Ukraine: The Terrifying Challenges of Survival for Mariupol Residents

Since February 28th, residents of Mariupol have been surviving without electricity, water, and heat under constant shelling in the besieged city.

(Photo Credit: Reuters)

(Due to safety concerns, names have been altered)

“Before 27th-28th everything, so to say, wasn’t too bad. The only thing was that the water and electricity were occasionally down but we had gas. Before 27th-28th we could live somehow. Starting from 28th-29th everything was cut off entirely. The gas supply was cut and heavy shelling started,” said Andrey, a resident of Mariupol.

Every day, bombers and attack jets were flying above the city and leveling residential  buildings. “My house remained miraculously intact and there is almost nothing intact left around it. Well, by intact I mean there are no windows. They were blown out by the blast wave. We sealed the window as best we could, boarded them up to somehow keep warm. The worst thing is that it is 10 degrees below zero [14°F]. Thank God, I had a fireplace in the house, we at least could cook food on fire. We were sleeping in jackets. It is an unforgettable experience… ” said Andrey.

Destroyed road
A crater on the road and concrete airfield slabs blown away by the explosion. (Source: Andrey)

Andrey recalls that they were surviving due to the stuff they stocked up or had left in fridges. “There was no electricity, so the refrigerators and freezers were leaking. Of course, while stores were working we stocked up some food, canned food. There was really no choice, you enter a store, it is almost empty, so you buy food that at least wouldn’t go bad tomorrow. I managed to buy a bag of potatoes on the market. There was no humanitarian aid or anything, we survived on things we managed to get ourselves – took from my friend’s and neighbor’s freezers. We were travelling by foot, we couldn’t use cars because they [russian soldiers] would either shoot you, bomb you or take your car away. We were surviving on our own. For days on end, while there was no shelling, we went to collect some kind of firewood, just in order to somehow get warm, cook some food.”

Residents of Mariupol are surviving without anything: there is no power, no heat, no food and even no water: “Stores are not working, everything is looted. Water supply service was helping with water till the end. The service was working only due to the enthusiasm of those people who had these cars, they could just quit and don’t do it but they were still working and delivering water. They were bringing water under fire. The lines were kilometers, maybe not a kilometer but 200-300 meters long for sure [980 feet]. People stood in lines with bottles to get this water. The water was freezing. There was frost. All this was happening under fire, the fire was almost non-stop,” said Andrey.

People standing in line to get water. (Source: Andrey)

Some people helped residents with water in a different way but had to pay a high price for that: “There were also people who had wells in their houses. The thing that I remember clearly is that these people were just letting other people in, the lines were lining up. Dozens of people were taking water from their well. Literally, two days later, these people were bombed. The owner of the house was killed, her daughter was also killed. I had an impression that they [Russians] were targeting the crowds of people. It is really horrible. People got hurt because they just let other people in who just needed water. They didn’t ask for anything in return. What really got me was that two days before, I also was getting water from them and I thought that these people should be thanked for their help somehow. I had some food stock left and I brought them some cheese and a chocolate bar for kids but there was already no one to give this to… The whole house was destroyed. For no reason, there were no important or strategic objects, no military or communication objects nearby. It was just a residential area. It happened about a kilometer away from me…The house was just blown up,” said Andrey. 

A well (on the right) among ruins of the house of the family who were helping people with water. (Source: Andrey)

“To leave the city… March 15-16th the first people tried to break out of Mariupol because they just had no choice; they would get killed under shelling or they would get shot somewhere along the way, on checkpoints. The people literally had no choice; they would die in their home or they would be shot along the way. Just because of this pressure people started trying to leave. I left on 15th because they stopped bombing us from planes and started shooting at us with mortars. The front line was already approaching us. Due to the fact that we were sleeping in the basement, the shell fragments were not that terrible for us but direct hits of neighboring houses started to happen. Five-six cars were burnt on our street. Then, I decided that while we still have a car and a little gas, we should try to leave,” said Andrey.

“On 15th we left the city. We were getting out of here in a convoy of five-six cars. All the neighbors also decided to follow us. We got out safely but along the way we saw a lot of shot, shelled convoys of cars and you could clearly tell that they were civilian’s cars. There were a lot of burnt cars… Every several kilometers there were burnt cars…People were driving in the convoy of two-three cars and they burnt completely. Somebody shot and shelled them…” said Andrey.

“I have seen a lot in my life, but like this I have not seen anywhere. All the scariest things that you can see I have seen. Torn apart people, ruined homes, burning houses and people rushing out of them. Just imagine your house being attacked by a fighter jet, bomber. And a rocket hits 50-60 meters from your house. All the windows in your house are blown out. But thank god it doesn’t hit your house. The shell hits a neighbor’s barn, but that doesn’t make you feel any better because all fragments of the shell still hit your house. About five-seven years I have been building my house. Somebody just flew over and destroyed it, it is full of holes, and doesn’t have any windows. The only joy is that your loved ones seem to be alive and well but neighbors… out of four people three were killed. We helped pull them out, sorted out rubbles, so that people could get out. It’s horrifying…Torn apart bodies… What could be worse, I don’t know….” said Andrey.

Burnt and destroyed residential buildings in result of bombing 
(Photo source: Andrey)

“They came to ‘liberate’ us at the cost of the destruction of the whole city and killing the tenth of the population of the city. I just don’t understand…They just came to kill us with heavy artillery, volley-fire systems, planes…” said Andrey.

About ninety percent of Mariupol is destroyed, and every day it is getting worse and worse and worse.  According to preliminary estimates, at least 20 000 people were killed in Mariupol but not all bodies have been found yet. At least 20 000 lives of civilians were taken away, for no reason, and this number is continuing to grow. All these people were someone’s friends, someone’s parents, someone’s kids and had their own lives that were cynically cut short and turned into a statistical number with many zeros. What is happening in Mariupol now is genocide and there is no other way of calling it. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.