What refugees from Mariupol told about life during the battles for the city
Taganrog again became one of the main points of reception of Ukrainian refugees. Many ended up in the city, having fled from the almost completely destroyed Mariupol. They told RBC how they survived urban battles and how they fled to Russia * ” alt=”What refugees from Mariupol told about life during the battles for the city” />
Since the beginning of the military special operation in Ukraine, a little more than 1 million people have been evacuated from the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. Mariupol became one of the main points from which people fled. Before the start of the operation, more than 400,000 people lived in the city near the Sea of Azov. Now it is almost completely destroyed, and most of the inhabitants have left.
After “filtering” Mariupol are brought to Taganrog and placed in TAPs (temporary accommodation points) in order to be further sent around the country— from Lipetsk to Khabarovsk. The largest item in the city is located in the Sports Palace. The RBC correspondent spoke with those who temporarily live in the palace, where more than 400 beds are arranged on the sports ground.
“They look for tattoos”
Everyone entering Russia from Ukraine goes through the so-called “filtering.” They make their own base. Reveal someone. Questions are asked: was— did not have. Do you have [relatives] in the security services of Ukraine, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Azov etc. Well, look at the presence of tattoos, so that there are no scuffs from unloading. But there was no violence, — 38-year-old Konstantin tells RBC.
He is a railway worker, lived in the village of Mirny— this is the northeast of the city, closer to the border with the DPR. Mirny was badly damaged by the bombings. “The Armed Forces entered the villages. They came, set up a cannon, fired back from the corner and left. It is clear that there will be an arrival. And this broke it all (civilian objects— RBC). The Ukrainian authorities say that we are hijacking (defending) Mariupol. If you are defending, then stay on the lines, on your first line. Why did you enter the city? Why are you tanks… Hiding in nine-story buildings, climbing with javelins. What for? At least people were evacuated,— he says.“Nothing was organized. Even on the 24th no one said anything. Only when the plant [Ilyich] began to stop, and I lived here for 30 years, the plant will never stop, they realized that something would happen,— he says.— Well, bring at least a simple humanitarian aid? I don't think it was possible to agree.
Most likely, Konstantin will not return to Mariupol. “If there is infrastructure, yes, I am ready, but in general, of course, we are not with us. Very bad damage there. Children need somewhere to study, but there are simply no schools, — he says and admits that his son is 18 years old— this is another reason not to return to the city. Onby did not want him to fight for one of the sides. Now he, like almost everyone in this Taganrog TAP, will go to Lipetsk, in the late afternoon they will be picked up by a bus and taken to the station.
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On Heroic Street in the Ilyichevsk district of Mariupol, there are fragments of a nine-story building— one half burned down, the other collapsed, 66-year-old Elena recalls. There was no basement-shelter in the house and people hid from shelling in the stairwell near the elevator (they decided it was safer), continues a lonely pensioner who has no relatives either in Russia or Ukraine. There, by the elevator, they and their neighbors made pillows for themselves, and when the shelling began, they tucked their legs under themselves and covered themselves with a blanket.
“There was a maternity hospital No. 1 behind our house, and in the maternity hospital these (Ukrainian military men — RBC) were hiding (hiding). And these 27 days they fired at our house, because our nine-story building closed the maternity hospital. First they knocked down the entire eighth and ninth [floors]»,— she tells. “On March 27, the maternity hospital was blown up, and we all went to our apartments. The windows were all broken, but at least you could stretch your legs, & mdash; she continues. But on the morning of the 28th, early in the morning, another shell hit their house and part of it collapsed. “Our unit has all failed. It shook, and part of my apartment fell down. And I climbed from the balcony, I knew that there were no glasses anywhere, on the sixth [floor]. And on the sixth, it went already like this, & mdash; she tries to show a pile of concrete with her hands.— Pokaty, blocks. There I saw Borya, a neighbor. He says: “Aunt Lena, wait, now, I will pull the little one out [and help you].” Oksana lived on the ninth floor of their house with her nine-year-old son Andrey. At night, when the house was blown up, they fell after the concrete, the mother died, and the boy survived in a pocket between the plates— Boris got it.
