photo: azov regiment page on medium.com
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A Mariupol resident Svitlana Chernomyza describes her weeks in the encirclement before she and her family managed to escape through the corridor shelled by Russians. The story was published by the Azov regiment on their Telegram.
We did not know what to do at all, there was fear for the children, for relatives, I could not imagine that everything would reach such a scale. A friend offered us to go to them at the other end of the city, 23 microdistrict, and wait there because, in our part of the city, it was impossible to stay calm further.
I will never forget my friend’s neighbour, aunt Nadia, who told me her dream when we were sitting in the corridor and bombs exploded nearby. When she slept, she saw her friend from Talakivka, who had already been dead for a long: «She tells me: «Why have you come to me? I’m sorry, I have so many guests, that there is no place for you.» I had a cold on my skin from that story.
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At that time, there was a network, we constantly called each other, asked what happens and how it is in the districts. We saw horrible photos from the bombed-out Volnovakha, it was scary what would happen to our city, and to the end, there was hope that this would pass us by.
«The worst thing is bomber planes dropping bombs on apartment buildings, such horror and understanding that you can’t survive,» – a friend from the Left Bank told me by phone. I couldn’t understand how this is possible, I’m watching the news about Kyiv, our army is shooting down planes there, and here in Mariupol, the aggressor’s planes are quietly destroying all our houses, schools, kindergartens, everything.
I called my colleague Dmytro, from the village Staryi Krym, at the moment of my call he shouted that Russian tanks had come in, he was hiding his wife and three children in the basement. Then, from that village, a massive shelling of artillery in our neighbourhood began. Now, I do not hear any news from my colleague.
A shell hit our house, people from the 13th floor ran to our floor and told us that their floor had risen. And since then, we have no communication, light, gas, and water. Before the hit, we went up to the 14th floor a couple of times to catch any bundles. From there, we saw the Left Bank and the «Azovstal» plant burning, and bombs exploding at the «Ilyich» plant.
We cannot reach relatives; began to think about how to gather everyone in our home.
In the morning, my husband walked to our house to try to pick up my mother, persuade his parents to leave, and take some things from our house. As he was walking, shells flew in and exploded nearby. He went under fire, hiding and falling. He said that some houses did not exist at all anymore, some were destroyed. There were soldiers in our house, my husband knew about it, because when he took the dogs to his parents the day before, he was asked if it would be possible. He was given six soldiers who followed him to his mother, about 700 meters, also under fire, jumping under fences. The husband then found my mother in a pit, because it wasn’t even a basement. Neighbours saw my husband come and went with him. It was difficult to go back, because it seems that they started firing even more. There was no time to take stuff.
In fact, most Mariupol residents came under fire when they went for water, cooked, and wherever they went. It was very easy to go for water and die from a shell.
Our men, from our two families that stayed together, helped to strengthen hospitals, transported sand and tires in the first days of the war. There was a huge queue at the gas station, our friends bought a barrel of gasoline and then, there was no fuel at all. At that moment, a shelling took place near friends, they were hiding in the shop, and the shell flew inside, exploding. All the glass fell on one of them, and a concrete column saved him from the wreckage.
My husband was extremely worried that he could not get to his family when he took my mother away, because they were shelling from his parents’ side.
We understood that there would be no place in Mariupol where it would be calm, so we decided to try to leave the next day.
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The column was gathering near the Drama Theater; we were moving in a column of about 50 cars. My husband put some women, dogs and my mother, they were the first to move, I was maybe the tenth with children. Shells were sticking out in the asphalt. Burned military vehicles, civilian cars. The huge supermarket burned down so much that only the walls remained. The houses were black.
Russians started mortar shelling in the direction of the Ukrainian military. Our soldiers gestured «turn» and fired machine guns in the air, the column began to turn. I shouted: God, help! My children calmed me down, but I was calm, just praying out loud. Time seemed to have stopped then.
