Notes from Mariupol
"When the street fighting was over, Russian medics arrived and removed everyone who was lying in the street. They organized something like a funeral yard. In the middle of this yard the bodies were stacked: men, women, elderly people, children...".
Igor (name changed at his request), a resident of Mariupol, wrote to the editorial office of Eyewitnesses. Igor was in the occupied city until recently. He told how civilians survived under the bombs, how the city lives under the Russian occupation, what are the sentiments among the citizens. We publish Igor's Mariupol "Notes" with small cuts.
In February, a Russian plane dropped four bombs on Sartana, a Greek village near Mariupol that lived mostly on agriculture and small businesses. There were no military bases or AFU fortifications there. It was just a peaceful village with peaceful people. It is unclear why Russia needed this. A brutal act of intimidation, a demonstration of cruelty? Mariupol air defenses managed to shoot down this plane during another raid. The pilot ejected. At that time, everything was still working in Mariupol, and it was possible to follow this news on local TV or the Internet. When the police came to arrest the pilot, he shot himself on the spot (we could not find any confirmation of this fact in the sources available to us - ed.). I still can't figure out what it was...? Was he so afraid to face justice on the ground that he immediately decided to go to the next world?
But even after these terrible events, few believed that the same thing would happen to Mariupol in two months.
Because soon our air defense was destroyed by the mass bombardment of the occupants. And we had no planes to defend ourselves in any way. Therefore, Russian fighters and bombers bombed Mariupol for two months, for several hours every day, with impunity. And by May little was left of the city.
On March 2, Russian planes destroyed the city's main power substations, and there was no light or water, as water was pumped by electric pumps. And on March 7, a gas pipeline was broken, leaving the entire city without gas or heating. At night, there were frosts as low as -9°C. People slept in jackets and fur coats in basements and bomb shelters and warmed themselves in bunkers and wood-burning stoves.
March and April were the hungriest months. Mariupol was completely surrounded and held a circular defense. The Russian occupiers fired indiscriminately on the city from all sides: artillery, aviation, multiple rocket launchers, mortars, and incendiary shells, which caused horrific fires.
At first, the central part of the city and the left bank were heavily bombed. By April, they started bombing the outskirts, the private sector and adjoining villages. Every day a house or several houses were on fire. Sometimes, from a burning house the fire spread to the neighboring plot, where there were many trees (many people had gardens), and it also burned to the ground together with the house.
There was nothing and no one to put out the fires, because the fire department and the Ministry of Emergency Situations had been bombed in the middle of April. And people did not have enough water to fight the fire on their own.
It was still possible to leave the city until the middle of March. Many people abandoned their homes to save themselves and their families. They took only the bare necessities with them. Those who did not manage to leave for the free part of Ukraine or Europe in February left for the nearest occupied towns and cities near Mariupol: Berdyansk, Mangush, Melekino, Nikolskoye, Belosarayska Kosa, Portovskoye - these settlements surrendered without a fight and hardly suffered, they were just occupied. The infrastructure worked there, it was possible to live for some time.
The occupiers thoroughly and rigorously searched everyone who entered: personal belongings, documents, phone conversations, and social networks. Many were interrogated.
Those who stayed behind ran out of food supplies back in March, as few believed that the war would last long and that Mariupol would be completely destroyed and occupied. Water was taken from underground streams. Fortunately there are a lot of them in Mariupol. The water there is hard, but you can drink it after boiling or even without. There was not enough food.
Guys from the Azov Regiment, in the short breaks between battles, several times a week organized food distributions from stores and supermarkets that were still intact. But even that was risky.
Because the Rashists, seeing a crowd of people, immediately started firing with long-range artillery. We had to scatter and hide. Even when the Azov men brought a truck-tanker of drinking water to distribute to the people, the Rashists destroyed it too with a cannon or mortar shot. Then our fighters were no longer able to distribute food, because they were constantly bombarded and there were fewer and fewer of them, and there was no place to wait for reinforcements.