She tells how, under fire, she ran to the garden [No. 151 “Solnyshko”], where a large crater formed after a bomb hit. Bodies were placed in it. "We have a lot of people still freezing in their houses— there was no glass— who had a heart attack, who died under the bath. Well, who, where was he?”. “And then just this one, with white stripes, the military [appeared] (a piece of white fabric on clothes & mdash; a sign of a military man fighting on the side of Russia or Donbass), says: “at the Pentagon (so the locals call the Ilyichevsk district of Mariupol— RBC) there will be a sweep of those who want to evacuate— evacuate.” Then they were taken by bus to the village of Cossack— this is the territory of the DPR. From there to Bezymennoye, also on the territory of the DPR, where one of the filtration points is located. After Elena was sent to Donetsk and put in the hospital— she had a high temperature, and a few days later she left for Russia, for Taganrog. Now waiting for shipment to Lipetsk.
When asked if she would evacuate to Ukraine if she could, Elena replies that she does not. “And many more cities will be bombed there. When I was in the hospital in Donetsk, there are still these shots every day. The grandmothers who were lying in the ward said that I jump up at night, scream and hide with my head, — she explains. “First, Russian channels were turned off for us. There used to be Russian concerts, we could watch. And then it started: everything is in the Move (Ukrainian language), moreover, in such a Move that you won’t understand, but the men are Russian-speaking. Wherever you go, even to a pension fund, even to pay bills, even so in the Ukrainian language, you won’t understand anything. You don’t know how to write, and so you ask someone and everyone has to pay for someone to write this piece of paper for me, — this is how she explained her decision.
“Three shells flew in a minute”
“And then the shell exploded, I saw a pillar of fire, knocked out the door and something in my stomach, — the other Elena understands the sweatshirt, shows exactly in the middle of her stomach a wound glued crosswise with plasters. She suspects the shard is still there. “It was April 7th, on the Annunciation,” — she remembers. She didn't eat anything for the next week— I was afraid that my stomach was damaged. “A neighbor came running to me, took out compote, the pear was rolled up. I didn’t eat at all, I was afraid, I didn’t know what was going on with my stomach, and my mother would eat two or three pears, she would pour off the compote of this and wet my lips, & mdash; she says.
Elena and her 83-year-old mother lived in the Primorsky district. Her mother is sitting in the next bed in the temporary accommodation facility. “And there was nothing to eat anyway. Well, where? Three shells flew in a minute. Even get up, but where— I have a liter of blood out— I get up, I lose consciousness. And I lay for seven days in the dark on the floor. Hungry, no water, nothing at all. Prayed to God. She lay and said: Mom, only [hope] in God now, or our legs and arms will fly apart, — she says. At first, she continues, there was hope of staying. “My house was comparatively whole. Well, there was no roof, there were no windows, but then it started to rain and the ceiling collapsed, and I said: “That's it, I can't do it anymore.” Mom is 83 years old, and I need some kind of medical help, but there is nothing at all. No food, no light, no water, unsanitary conditions. The rats began to run already at night, — she says.
They left, in their own words, by a miracle. Their neighbors, as soon as the shelling began, immediately left the city, to the village of Melekino. At the end of April, when it became relatively calm, they came to see what was left of the house, and took away the wounded Elena and her mother.
Already in the first days of the start of the special operation, Elena and her mother heard explosions, but they thought that they were “beating somewhere in the fields.” “Well, it can’t be [to shoot at houses], that’s crazy. And no connection, nothing. Then, she continues, the Ukrainian military appeared on the streets. “They sat on all the roofs on ours. They didn’t have anything heavy, only machine guns. They started firing at them. “We were killed from both sides. We don't need anyone at all. From this side they defended us, it turns out, they beat us, and from the other side the DPR hit them, also at us, it turns out, — she says. As the shelling ended, Elena says, the house caught fire. “I ran to the neighbors, they have a well. And when she came running, they were lying around. They were then collected ten days later, already like wax they were.
At the same time, her daughter with two children aged 2 and 10, her husband and his family were left without contact in the city center. “The children were hungry, in the cold, pneumonia in a small one. There is a shop “Mirror” nearby. was. He (son-in-law of RBC) says: “I’ll jump out now, there was milk left in the warehouse.” And flew there, and he did not return. And his dad was in the basement, my daughter's father-in-law. He went at night and found him there, — she starts crying.— He pulled it out, folded his hands, wrote a name and surname, date of birth, date of death on a piece of paper, and went, stepped over his child. But then I found out everything.
