АвторAuthor: Maria Havrylian | Translation:
11 June 2022
Svitlana Azovska (name changed at the request of the heroine of the production – ed.) Before the war, housing in the resort of Berdyansk, worked as a choreographer. From the first days of the war, her hometown was occupied almost without resistance, because no one could protect it. Enemy vehicles came from the suburbs continuously for the first two weeks.
I woke up as especially, obviously, sound asleep. The man said he woke up at 5 am from loud explosions. Then I read that it was similar in many cities. The war came.
The next day, Russian vehicles entered our city and were injured. On February 26 we went to our executive committee. Saw the Russian military. More precisely, as we were told, it was the Russian military police. Many of them were very young boys. There were numerous rallies. People chanted that Berdyansk was Ukraine so that the Russians could leave our city. The occupiers, however, did not touch anyone then, reacted calmly.
We went on to the police station. There was already a lot of Russian equipment. Our police vacated the premises on the first day.
Such rallies lasted in the city every day for about two weeks. At this time I went to volunteer. They helped old women who could not move on their own, prepared food for the needy. One day, when we returned home, we saw that protesters were standing on the square. There were few of them that day. They entered into a very strong reputation of the occupying military. These were not the cops who were in the early days. They were in black uniform and more aggressive, weapons.
“And here I see that one of the military remote means and shoot in the air. Panic begins among people, someone begins to flee”.
And I see how these military situations are. To be cruel, butts on the face. And the protesters did not have any weapons, they just sang Ukrainian songs. When people fell to the ground, they were dragged on the asphalt. They were boots, they were on the joints, obviously so that they could not stand up or defend themselves. Whites and women – I heard women’s screams. He detained someone, searched. Some were released, while others were taken away. We do not know the future of these people. People were frightened because they realized that pro-Ukrainian activity would have serious consequences. Who had to protect us. There were no Ukrainian soldiers, terrorists, or even police in the city.
City officials supported the city for as long as possible. However, they were forced to leave the premises of the executive committee. They moved to a children’s center, and from there they worked. Two officials were abducted. They were tortured and interrogated. One was later released, he was in hospital for a long time. The executor of the obligatory measure went on the air every day, told what, where and how he works. At that time, all utilities were working, we were kept informed of what was happening. One day they cut a gas pipeline that became a city. It was difficult at first, but everyone quickly adapted. On the basis of the humanitarian center, where I worked as a volunteer, 7,000 servings of food were prepared every day. It became especially important when people from Maripol started coming.
When we talked to them, we realized that we had to flee Berdyansk ourselves. Most of them came in transit. They said that they should flee as far as possible.
“Mariupol residents arrived in fired cars. There were people, when they saw that the whole car was without an owner, they got on it and drove on”.
At that time, the city had big problems with fuel. Where gasoline was still sold, it cost UAH 100 per liter. The shelves in the shops were empty of words. Gradually, one by one, they began to close. Pharmacies are also empty. Elementary in the city could not find feminine hygiene products. The girls and I began to use the methods of our mothers and grandmothers.
Most banks did not work. If there were any left on the card, it was impossible to remove them. Terminals in stores did not work. There were huge queues in the working banks. One of our wards, an old grandmother who is no longer walking, asked to withdraw her pension so as not to run out of money. We took 879. We were about to leave, but we didn’t make it. Then there is communication in the city. We knew that the same thing happened in Mariupol and after that active hostilities began there.
This was the last straw. We collected some things, documents. I really didn’t want to leave the house, but it was even worse to stay.
There were a lot of Russian checkpoints along the way. Once we were so lucky that no one was rude to us, nothing was taken away. Of course, we stopped and inspected for a very long time. Phones were checked especially carefully so that there were no photos of them from the battlefields and the like. Some cars from our column were deployed. I don’t know, to be honest, what was wrong that they didn’t like, but they weren’t released. We drove without corridors. As it seemed to us then, the occupiers specially created long queues at checkpoints to cover themselves with cars with civilians so that they would not be shot at. As we stood, serious military equipment drove past us in an endless column.
“Sometimes I had to stand for several hours at checkpoints. It was impossible to get out of the car. As soon as the door opens, a warning shot is fired”.
The road from Berdyansk to Zaporizhia took three hours before the war. We traveled indefinitely and prayed that we would be able to enter Ukrainian territory by 5 pm. At 16:00 only our car remained from our column. It was very scary to go alone. The cities were already heavily bombed, evacuation buses were seen burned, and shots were heard. They were very afraid to go on the mine themselves.
My acquaintances, when you visited Mariupol with two cars, met a tank on the way. He fired at one of the cars. And there are no people. When the tank came out to meet us, it was very scary. But he just drove by.
In the evening we arrived in the town of Polohy. It was badly damaged by the war. We had to pass this city in transit, but did not have time. At the checkpoint, the road was blocked by hedgehogs and they started firing in the air. We often find that the road is no more and we start thinking about where to spend the night.
At this time, explosions were heard one after another. It became clear that we will spend the night at the bomb shelters. They hid in a local school. Many thanks to the people who arranged everything there. It was very scary.
“Some of the explosions shook the walls. I am very afraid that our car will be bombed and we will not be able to leave”.
In the morning at the checkpoint we were told that the passage was still closed. We asked, “Won’t you let us go?” They explained that there was active hostilities, but they would not keep us if we wanted to move on.
As we drove, we saw them digging trenches. There were very young boys, aged 18-19. Checkpoints in front of Orekhov became more frequent. Very meticulously searched each of them. When we finally got to our first city, it was an incredible increase. It’s like a belt that tied you tightly before it was cut.
However, this increase was short-lived. Now, although we are in a safe city, sirens are sounding, there are soldiers with weapons. It seems like everything, but these pictures are constantly in my head. And the feeling that at any moment a projectile can fly, does not leave.
We miss home, but it’s very scary to think about returning. The city is under full occupation. Russian flags were hung everywhere. Hryvnia is still going, not rubles. Schools closed. They were to start training under the Russian program, but the teachers refused, and the principals resigned. There is still no gas in the city. Connections to the Internet. Some acquaintances who demand say that Berdyansk has a terrible shortage of food. Everything is very expensive. For example, a half-liter bottle of plain sweet water costs 70 UAH. Gaskets cost 150 UAH for 10 pieces. My friend, who has a disabled child, received a disability payment of UAH 12 02 kopecks per month. Friends tell that there are military on apartments, demand documents, write down. There are rumors that some empty apartments are used as weapons depots. But it’s very true – I don’t know.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Maria Havrylian | Translation: