“If there is another war, we will either leave or die.”How long Mariupol’s inhabitants spend under Russian rule

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Residents of Mariupol cook in front of the ruins of the apartment. April 28, 2022

On May 20, the Russian Ministry of Defense declared that the entire city of Mariupol, including the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, was under Russian military control.More than 2,000 people, according to the ministry Defender of Azovstal He had surrendered to the Russian army. Shortly thereafter, Mariuporitez began to return to the devastated city. Two months later, many of them still have to cook their meals over an open flame and spend each morning in line to wait for drinking water. Belarusian news agency Zerkalo talked With people who have been staying in or near Mariupol since February 24, about what it would be like to live in a war-torn city captured by foreign troops. With the permission of the Zerkalo team, Meduza publishes a summary translation of the article.

Vadim, 56, was in Mariupol during the full-scale Russian war in Ukraine. Even in May, Vadim stayed behind when his wife finally decided to leave the city and “live in peace” with her children. Water has returned to the faucet in his apartment, but because there is no gas, he still has to cook his meal over an open flame in front of the building.

“Some buildings were badly damaged and some were only partially damaged. Ours only knocked out the frame, thank God, but the Primorsky district as a whole He suffered terribly in some places. They restored water in areas where they could cope with the damage, but nothing in other buildings yet, “he said.

28-year-old Alexander, who changed his name at his request, said workers were “actively recovering” the kindergarten near his house and that a post office had opened nearby.

“Our building also has water. If the pipes are under sufficient pressure, they will go up to the 4th floor. If not, go to the hydrant and add a faucet. But the left bank [of the Kalmius river] I’m still suffering from water. People’s homes don’t have it yet, so they have to bring it in from the outside. People have to get up at 5am to wait in line. And one day it doesn’t come, “he said.

Defender of Azovstal

During the devastating battle to rule Mariupol, Alexander lived in the city with his mother. Initially, his grandmother lived with him, but when he suffered from pulmonary edema, he died because of lack of medicine and no one to help.

“We lived in a two-room apartment with all our relatives. There were 16 people. We slept in the hallway, kitchen and front door. Thank God for surviving. Now we can leave. But there are some apartments here. The roof is damaged. We worked with our parents, saved money, never went on vacation, invested in dreams and goals. Now everything can be destroyed and we too can be left without a dwelling. People “Our apartment has burned down. Where should we live? What should we do? I went to the city administration. They are told to look for something empty and live there until a new one is made, “he said.

Vadim said Mariupol is now full of cars with Russian license plates. Russians are free to travel to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), but “probably difficult to come from Ukraine”. He says there are buses running on six routes in the city, and many are still waiting in long lines to receive humanitarian packages containing staple foods such as pasta, canned meat, and bread. I did. Others buy food from stores and markets.

Fight for Mariupol

“We didn’t expect this” Russian world “. I didn’t want anyone to come and destroy everything. The city was in bloom — it was alive. Currently, there is at least one building where each person sleeps in the basement and cooks with fire. Others found a vacant pharmacy or store and moved there, “Alexander said. “What options do you have now? Everything is decided” from above “for us. We are only adapting to the new conditions. We want to live, work and raise children in peace. Russia did not give us any opportunity other than to support Russia. I hope Ukraine will come back and at least solve the problem through diplomatic routes rather than shells. If there was another war, we would either leave or die — we have no other choice.

“I had everything I needed.”

Starting next month, humanitarian aid will only be available to pensioners, people with disabilities, and families with three or more children, according to the 25-year-old Roman. Others like him will have to buy food at the market.

The Romans have lived in Mariupol for several years. He first came here as a college student, then he stayed and got a job. He saw how the city was rebuilt after the DNR and Ukrainian troops fought in the mid-2010s. And I saw Russian troops destroy the city again. On March 13, Roman headed to the suburbs with his girlfriend and his grandmother. He currently lives about 15 miles from Mariupol, but he sometimes comes back to bring food to his friends and visit his girlfriend’s grandmother’s apartment to keep the predators away.

“Of course, it’s painful that everything went well in housing and work. We had everything we needed. Beautiful Mariupol’s, its beautiful streets, downtown, parks, theaters and even the skating rink on the left bank. Young people had a lot to do and I could always find a job, but I also traveled to find an extra job, and it was all destroyed in an instant. No one knows what’s coming. The prospects for Mariupol’s development aren’t immediately visible. “

Russian refugees

According to Rome, the first agenda of the new city authorities is to destroy a myriad of unusable buildings. The building of the apartment where he lived with his girlfriend was damaged by a fire, and the sign on the building says “to be demolished.”

Cleaning up rubble has become one of Mariupol’s men’s main sources of income — including Vadim himself.

“Somehow I have to make a living,” he said. “There are also city volunteers working for distribution. They seem to get them every day. We work together as a team to get rid of rubble and the aftermath of bombardment and get rid of trash. In the building, rescuers do everything, but we clean everything around them. I think they’ve got all the corpses so far. Otherwise, quite a while. It’s been a while and you’ll smell it. There are still a few [improvised] However, the tomb that has not been moved from the courtyard. “

“We don’t know who we are”

Yekaterina lives in a village about 10 minutes drive from Mariupol. Unlike the city, her village was unrecognizable in combat. Most buildings are still united. But that’s because Russian troops occupied much earlier than Mariupol, and the village lasted as long without electricity, gas, and telephone services. Yekaterina explained that the store was “looted by the locals themselves.”

“When Russian troops entered the village, Ukrainian troops began bombarding them. Our school and buildings outside it were bombarded and people were injured. Russian troops came to our city. So they were firing, “she said, being careful not to be misunderstood. “The fighting lasted for several days, and the Russians moved forever around March 3. Then they advanced to Mariupol. From February 24, they spent three weeks in the basement. When they left the village. [and went into Mariupol] For the first time, I started sobbing out of control. “

Yekaterina said many others are returning while many continue to move out of the city. She posted a video of someone relaxing on the beach on a local telegram channel.

After siege

“Neighbors also went to the beach when there were still mines. It’s a scary idea for me. I’m still in a sort of deadlock. I’m where I am and in what country. I don’t know what will happen next. […] We don’t know who we are. We certainly do not consider ourselves part of DNR. Of course I’m angry with Russia, but I’m also angry with Ukraine. Perhaps they didn’t do enough to protect Mariupol. There weren’t enough troops here. I needed more. But they defended Kyiv. “

On June 27, Russian troops launched air strikes at the next shopping mall. Kremenchuk, Ukraine, killed 25 civilians and injured more. Yekaterina said it was painful to see her compatriots’ attention directed to their death when there was still no time to deal with the loss of many in Mariupol.

“It’s like forgetting Mariupol. So many people have died! […] If things can be peacefully restored, I would like to live as before, that is, under Ukraine. But now people are just trying to survive and recover, which is possible, “she said.

Summary translation by Sam Breeze Ale “If there is another war, we will either leave or die.”How long Mariupol’s inhabitants spend under Russian rule

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