Elena supports Russia's actions. “Of course. And how did we live there before that, when there was no war? You come to school, you are not Kolya— you are Mikola. Our children had to sing the national anthem. “Glory to Ukraine!” I am Russian-speaking, why are you breaking my child?— she says.— No, I am not against Ukraine, my mother is from Vinnitsa, she speaks cleanly, but this is Ukraine, but not the same as it has come now. Elena pauses and adds: “We were waiting, we wanted [Russia to come]. But we did not think that such a price would be. It's just that if someone said… I would say: “What are you? Cover the city with skulls! There is nothing, just ruins, ruins. There is no city at all!».
Since the beginning of the Russian special operation, the number of civilians killed and wounded has exceeded 6,000, according to the UN. 2829 people died, of which 205 were children. 3180 wounded, including 303 children. At the same time, the organization believes that “the real numbers are much higher.” By the beginning of the third month of the special operation, the number of dead civilians came close to the total number of victims among the civilian population of Ukraine over the seven years of the conflict in Donbas. From 2014 to February 2021, according to the same UN, 3375 civilians were killed.
The number of refugees from Ukraine reached almost 5.5 million by the end of April. Most went to European countries. About 653 thousand left for Russia, who before the war lived in Ukraine or territories controlled by the authorities of the partially recognized DPR and LPR. 136 thousand of them— from Mariupol, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on April 21. Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Control Center of the Russian Federation, said on April 30 that more than 1 million people left the territory of Ukraine for Russia since the beginning of the conflict.
“They fled, singing songs about God all the time”
There could have been fewer casualties if people didn't think the fighting would end soon, says Viktor, 66, who worked as a fitter at the ruined Mariupol Drama Theater until retirement. “Even before the war, I installed a [satellite] dish for myself. “60 minutes” watched with Skabeeva. They always said that the war would end quickly, in a few days. They shoot and leave. But they (the Ukrainian military — RBC) did not leave, — he says. In addition, he continues, right before the war, a native of Donetsk, Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who owns Azovstal, came to the city. And people thought that there was some kind of agreement that Mariupol would not be touched, surrendered or spared, Viktor adds.
He lived in the central district of Mariupol, in the private sector just near Azovstal, hiding in the cellar of his one-story house. “There was nothing to breathe because of the burning plastic. You are walking around the city, there are no people around. A sniper, he can be on the left or on the right, anywhere. There is blackness under your feet, there is nothing to breathe, you walk, try to cling to some wall, you go in dashes. Lucky— passed. No luck… And a lot of bodies. You're just stepping over.
He was able to leave Mariupol with his family in mid-April. Their house was destroyed due to shelling, and finally burned down. “The problem is that there was no water in Mariupol, there was nothing to extinguish. We just watched everything burn down, — says Victor. Viktor blames the Azov people for losing his home. “Well, at least because they provoked. Onzhe with a mortar will approach where you live, shoot a couple of times and leave from there. That is, provokes a response. And the DPR people understand, yeah, since you fired from there, they give an answer, but he’s gone, he’s already run away, — he says.
After Vladimir's house burned down, he and his family spent the night on the street. “The next day, new shelling began, and it was very strong. And we saw the believers flee. They ran, singing songs about God all the time. In Russia, this organization is banned, most likely, it was Jehovah's Witnesses (in 2017, the organization was recognized as extremist and banned in Russia). They hid in the Palace of Culture “Youth”. And we, in what we were, ran with them under fire, & mdash; he says. According to him, no one in Mariupol, at least in the central region, knew if there was an organized evacuation. “They said there is a green corridor there, there is a green one there— but no one [officially] did it. And if they (the Witnesses— RBC) didn't run, then we wouldn't run,— he says. As a result, on April 17 they reached Volodarsky— village on the northwestern exit from the city, there were already military DNR and there was a filtration point. “They checked us and put us in a passenger car to Berdyansk,” — he says. His brother lives in this city. On April 19, he once again returned to Mariupol for his daughter, and after that they left for Russia.
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