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Fear, Death, and Horror: My Escape From Mariupol With My Son

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Lacking water, food, and medicine, residents are fleeing the shelled Ukrainian city of Mariupol. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)
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Yesterday we left Mariupol under shelling at our own risk, spent the night in the field, in the gray zone, did not make it before curfew, it was cold outside, thank God we are alive. They are alive to scream that everyone who stayed in Mariupol needs help. This is not a city of a hero, this is a city of fear, death, and horror!

Editor’s Note: This is a first-person account of a Ukrainian mother’s escape with her son from the besieged city of Mariupol on the coast of the Sea of Azov. They are now in a safe location. Her letter was sent to GV Wire by a Ukrainian resident in Fresno who has relatives in Ukraine. It has been translated from Ukrainian and lightly edited.

We did not have a humanitarian convoy, no one took us out, we ran after cars under shelling, united in columns, glued “CHILDREN” sign inscriptions on cars. I personally put my own son in the car to the sound of an incoming shell in a neighboring yard. No one saved us, at this point we saved ourselves and God.

There is no communication, water, gas, ambulances in the city, people with severed limbs bleed in the yards and there is no one to help them, and these are peaceful people, our friends, and relatives. The dead are simply buried on the spot, and then their relatives cannot find them. Most often this happens during the search for water, queues at the crackers or while cooking soup at the stake!

Yes, we collected snow, stoked it on a fire, and cooked pasta. My family was in the shelter of gymnasium number two, three days ago a shell flew there, knocked out some of the windows, a woman was wounded in the thigh by shrapnel. She lay all night on the first floor of the gymnasium and begged for poison so as not to experience pain, there was no one to take her to the hospital. Every day and every night shelling, whistles, trembling walls, and the horror of “where it will fly.”

The surviving part of the 3rd city hospital is working heroically, they are operating, they are saving. This woman was taken away by the Red Cross a day later, God forbid everything is fine with her. Two shells flew into my entrance, two into my yard, and a man’s leg was torn off by the same shell.

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The woman and her baby later died. (AP/ Evgeniy Maloletka)

Pray for the People of Mariupol

There are almost no shelters in the city, there are not enough of them, there are no bunkers with ventilation, at best basement floors, there is none in my mother’s house. People need to be taken out, women, children, old people, give buses, a green corridor, agree! I pray for loved ones, every Mariupol citizen, and Ukrainian soldier. The enemy came to us and left us no choice, but there is nothing more valuable than human life. This must end!

I don’t understand war strategies, I pray for Ukraine with all my heart. I don’t understand why my relatives and my city are being destroyed.

We had no food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban battles, people will not be able to go out for water, people already have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores — everything is looted or burned, the dead are not taken out, the police recommend the relatives of those who died of natural causes to open the windows and lay the corpses on the balcony, and then take them to the prayer house.

I know you think you understand, but you’ll never understand unless you’ve been there. Now I hear the sound of a siren, and I’m not afraid, because there was no electricity in Mariupol for 16 days, and when the planes dropped bombs on us, we could not even know about it ahead of time.

Please, everyone, help to stop this! I don’t understand war strategies, I pray for Ukraine with all my heart. I don’t understand why my relatives and my city are being destroyed.

I don’t know what will happen next, but I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine and the world, and not with a single family and mother. A girl who gave birth to a child in a hospital where a shell flew in, a pregnant woman who died in the same hospital, who did not have time to give birth, a mother shaking with fear, covering her son in the corridor of each entrance to the sound of trembling windows, walls and a flying shell, an old man left without a chance for survival, wounded civilians dying in street fighting.

These 21 days have changed everyone, everything has changed. So much now does not matter and is worth nothing. If only everyone who stayed in the Mariupol hell would not tremble with fear and horror.

I pray for the people of Mariupol.

A Ukrainian serviceman takes a photograph of a damaged church after shelling in a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)