Conversation with Anna Budyanskaya, who managed to escape from the blockade Mariupol/Collage Channel 24
During the full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine, Mariupol became a city that the whole world heard about. But the reason for this is not comforting, but tragic – the city found itself in the blockade of Russian invaders. Mariupol is a witness to the terrible war crimes of the invaders.
- 1We left Mariupol on foot
- 2 They bombed everything they could: hospitals, kindergartens, a drama theater…
- 3To have water, they melted snow and cooked food on fire
- 4They fled from the city under shelling
- 5Occupiers destroyed everything they could
- 6There could be many more dead in the drama theater
- 7Friend deported to Russia
- 8Evacuated a few days later, after 18 roadblocks
- 9How can Mariupol be helped
- 10 I want to see the whole apartment. When will the war end
Hundreds of thousands of residents of Mariupol found themselves in a blockade. Without water, food, heat and communications. The invaders cut them off from the world. For the first weeks, the invaders who surrounded the city did not let people out of it and did not let humanitarian convoys in.
Anna and I are in the same year at the university. As today I remember the message that she has not been in touch for more than 2 weeks. Then I found out that she lives in Mariupol. But, fortunately, she managed to escape from the hellish blockade. As part of the Interview24 project, Anna Budyanskaya told Channel 24 what she had to endure in her hometown, which the occupiers turned into ruins.
They left Mariupol on foot
When the war began, many left their cities. For example, the Mariupol City Council said that by the time of the blockade, about 140,000 people had left the city. Why did you and your family decide to stay?
I live in the eastern region, on the left bank of Mariupol. We have the Vostochny microdistrict – it is extreme. And it all started, it seems, on February 19th. Even then explosions were heard. However, on February 24 they got stronger.
We didn't leave the city simply because we didn't have a car. But when the situation escalated, we decided to go on foot. It was March 18.
So you left Mariupol on foot?
Yes, on foot from Mariupol to the village of Melekino. The distance between them is about 25 km.
We had dead phones. Because how far we went – I do not know. Maybe 5 hours. I felt like this.
They bombed everything they could: hospitals, kindergartens, drama theater…
You had it all this time, from Feb 19 to March 18 , sit in cellars?
No no. On February 19 there were strong explosions. Then we went out into the partition of the entrance. We have it made of concrete, so you can hide. If something fell there, maybe it would be possible to get out, even if there were blockages. And already on February 26, our friends took us to the city center.
There (Russian invaders – Channel 24) began to destroy everything – all the buildings that were near our house. Everything was on fire. Shells fell into yards, markets. Hospitals, kindergartens – bombed everything that was possible. Well, the drama theater was bombed a lot … You must have seen these photos. And we lived just not far from him.
When the occupiers got into the drama theater, my house was like jelly – it went like a wave along with the floor.
The bombed-out drama theater in Mariupol/Photo from Pavel Kirilenko's Facebook
To have water, they melted snow, and cooked food on fire
Did you have stocks of water, food? After all, you were actually in blockade for three weeks.
No, we didn't stock up on groceries. Some bought up in stores, but we are not so thrifty. We seem to have left a sack of potatoes, some kind of cereal, some bacon, and sweets – there was nothing else. We ate once a day, and then not very satisfying food. We cooked on fire, because there was no gas for a very long time. And there is still no gas in Mariupol. There was no water, no electricity, no network – nothing. We were cut off from everything.
Did anyone bring you water?
Water was brought to us by volunteers. They carried her to the last. The driver brought water, he himself hid in a shelter, and people who were not afraid came up and took it for themselves. We also melted snow or drained water from the roof when snow melted or it started to rain.
From cities fled under shelling
Could you name any particular day as the scariest?
The last one. Just after that, we decided to leave the city. We left because we couldn't wait. March 17, we were standing in the entrance on the first floor. The explosions were so strong that even the iron door in the entrance opened from it.