The people, mad with hunger, began to break into unopened food warehouses and stores themselves. They took everything that was edible, even things that were beginning to spoil. They boiled them over a fire and ate them. We saved salads made from spring grass - nettles, dandelions, and wheatgrass, which could still be found in some warehouses.
It was hard for many people not to go crazy. After all, every morning you wake up to another bombing, with your house shaking with every hit within a half-kilometer radius. It is extremely dangerous to go out into the street, as shrapnel from fragmentation shells is flying hundreds of meters away. And at the same time you realize that today your neighborhood will be minus 15-20 houses, hundreds will be damaged. And you only have to pray that your house doesn't get hit. Such a devilish "Russian roulette".
There were many hungry, angry, or frightened dogs running around the streets. When those who left could not take their pets with them, they simply let them go out into the street. Few animals waited for their owners to return. Many died of hunger and cold in the streets, were mauled by stronger animals, or were killed by shrapnel.
Russians shot at everything - infrastructure: hospitals, stores, pharmacies, clinics.
Maternity hospitals, kindergartens, schools and even the Drama Theater, Mariupol's crown jewel, were not spared. Probably Mariupol residents hoped that at least this beautiful, monumental historical building would not be destroyed by the occupiers. So they arranged a shelter for families with children there. And on the theater square next to it in huge letters they wrote "CHILDREN". But even that didn't save the theater. An air bomb was dropped or something very powerful was shot at it. I think everyone has already seen these terrible images. In general on the streets of Mariupol you often see the picture of a house with "people and children live here" written on the doors and gates, but behind the gates there are only burnt walls or a pile of rubble of what used to be a beautiful house. Through holes in high-rise buildings you could see carpets still hanging from the ceiling pieces, televisions, cribs and sofas, and other decorations that had not yet collapsed.
But the greatest horror is the corpses of people lying in the street. Few people cleaned them up during the shelling, except that friends and relatives, despite the danger, dragged the dead bodies to the nearest lawn or flowerbed (because it was impossible to take them to the cemetery), buried them, and put a wooden cross with an inscription saying who was buried here.
Some were simply covered with earth, others were buried deeper, if the shelling subsided for a while. And so the entire city was covered in crosses: there were thousands of crosses in yards, flowerbeds, parks, alleys, and gardens. The beautiful and prosperous Mariupol was turned into a cemetery in ruins...
When the street fighting was over, Russian medics arrived and removed everyone who was lying in the street. They organized something like a funeral yard.
In the middle of this courtyard the bodies of men, women, elderly people, children were stacked... Some were torn up, others burned, some relatively intact, just killed by a bullet or shrapnel. And it was a ghastly sight against the background of a strong cadaveric smell.
I didn't see any soldiers. There must have been a separate yard for them. I don't know what was done with the bodies. There were a lot of hastily made wooden coffins with large slits. Maybe they burned them in mobile crematoriums, or maybe they buried them in a mass grave.
Armed young men in groups of seven or nine began walking through the surviving houses. They seriously considered themselves "liberators. Some reeked of alcohol.
Those owners who were at home and immediately opened the doors did not do anything wrong, only checked their documents, the house, and the basement, if any. Those who were not at home or did not open the doors and gates were blown open with explosives and searched. Often they took what they liked. There were times when people would come back to town - the house was intact, but everything inside was upside down, trampled by dirty boots and there were no valuables.
They stole cars. They twisted the license plates, spray-painted the letter "Z" on them, and stole them. Then the herds of orcs moved on toward Dnieper and Zaporizhzhya. Instead of them came the aid workers and the wardens. Sappers, medics, DNR police, DNR administration.
Queues. Huge slow lines, where you can constantly hear swearing. There is no addressable delivery. There are only a few delivery points all over the city. To get to them, most people in Mariupol have to travel 3-5 km one way. Everyone who comes requires passport data, which takes a lot of time. And every time everything is rewritten, apparently, to make the queue last as long as possible. The guards explained this by the necessity of keeping some kind of record and census. The first census was taking place when the "liberators" made their rounds. Maybe this is how they count canned food, so that they could show everyone how much they got?
