The war in Ukraine explained and tips on coping with distressing news

Mar 2, 2022 Episode 88

The war in Ukraine explained, the glossary game of confusing words and phrases about the war and tips on coping with distressing news

Episode Transcript

OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!” 


LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults!  I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, right here is my side-kick.

MAMA: And the one holding the microphone. 

LEELA: OK. Sidekick, producer if you must… my Mama.

MAMA: I must.. Hello – I’m Lyndee Prickitt. And what a week it’s been. 

LEELA: Yes, just as soon as we published last week’s episode – vroom! 


LEELA: The sad and tense news in Ukraine. 

MAMA: Of course, the news is changing by the hour. But given the gravity, or importance, of the events taking place in eastern Europe, we’ve decided to devote all of today’s episode to understanding the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

LEELA: And offer some help in coping with all the grimness. So, first, we’ll tell you the latest news.

MAMA: Then we’ll give you a backgrounder on how we got here.

LEELA: And then we’ll play the “glossary game” to help define some of those weird words and terms flying about, like NATO and the UN.




LEELA: OLIGARCHS what?! And who’s Zelensky, anyway? But it’s time for…

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

MAMA:  You might remember there were 200,000 Russian soldiers waiting on its border with Ukraine.

LEELA: They’d been gathering there for weeks and weeks.

MAMA: Well, those tanks and soldiers entered Ukraine last week from three separate directions – the north, south and east of the country.

LEELA:  And when you enter a country with tanks and soldiers, with force and explosions – that’s called an invasion. Which has to be scary.

MAMA: Totally, which is why – already – almost 400,000 people have fled the country. 

LEELA: They’re seeking shelter, otherwise called refuge, from other countries. That’s why they’re called refugees. 

MAMA: Right.  And the good news is most of Ukraine’s neighboring countries are welcoming them in.

LEELA: Which doesn’t always happen with refugees, does it?

MAMA: Absolutely not, no. A lot of people, though, say part of the reason for this is Ukraine has always been a buffer between Russia and the rest of Europe. And those neighboring countries feel compelled to help. 

In fact, our Washington State correspondent, and host of his own podcast called News Nerds, Ezra Graham, spoke with a Romanian reporter in Ukraine – Mircea Barbu – and got this information.

MIRCEA BARBU: So at the moment all the  borders are open. People can leave the country if they wish to do so. I’ve been hearing stories on the border Romanian and Polish, Hungarian and even Moldavian borders with hundreds of volunteers offering their services with the  hundreds of volunteers offering their services to people fleeing Ukraine at the moment. Whether that’s just a ride to the airport, food, accommodation overnight or a ride to the nearest airport, there’s been a massive, massive effort to treat the people. volunteer effort at the moment in eastern Europe, because Ukraine is seen here as the last front line. If Putin will not be stopped in Ukraine then they might be next…

MAMA: And if you want to hear Ezra’s entire interview we’ll have the link in our transcript. So while Russia hasn’t used its full force of power yet, a lot of experts are saying Russia has been a little surprised by the resistance the Ukrainians are putting up.

LEELA: There are even reports of people removing street signs to confuse the invading Russian troops making their way into Ukrainian towns and cities.  

MAMA: Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding that Ukraine’s military lay down their weapons.

LEELA: He also warned every other country not to interfere.

MAMA: By now, you’re probably wanting to know WHY all of this is all happening anyway, right?

LEELA: Unless you heard our explainer story a month ago.

MAMA: Mmmhmmm. But we know we’re getting new listeners all the time, especially now on this important subject, so we’re gonna replay that explainer segment. If you’ve already heard it and you feel you totally understand what’s going on then you can skip ahead about four minutes.

LEELA: That’s when we’re gonna play the “glossary game.” I’m gonna ask what a weird word means and –

MAMA: I’ll offer up some definitions.

LEELA: And YOU guess which is right. 

