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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Mariupol after shelling

    “We were cooking food on the street while planes were flying past and the city was burning and glowing” — the story of a girl who spent 20 days in the besieged Mariupol

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Vira Repchuk

    8 October 2022

    Mariupol resident Victoria Moiseenko enjoyed life in her hometown before the war, where at the age of 27 she already had a large apartment in the center and a small business in the beauty industry. In the shopping center “Bravo” she opened her own studio, where she spent most of her time. When the blockade of Mariupol began, the girl had to leave everything she had achieved and leave her home. But before that, Victoria and her family hid from the shelling in the corridor, cooked food on the fire and saw the neighboring houses burning. The girl told “Monologues of the War” about the most terrible 20 days in her life, about leaving the destroyed Mariupol, about how their car came under fire, and how her family was helped in Spain. 

    On the morning of February 24, I was supposed to go to work as usual. But I woke up early because of the sirens and the fact that it was very restless outside the window. In a hurry, people were going somewhere and running with bags. I slept very badly at night and decided to go to Instagram first of all. The first thing I saw on the page of my colleagues was “Our studio is not working today”. And there were more and more such posts.

    Then the phone calls from friends and relatives started. They all said that the war had started. First of all, I decided to postpone all the appointments with my clients. I agreed to contact them the next day. Then we still foolishly believed that everything would end quickly. 

    My boyfriend and I started packing the necessary things in a bag. I went to the shower and changed my clothes. Then I went to the store to buy some water. Not because of anxiety, but just because we ran out of water. Then I saw a lot of people everywhere and heard explosions. I could also hear it from the house, but not so clearly. 

    I came back home and we started reading. We were reading a lot. Almost the whole day passed like that. Our relatives, close people and neighbors began to panic. We arranged the common corridor with pillows and spent the whole day there with the phones. It was very scary. We did not want to believe that this was really happening.

    “People were smashing tobacco kiosks and supermarkets in front of our eyes”

    On February 26, I managed to go to the store to buy food. It saved us. In a few days all communications were cut off and shops stopped working. Then a couple of our friends moved to us. We had a little more food, but we understood that it would not keep us long. 

    People smashed tobacco kiosks and supermarkets in front of our eyes. Twice we were lucky to get some food from the looted supermarkets, but it was not much. The meat was already rotten because there was no electricity. We got chocolates and sweet water. But even this was cool, because there was no water in the tap for several days, and we had to stand in line for three hours to get process water. 

    A residential building in Mariupo

    One of the destroyed residential buildings in Mariupol

    Mobile connection did not work in the city. It was aggravating. One day we “went crazy”, and despite the explosions, we went to my boyfriend’s relatives. It was still relatively good in their area, and my mother’s house was shaking every time because of the blast wave. In addition, a shell hit the top floor. My grandmother — she lived nearby — had her windows blown out, and the bombings were getting closer. It was March 6. That evening, the gas was cut off, and the most interesting thing began. 

    “The house was shaking so much that it seemed your life would end at any moment”

    There was little food but we were able to exist. We collected snow and melted it on the fire. We were cooking food outside while planes were flying by and the city was burning and glowing. We cooked soup, and from time to time we ran to hide to the entrance. It looked quite utopian — words cannot describe it. Since then, we began to hide in the common corridor with our neighbor. Each day was similar to the previous one, but in fact, each new day was worse than the previous one. It seemed like it would never end.

    Read also: From delivery of humanitarian aid to evacuation of people from hot spots — how the volunteer from Fastiv helps people in Donbas, risking his life

    On March 13, rumors spread around the city that there were people who managed to leave towards Berdiansk. The next day our friend left and confirmed that it was possible. At that time, we found a place in my house on the ninth floor, there on the staircase I caught the mobile connection. 


    March 15 was the most terrible day in my life. By that time, the windows in two rooms in the apartment were already smashed. The house was shaking so much that it seemed  your life would end at any moment. In the morning our friend went to catch the connection, and the neighboring house exploded in front of his eyes. It was a house away from us. We immediately ran to the common corridor. It was scary as never before — everything inside was shaking, the ground under our feet too. We sat like that for an hour, and then I saw the nearest houses. On the one hand — destruction, and on the other — fire. The roof of the next house collapsed, and the garage next to it was on fire. We realized that we could not go on like this, we had to leave. 

    We did not get to my grandmother – we came under shelling”

    We gathered, my family decided to leave the city, and we wanted to pick up my boyfriend’s grandmother from another district. Then we saw the state of our native Mariupol. Tears did not leave my eyes. Our city turned into ruins. We drove three different roads, but could not get there. There were ruins everywhere, which prevented us from driving. There were damaged wires hanging on the road. There were no roads, and tanks drove by everywhere. 

    We did not get to my grandmother – we came under fire. We got to the exit from the city by some miracle. On the same day we went towards Urzuf (a village in Donetsk region – ed.), and there were a lot of people like us. It took us about five hours to get there. It was not a safe evacuation, there was no “green corridor”. 

    Ruins of the city of Mariupol

    Mariupol turned into ruins

    We drove past a lot of terrible checkpoints, tons of cars with shattered windshields and endless bullet holes. And behind us, our hometown continued to be bombed. Even now I remember every moment that I experienced then. It seems that these memories will never disappear from my memory, although I would like them to.

    “We really want to go home. To the home we once had”

    Now we are in Spain. We were met here well and comfortably. They took care of us, we really needed that at that time. Now we live free of charge with the whole family, we were given a house and help with food. There is only one difficulty — this is not our dream and not our desire. We are not happy with what is happening. We really want to go home. To the house we used to have.

    Window in the house in Mariupol

    Broken window in Victoria’s apartment

    We are not making plans anymore either. We would very much like to return to Ukraine, to Mariupol, but these are only dreams so far. Unlike many people, we really have nowhere to return to. My boyfriend’s parents’ house was bombed, my mother’s apartment was also hit. Our apartment was left without windows and even without interior doors, but it survived. Unfortunately, everything related to my work could not be saved. Therefore, it is too early to talk about plans. So far we do not like living in a foreign land, but a foreign land is better than one of the twenty days in the blockaded Mariupol. We always remind ourselves of this when we get angry at the situation.

    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: Anastasia Milenko | Translation: Vira Repchuk

    Life under fire

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