In addition, the occupation administrators artificially aggravate the situation by constantly changing the order of issuance.
At first they announce that they're going to give out numbers - people come in and sign up in order 1, 2, 3... 987, 988... They put their surnames and initials in front of the numbers. And then suddenly some supervisor comes out and announces: "And now there will be a live line!"
Or vice versa: "Everybody line up by the numbers! People who signed up earlier and went about their business come back and end up at the very end of the live line. This causes scandals and even scuffles. And in all these disturbances the occupants blame people for the fact that supposedly we, us useless "hoholks", cannot organize ourselves properly... So it is much harder to get this "free help" than to earn money by honest work and buy what you want. And it's also very humiliating, especially when the chieftains come in with machine guns and start yelling that we are "like a herd of sheep" or "everyone take two steps back, I said!!!". The people are treated like convicts in a gulag.
To get a kit for a relative or acquaintance who cannot come for health reasons or for some other reason, you must present his passport in the original and his recent passport photo to prove that he is alive and you are not stealing his humanitarian aid. The quality of humanitarian aid is sometimes tolerable, and sometimes disgusting. In canned food there is soy meat and a lot of preservatives. Bread is sometimes already moldy. Cereals are sometimes good, sometimes spoiled. In peacetime I wouldn't even feed it to my dog. But there was nothing to eat, so there was no choice.
The saving grace was that private traders from nearby settlements, where their farms continued to operate, streamed into town. It was possible to buy normal products for money. They brought bacon, meat, vegetables, dairy products, bread, butter, etc. Spontaneous markets began to appear, where everyone traded directly from the trunk of their car or on a makeshift counter. It was all very delicious, because it was ours, Ukrainian. True, it was expensive. But the people of Mariupol were ready to give anything just to have a proper meal. By the summer, prices for local products dropped to a normal level.
Those who have children are also given baby kits, but to do this you must bring both a birth certificate and the child himself to prove that he is alive, and that his mother or father is not stealing his humanitarian aid.
Once, while waiting in line for water, I saw a girl riding an old bicycle down the highway. She was holding the handlebars with one hand, and cradling an infant with the other. No choice - she was on her way to get a kit for the baby. At that time it was possible to get it only in two places in the city, and she had 8-9 km to the nearest one in such a dangerous situation. And two young Russians with machine guns, guarding the line for water, pointed their fingers at her and laughed: "Look how the Khokhlushkas drive with their children.
The Mariupol residents (with a local registration) are also allocated a monthly allowance of 7,800 rubles, which is negligible. And even these pennies are hastily "beaten out" with the help of crazy prices for goods and services. For example, one square meter of glazing costs 10,000 rubles. Everything else is also unjustifiably expensive.
Even though the Russians are trumpeting in their media that Mariupol will be restored, will be better than before, and that much has already been done, this is all a fake. Nothing is being done to restore it, they don't even want to clean up the garbage properly.
To clean up the garbage and collect the bodies of the dead, they mostly hire local people, for a paltry fee in rubles. In the meantime, everything is rotting under the scorching rays of the sun, big flies are flying, which threatens a cholera epidemic... But there are flags of Russia, the DNR, and Soviet flags hanging everywhere. Posters with the phrase "Russia is here forever!
There is no help at all for private households. Whoever can, tries to restore at least something with their own hands. One gets the impression that the occupiers only create comfortable conditions for themselves here, while the people are lucky. There are still unexploded mines in small streets and parts of houses, and Russian sappers don't care about them. Not a single building is being rebuilt, only what is badly damaged is being demolished. All the wires are torn and there has been no light for a long time. But they're already pulling power cables to the occupation administration. Water was supplied at the beginning of summer, but with huge interruptions.