MAMA: But first… our explainer story which was focused around an analogy 

LEELA: A comparison 

MAMA: Between Leela and her cats and what’s happening in Ukraine.

LEELA: Sounds far-fetched, but just have a listen.

MAMA: Let’s get on with the basics – do you know where the country of Ukraine is?!

LEELA: Uhhhh… Somewhere next to Russia. No, I mean Europe.

MAMA: Actually, both! And right there lies the problem.


MAMA: Like so many places, its geography is everything.


MAMA: It’s life, Leela. OK – you wanna talk cats, Alright let’s talk cats. You look after some of the neighborhood strays, right?


MAMA: Some hang out on the left side of the house – and some on the other side, right?

LEELA: Yep. They’re two different families and they don’t always get along either.

MAMA: Exactly. Well, which do you love more?

LEELA: Mama! I couldn’t possibly choose.

MAMA: It’s hard, right? You have ties with both sides.

LEELA: Yeaaaaaahhh…..

MAMA: Well, so does Ukraine. For decades it was linked to the Russian Empire and then it was part of the Soviet Union. Which is?

LEELA: Ummm… That was the group of communist countries ruled by Russia, most of last century, right?

MAMA: Well, in practical terms, yes. Though technically it stood for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it was ruled by the communist party based in Moscow, Russia. So you’re right. And communism is?

LEELA: When the government owns everything.

MAMA: Right. So when the USSR broke up in 1991, many of the countries started to find they had more in common with the free markets of Europe.

LEELA: Ah, like when the cats on the left had kittens and I started spending more time with them. 

MAMA: Yep, they were prospering and you wanted to be a part of that. And the cats on the right had started to become a little sullen and – 

LEELA: A little grouchy and jealous, aggressive, actually!

MAMA: Hmmm, maybe they were missing you. And the amount of food and resources you used to give them?

LEELA: Totally.

MAMA: Well, that’s kinda what’s happening in Ukraine. They were part of the Russian Empire and the USSR, but kinda favor Europe now and want to join a club called NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which includes most of western Europe, the US and Canada.

LEELA: Doesn’t sound like a very fun club to me.

MAMA: It’s not. It’s a defensive club of armies, what’s called a military alliance.

LEELA: Is Russia part of it?

MAMA: No ma’am. In fact, NATO was formed in 1949, specifically to provide protection against the USSR.

LEELA: Dun-dun-duuuuun. The plot thickens! No wonder Russia’s so mad at Ukraine! Then again, Ukraine is a free country, right? They should be able to do what they want.

MAMA: Yep. But some people in Ukraine have old ties with Russia, so –

LEELA: The country’s pulled in both directions?

MAMA: A little bit. Mostly Ukraine is scared Russia is going to invade, like they did 8 years ago when they took over a region called Crimea.

LEELA: What?! And now they want to take over all of Ukraine?

MAMA: Well, Russia says no. But right now there are well over a hundred-thousand soldiers, along with helicopters and tanks, lined up on its border with Ukraine.

LEELA: That’s kinda bullyish behavior.

MAMA: Big time. That’s why you keep hearing about it in the news. Everyone is wondering what’s gonna happen next. People are also worried that if Russia does invade, those NATO countries – like the US –  might decide to join in the fight.

LEELA: What?! That would be silly – why would they want war?

MAMA: They don’t. But they also don’t want a big country thinking it can overtake a smaller one. Let’s now let’s cut across to a young Ukrainian woman, Alexandra Burkovska, to get her take on what’s happening.

ALEXANDRA BURKOVSKA:  Ukraine, with its fertile lands and open access to the sea, has always been targeted by its neighbors – the Russian Empire and Poland and the USSR. So, naturally all the traditions, mythology and Ukraine language were wiped out for a while as well as people trying to preserve it. And it is happening again. But I still hope for a brighter future.

MAMA: It’s hard to hope for a brighter future when an invading country is threatening to strike important targets in your capital. Which is why this is so upsetting to see. And confusing too. Even if you’re heard our backgrounder or the adults in your life are discussing this with you, chances are you’re still hearing a lot of words and phrases you might be familiar with.

LEELA: Seriously. Oligarch and Kremlin – sound like characters from Shrek.

MAMA: Hmmph. Well, that’s why we’ve got the glossary game – are you ready to play?

LEELA: Yes! So I’m going to throw out a word I’m not totally sure about and you’re going to give me – and the  listeners – multiple choices, the four seconds to guess before you say the correct answer, right?

MAMA: Indeed.

LEELA: OK – let’s go. Well, I know the first two because we’ve covered them in the last story, but let’s see if everyone else was listening. Number 1, WHAT IS THE USSR?

MAMA: The Union of Soviet Slovak Republics, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republicans or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics


MAMA: It’s the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – which included Russia and most of its Eastern European neighbors but was controlled by the communist party based in Moscow, Russia.  It was founded almost a hundred years ago, but broke up in 1991, when the world thought they’d seen the end of Russian dominance.


MAMA: A club. A military alliance. A defense agreement.


MAMA: All of the above! So NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which brings together the armies of most of Europe, the US, Canada and Turkey. Thirty countries in all. The aim of NATO is for all the countries to defend each other against anybody that might attack, like Russia. As we know, Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO, which is why the US and other NATO countries aren’t getting involved in this war.

LEELA: Number 3. WHAT IS THE UN, anyway?

MAMA: A world economic agreement. An organization of the world’s nations working to help maintain peace and security. A debating club.


MAMA: The United Nations is an organization of most countries in the world trying to keep world peace, cooperation and security. Though many question its usefulness – especially as last month as Russia held the revolving presidency of the UN’s Security Council. Others say it’s better than no world club at all.


MAMA: A group of Russian allies. A fort. A gremlin from the movie Shrek.


MAMA: Kremlin literally translates as a fortress inside a city – da-da-da-daaaah –  you know, a fort. Like the one inside Moscow, where Russian leaders have ruled for centuries. Therefor when people talk of “The Kremlin” today it really means, the Russian government.

LEELA: Number 5. Ha-ha. Please tell us WHAT IS AN OLIGARCH?

MAMA: A common Russian last name. The high priests of the Russian Orthodox church. Very rich business people.


MAMA: Oligarch comes from the word oligarchy, which is when a small number of people hold all the power. When the Soviet Union collapsed it was a few people who quickly scooped up big, government businesses and became super rich. Not surprisingly, most oligarchs are big friends with President Putin.

LEELA: Number 6. And what are SANCTIONS? 

MAMA: Allowing troops to enter a country. Not being allowed to join NATO. A penalty meant to be a punishment to a country.


MAMA: A sanction is a penalty – applied to a country, or even a business or person. The most common are economic sanctions which stop others from doing business with a country. It’s like you telling all your friends not to trade toys or gadgets with a certain other friend because you don’t think they’re behaving very nicely.

LEELA: Number 7. And, remind us, WHAT IS A CYBER ATTACK?

MAMA: Hacking into someone’s computer to steal their private data. Hacking into the mainframe of a big business or government to disrupt services. Posting fake videos or news reports. 


MAMA: It’s all of those! Right now Russia is mostly posting fake news, like the mock videos of Ukrainian army officials surrendering. Or creating websites that look like real news outlets but are posting fake news. As for the other stuff, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center found a virus that tries to wipe data off computer systems.  Luckily it was blocked.  

LEELA: Number 8. Finally, WHO IS ZELENSKY and what’s he got to do with Paddington Bear? 

MAMA: The president of Ukraine. One of Ukraine’s most beloved comedians. A Ukrainian actor who was the voice of Paddington Bear in a popular film.