What Mariupol looks like after shelling by the occupiers/Photo by the National Police< /em>
We spent the whole night in the basement – this is the shop that was in our house. At night we all sat on chairs, tried to sleep somehow. Then, around 4 in the morning, it seems, they began to bomb very heavily nearby. Our windows were broken.
It seemed to be -10 degrees outside. It was very cold, there were no windows, there were very strong explosions. The shell hit some apartment in the house opposite – it started to burn.
The house opposite is on fire, our windows are broken, smoke is coming into the windows, it's cold -10… And after that night, we already decided to walk along with our neighbors on the porch.
Did you almost just decide to take a chance?
We went under shelling and under mortars. Well, what was left to do? It was simply impossible to stay there. Some grandmothers stayed there because almost all of them left.
Occupiers destroyed everything that was possible
How many people walked out of town with you?
About 8 people came out of one entrance somewhere with us. We walked through the city center … I was very surprised. I did not think that the invaders destroyed everything there. And they destroyed everything that was possible.
Only the water tower stood. I don’t know what is happening to her now, only then she survived: maybe the invaders were sitting there – I don’t know. We also had a cathedral nearby, it was not bombed – Russian invaders are sitting there. That is why he is whole. Maybe that's why the water tower is also intact.
Consequences of shelling in Mariupol/Photo “AZOV – Mariupol “
The whole center is just trashed. Everything is black, smokes, burns, planes fly, mines drop…
When we were in Mariupol, we went outside to cook food. It was difficult because the planes were flying every 10 minutes, maybe 5. We had to leave the food on the fire and run to the entrances. Then they returned. And so again. And so every day. The plane dropped anywhere from 2 to 6 minutes.
You have been out of touch for over 2 weeks, have not had access to any news. After the shelling you mentioned, did you just decide to leave the city, not knowing what was going on outside of it?
Well, it turns out that yes. We saw cars go there, and they managed to pass. So we decided – why not leave? It was much more dangerous to stay than to go. Also the center – it was bombed the most. It was impossible to stay there.
There could be many more dead in the drama theater
Now the number of deaths in the city varies greatly. Everyone says different numbers. And this is obvious, because the situation in the city is catastrophic. People have to be buried in mass graves. What do you know about this?
When I was walking, I didn’t see many corpses, but our fellow travelers did. They said they saw dead people lying in the streets.
I heard that when someone died, they buried them in their own backyard. The funeral service did not have time to take everyone. I also heard that our Mariupol morgue is simply overcrowded. There, in the yard, the bodies of the dead are left, because there is nowhere to put them. It's hard to bury someone in the cemetery now.
Many are still under the rubble. Those who lived very close to the drama theater said that our Azov people pulled out everyone they could from there. Perhaps there were still survivors, but they died pinned down. They just couldn't get it. Well, there were also children there, a lot … I heard that 133 people were saved.
Could there be many more dead?< /p>
At least 300 people died, but in reality this figure is higher. This, according to official figures, is 300 – these are the bodies that were pulled out from under the rubble.
Destroyed drama theater in Mariupol/Photo by Maxar
There were 50 people in the basement and about 1,500 on top of the seats in the drama theater. We also spent the first night in the basement of the drama theater, but that was long before it was bombed. They just called us, they said that there are thick walls of 80 centimeters and you can hide. But I understood that it was a matter of time when it would be bombed, because this is the infrastructure in the very center. Moreover, there were marks on the hatches near him, they were covered up.
A friend was deported to Russia
There is information that about 30 thousand Mariupol residents were taken to Russia. While in Mariupol, did you hear that people are being taken to Russia?
So my friend was taken to Russia. My mother's colleagues were taken away from work.
Later, my friend said that it was the Red Cross who took him to Donetsk.
By the way, about the Red Cross. I didn’t find out right away, I was told about it later, but in our city it was possible to charge phones – there was a Red Cross below the drama theater, and they were allowed to recharge there. There was a generator. And then they were bombed too. I never charged my phone.
The shelled building of the Red Cross/Photo of the Azov regiment
Evacuated a few days after 18 checkpoints
How did you get further from Mariupol?
We went to Melekino. We had half an hour to go, maybe less, but we were given a ride by people who were driving.
Then we were looking for a place to stay overnight . We were told to go to the school where the beds were. In that school there were injured people, people with disabilities, old people and children, so there were no more places.
There was a teacher in the school who said she wanted to give us shelter for the night. We went with her and got to know each other. By the way, we are now very good friends. We liked her, but we had to go further.
We were looking for an option on how to get to Berdyansk. And there were problems with that. Both in Melekino and in other villages there are very strong problems with gasoline. But my mother went in search of gasoline and scraped it from a man who was selling a liter for 100 hryvnias. Mom bought this gasoline and brought it. There was a driver who said that for gasoline he could take us even to the Dnieper. But it seems to me that it was not his car – I don’t know how it was possible not to know your car – he began to pour gasoline and completely spilled it. Therefore, we had to walk to Mangush, the next village, about 12 more kilometers.
When we reached Mangush, our mother's boss, who lives in the village, gave us shelter for the night. The next day we tried to catch some passing car, but no one stopped. But a day later we stumbled upon a minibus. There were a lot of people in it, but we were able to fit in. He took us to Berdyansk for 700 hryvnia per person.
These are high prices.
It seems to me that it is still inexpensive, because the prices were higher. We were taken to Berdyansk, where we stayed at the Child Development Center. We stayed there for two days, although we planned to stay only for a day. However, we did not manage to leave, because the evacuation buses that were being taken to Zaporozhye were a little delayed and arrived in the evening. And it was already a curfew. So we left the next day.
There were 22 evacuation buses. We passed 18 checkpoints. As my mother says: “You drive for 5 minutes and you stand at the checkpoint for 30 minutes.” Only the last 3 checkpoints were Ukrainian – before that they were all rashists. We only tested men. However, our acquaintances, who rode in the last buses, said that they even checked women.
Then we drove the road through Vasilkovo. Mines are placed there, so the buses went around very carefully. The lights on the buses were off and we were driving a little.
So we arrived in Zaporozhye, and from there our friends took us to Kamenskoye.
“ Interview 24 ” is a project about the most important topics on the Channel 24 website. Conversations that change the country for the better. The author of the project is Anastasia Zazulyak, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the site.
How to help Mariupol
Now there is a lot of talk about Mariupol in the world. What would you say if you had the opportunity to address the world as a person who has experienced it all and seen it with his own eyes?
I would ask that everyone forces were thrown at Mariupol. It is being bombed now, it seems, much stronger than all the cities. It is difficult for our guys (military – channel 24) to cope, so they need more help – more people, more weapons.
We also need air defense, fighters, because without this it is impossible – aviation is suffering .
I would very much like some country to help take people out, because I know that the Russian occupiers do not agree to take everyone out. And our humanitarian aid is not allowed. For example, people from the Dnieper gathered 8 large cars of humanitarian aid, and they were still standing near Mariupol when we were walking. The occupiers simply do not allow humanitarian aid at a time when people in the city are sitting without food. They take the fact that there is no gas, no electricity, no water, no network – they simply exterminate the remaining Mariupol residents.
I want to see the whole apartment. When will the war end
What's the first thing you'll do when the war is finally over?
I want return to Mariupol, see your apartment intact and pick up at least some things. It is no longer possible to live in the city, even if the apartment is intact. Everything is destroyed there. We have to wait until everything is rebuilt.
I want to pick up my things and live somewhere in a quiet place, perhaps in Lvov. Find a job, study further, stay safe. I don't know yet…
Just pick up stuff at least. When it gets quiet. When the war ends.
Russian invaders invaded Ukraine and destroyed more than one life, more than one home. Destroyed more than one dream, not one house. But we all know perfectly well that for any crime there will be a punishment. This also awaits those who brought tears and pain to our land, those who forced people to leave their homes. We will return everything and build everything. But the lives and peace taken away will forever remain on the conscience of the invaders.