Large batches of diesel generators are brought from Russia, and gas cylinders with burners from Belarus. But they are not distributed to people for free. They are sold at spontaneous markets or retail outlets. They take from 34 to 75 thousand rubles for the generator, or in hryvnia at the rate of 1 hryvnia=1.5 rubles. And the social aid is only 7,800 rubles per person, and it goes mainly to people of retirement age. And people who still have savings are forced to buy at such prices out of despair. And then you have to fill up this thing. It's a long way to go for expensive gasoline, diesel or gas. In the city, 5% of the gas stations that were there before the war remain.
Before the war, hundreds of private homes in Mariupol were equipped with roof-mounted solar panels. They were both on cottages and modest small houses. And now, when there is no electricity in the city, these panels could help people a lot. After all, it's summer, it's hot, and there's no way to even turn on the refrigerator, and all the food spoils very quickly. Some of these houses have been destroyed completely, but most are just badly damaged or cut by shrapnel. Panels, too, are badly damaged and not working. It is enough to bring to Mariupol at least that number of solar panels, which can be quickly replaced and used, and many people will get electricity, will share it with neighbors. But not a single private home has been restored. And it's ridiculous to talk about any reconstruction on a citywide scale.
Dear compatriots who were forced to leave Ukraine and whose property suffered at the hands of the occupants! Appeal to all international courts, write lawsuits. Demand that criminal proceedings be instituted. After all, an audacious crime has been committed against you, and the criminals must be punished. Russia is obliged, as reparations, to pay for the restoration of each building, infrastructure, sidewalk, playground. Every car burned by the hands of the Rascists must be replaced or compensated to its present owner at the expense of Russia.
Children and Education
I am truly happy for those parents who were able to take their children to free Ukraine and Europe. But many stayed here. And their children will go to the few schools that have survived. Only education there will be quite different. A child will be fed propaganda of hatred against everything Ukrainian and Western from the early grades. And prepare them for the war for the "Russian world".
DNR certificates and diplomas will not receive accreditation in Ukraine or any other civilized country. These children are simply deprived of a future. Most likely, many of them, upon reaching adulthood, will simply be sent to the front to occupy new territories. Among the occupiers there are a lot of 22 to 25 year olds. I think many of them are former schoolchildren from Donetsk and Luhansk who grew up under the occupation of the DNR and LNR. They were thrown into the war as cannon fodder. Alas, the same is true for the children of Mariupol.
Those schools and kindergartens that have survived, of course, are in short supply. Therefore, many children are left to themselves and degrade. You can often see school-age children drinking alcohol right in the playgrounds. Sometimes there is a situation where younger children are looking for toys directly from garbage dumps. This is not normal for a civilized society; it must be stopped!
It should be understood that, saving themselves and their families from the war, the most educated, intelligent and honest citizens who are FOR Ukraine and Europe left Mariupol. It is about 350 thousand, i.e. 80 - 90%. And what was left were mostly domestic separatists, people who are for the "Russian world". They had been brainwashed for years by Russian television and propaganda of hatred for Ukraine and the West. They were genuinely happy about the occupiers and Russian tanks. Such is the natural selection of society. Still, there are honest Ukrainians among the remnants who, for various reasons, could not leave their homes. They are intimidated and forced to hide their civic position and Ukrainian identity in order to avoid reprisals.
Your own zombified acquaintances or friends may accidentally let the occupiers know, turning you in as "unreliable. And no one will protect you when the Russians or Chechens come to torture, interrogate, and intimidate you on a tip-off.
Vatniks have been inculcated with the absolutely delusional myth that Ukraine is Russian land, occupied by Ukrainian "Nazis. And Russia wants and must liberate it. And supposedly the West imposed this war on Ukraine. Allegedly the Russian language is banned in Ukraine. This is all a horrible, brazen lie! There are no "Nazis" in Mariupol and Ukraine and never has been. The West has not destroyed a single house or killed a single person in Ukraine. It was Russia that destroyed and is destroying Ukrainian cities. And yet the myth affected not only Russians, but also many Ukrainians. And now Mariupol domestic separatists are exulting: "finally we are liberated from Nazis!