Of course, he’s all those things! Yes, at first many Ukrainians thought his bid for president over 3 years ago was a joke, given his background. He was most famous for playing a school teacher who becomes president after a video of him ranting about corruption in Ukraine made him famous. Talk about life imitating art… Well, the actor-turned-president – who some were unsure of – has proved his stuff, not running away and escaping, but staying to fight and send out inspirational messages. Well, how did you do? If you fancy another go – we’ll put an online version of this quiz on our website’s Lucky Dip Blog Page, which is…

LEELA: Newsypooloozi.com.

MAMA: That’s pool-oo-zi-dot-com

LEELA: So, I have to admit I find all this pretty upsetting.

MAMA: That’s because it is. I think many of us have a pit in our stomachs over what’s happening. And it can make us sad and anxious, even though we want to stay informed. Well, we’ve reached out to several experts on this subject, including Anisha Abraham –a pediatrician and teen health specialist on faculty at Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC. Here are our top coping tips for coping with distress news events.

ANISHA: Many of you, like my own two boys, are listening or reading news coverage on the situation in Ukraine. Here are a few tips to consider. First, it’s important to know what’s happening in the world right now, but make sure you get information from trusted news sources.

MAMA: Exactly. As we said earlier, there’s a lot of fake news out there – often meant to confuse or just deliberately upset you. So be careful about clicking on any old thing – stick with trusted news sources.

LEELA: Like us! Newsy Pooloozi – we’ll keep you informed without too much upset, promise!

MAMA: Next coping tip…

ANISHA: Focus on the helpers. Right now there are thousands of people around the world… and many governments working together to stop conflict and finally that’s happening. There are people on the ground that are helping those who are injured and providing mandatory aid… Focus on the positive that’s occurring.

LEELA: I go to sleep sometimes and imagine what I’d do if I had to flee my home and it makes me kind of sad. But it also makes me think – OK – what can I do to help? Anything?

MAMA: Yes – send messages to people you know who are suffering or scared, donate to causes that are helping the refugees. It feels like you’re doing something rather than just feeling miserable. And as Anisha said, thinking about all the help others are giving can feel good – we have to remember there are way more good people in this world than bad.

ANISHA: Don’t forget to take breaks from the constant media updates… Especially its affecting on a mood or making you feel down or sad 

LEELA: I hate hearing those explosions on the news podcasts and I’m really glad we’re not a big TV watching family. I don’t wanna see this stuff.

MAMA: Yeah, a lot of people are like that, to be honest. Of course, it’s good to be informed about what’s happening in the world – it does make us better humans knowing what other people deal with – but I think you have to listen to your instincts and turn away from things when you need to. And remember, things make the news because they are rare – what’s happening right now is unusual.

ANISHA: And finally, make sure you talk to adults about the questions you may have. We will get through this.

LEELA: Usually I want to talk to an adult. You or Daddy. Though there’s always the risk of getting a history lesson from you two!

MAMA: Hmph – that’s true. But, still, talking through these things is good. It’s also important to remember you’re not alone – a lot of people are probably feeling sad or worried. It’s perfectly normal to find this stressful. Which is why I’m going to add a final top tip – the power of distraction! Go play! Ok, even sometimes video games (in moderation). When distressing news gets too much, think about the things that make you happy and embrace them.

LEELA: Ah, the power of distractions! Like playing with my cat. Come here Treasure, you sweet, little darling.

MAMA: Well, we hope you’ve found those coping tips useful. Let us know what YOU do. We can continue this conversation on Instagram, FaceBook and – in fact – I’ll be holding a panel discussion on this very topic on Twitter Spaces this week – Thursday at 9pm India time, 3:30 pm British time, 10:30 am Eastern Standard Time – so please feel free to join in or have a listen and comment afterwards and leave a comment


MAMA: And that brings us to the end of this very unusual, special episode of Newsy Pooloozi. 

LEELA: Don’t worry, we’ll be back to our usual compilation of wild and wacky, and hopefully happier, world news stories next week. 

MAMA: Complete with the world wrap and five fab facts quiz.

LEELA: So, we’ll see you next week in the giant, splashy Newsy Pooloozi!