I want to add that some jerks, when we returned to the Drama Theater, were so hysterical, shouting that it was «Azov» who fired so as not to let us go. Although they were somewhere inside the column, seeing nothing. We realized that we needed to find shelter, there was no place left in the Drama Theater. Our friends gave us keys to their apartment in the city centre, it seemed to me that it was very dangerous there, but there were no options, I did not want to return under fire.
People there have already adapted to cooking on the fire. This house is about 400 meters from the maternity hospital. I will never forget when those terrible 4 bombs landed from the plane near the maternity hospital and on Peace Avenue. We were on the street, closer to the avenue, looking out for the connection, there was a place in the centre where it is possible to catch. I didn’t even realize at first – it’s right next to us, in the yard. I’ve never heard such a powerful explosion. Before that, I heard a rumble, a deafening long whistle. The ground just came off my feet. We sat down under the wall, and the shock wave carried us away, I wanted to bury myself in the asphalt and the wall, then stones and debris fell from above.
We ran to the apartment. We waited and waited… The friends decided to run through the hospital to the others to find out about them. When they ran, they saw that the bloodied women were being carried out, complete chaos, screams, and that terrible funnel about five meters deep.
After that, we found a basement in the house. However, we knew that no basement would save us from these bombs. There was a feeling of complete hopelessness that this could happen at any moment, nothing depends on us. The minimum we could do to save lives is not to come out of the basement.
The shelling started continuously, the hailstones worked, and I went to see my friend across the avenue when it was quiet. Hailstones bombed the corner apartment on the side of her porch.
There were already more of us in the basement. There were two old grandmother’s twins, they ate one potato a day because they were afraid they would have to go to the toilet on the fifth floor. We helped them as much as we could, the men made beds for them. The people there were good, everyone tried to help each other. I was even surprised by such care from people I didn’t know. You don’t even have to ask for medicine, they offered, gave everything, there was nothing worth anything, just only one more day that we survived and, thank God, we are alive.
It was cold outside, we were sleeping dressed, but still, many fell ill. I still remember supporting each other, hugging, and dreaming of taking a shower, it was such an unattainable dream. Between shellings, we went out from the basement to stand on the porch, and see the sky, but the sky in Mariupol was not blue, it was yellow-grey because of ash. People with bottles of water passed by and said that they had to go through the dead people lying on the streets.
March 15, this day was very scary. We were bombed by fighter planes, but it seemed that all the weapons were used, bombed until noon very hard, and then, little by little, it was very, very scary. I wanted to wrap my girls with the wings, like a bird. But they are very strong, they could calm me down and understood everything – nothing depends on us. A friend said that their house had been shot, and they were leaving. Three families had lived in the corridor until then.
We waited because we were afraid, and then the neighbour received a message that there was a corridor, we realized that this was a chance, we had to overcome fear, get out of the basement and get into my little car. By some miracle, it survived. The man ran after the minibus, which good people helped to put in the parking lot. We quickly gathered what they could and left.
I did not recognize the city, everything is in smoke, frameless houses, black, dead, everything is shattered, wires, shell pits. There are no roads, there is something gray around, terrible. No colours, one death… You can’t even imagine how I felt when my column and I left Mariupol, escaped from this hell. What we all felt.
But Russian fascists did not think that they damaged enough. In the area where the Russian posts ended, the occupiers opened fire directly on the column. We drove past a burning car with people. People were not alive. We drove past broken destinies, dreams of just living…
I understand – it’s a miracle that we are alive. And I also understand that the people who are there now are still suffering. When we were there, my daughter’s friend, who also left now, told her terrible things: how he buried a man, no, a part of him, head with forearm, and this was a 16-year-old boy.
There every day stretches, becomes even worse than the previous one. And there are a lot of my relatives, acquaintances, about whom nothing, no information.
I pray for our defenders, for all of them, I can’t put into words how proud I am that we have such people. They did not leave the city, like my grandfather, once, fighting the Nazis, did not leave the city, defending it. I believe in our victory, because there can be no other way with such people. But I do not understand why the occupied city is not given help. But I still believe and pray! I pray for ordinary people, simple heroes! «
Published on the Medium page of «Azov»
Translated by Kateryna Bortniak
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