from heavy snow in Colorado and southern Wyoming to potentially record breaking heat in the Northeast.

Finally - the CDC and health officials in Florida are investigating a potential case of monkeypox in the state. At least two other cases have been confirmed in New York City and Massachusetts. Though experts have said it would not likely cause a global pandemic like Covid-19, President Biden Sunday said the spread of the virus to at least 12 countries is something people should quote “be concerned about.” We will update you on this outbreak as we learn more.

That’s all for today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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