In my opinion, the myth about "Nazis" was invented by Russian political technologists in order to erase the line between "Nazi" and "nationalist" and to justify the military invasion of sovereign and independent Ukraine. A nationalist loves his country and nation and respects all other nations of the world. He strives to live with them in commonwealth and cooperation, seeking an individual niche in the world for himself and his people. Nationalism is the normal state of man, when he can do good, create comfort and beauty in his country, to develop creatively and spiritually and help others to do so. While a Nazi loves only his own nation, despises and humiliates others, and tries to destroy or enslave them. And the Kremlin concept of "Nazis" mixes everything into one incomprehensible mess. That has been poured into the heads of Russians and many Ukrainians over the years.
Domestic separatists believe only Putin and his acolytes. And they don't even understand that when making serious accusations against Ukrainian soldiers, they must at least present equally serious evidence - otherwise it's just a fake, a fable about a crucified boy... In order to understand who shot at Mariupol, you only need to know 3 parameters:
- The number and time when the shell arrived;
- Where did it come from (determine ballistic trajectory);
- Whose positions at the time were where he came from.
With this simple formula in mind, simply ask the person, "When did it land on you? The trajectory can be visually determined by the nature of the crater in the ground, or the hole in the house, and the traces of shrapnel, to match the date. Virtually all of the arrivals that I have been able to see and cursorily analyze in this way have been fired by the occupiers. Not to mention the air bombs, which only they could have dropped, because there was no Ukrainian aviation in Mariupol at all.
If a domestic separatist logically tries to explain that Russians shot at his house or his neighbor's house, his eyes immediately flash with dumb rage or fright. And insults, sometimes with threats, pour out in response. "You stupid dill! It was the Ukrainian Nazis who shot! We should give you to the DNR for re-education!".
It is useless and even dangerous to argue. It is better to avoid such conversations altogether. After all, they can really turn you in as "unreliable. Zombies do not even draw a logical parallel that for the last eight years Mariupol was prospering and developing, there were many wonderful places for leisure time. And the city was considered one of the safest and most comfortable in Ukraine, and there was complete freedom... But zombies got it into their heads that Mariupol was developing by itself. And the "Nazis" ruined everything...
After the barbaric destruction of Mariupol, nothing has yet been rebuilt, but the mass zombification of the population is already at work. In spontaneous markets, next to the queues for humanitarian aid, you can see trucks with large screens and powerful speakers. They are broadcasting Russian media. There, the occupiers mostly boast about their achievements and the "liberated" (in fact, occupied) territories of Ukraine. And in every way they comfort and reassure domestic separatists that "Ukraine is about to collapse and the Russian world will prosper." But it will not prosper, it will bring chaos and destruction further west. Is it possible to prosper on the misery of hundreds of thousands and millions of people?
Residents are handed out DNR newspapers that, along with praises of the "Russian world," give advice on how to provide first aid to an injured or traumatized person using reeds, plantain, and white willow. Indeed, why do Mariupol residents need an ambulance with modern medical equipment and modern hospitals when there are reeds and plantain?
Often you can see people weeping with grief, who have lost everything, while the main mass is rejoicing, sometimes drinking alcohol right in the crowd. Sometimes local girls and women start flirting with the invaders, trying to win them over, maybe to their own relatives. After all, they are the authorities and the law here now. Men who grow a beard well, make themselves a beard a la Ramzan Kadyrov. The younger generation is also susceptible to propaganda.
Many wear T-shirts and caps with the letter "Z", "USSR", "Russia", St. George or Russian ribbons. For most it is a tribute to the "liberators," and for some it is a kind of amulet against the finicky eyes of the occupiers and separatists.
But there are still honest Ukrainians in Mariupol. We are very worried about the fate of Ukraine and its defenders. We are a minority in Mariupol now. And we are forced to keep silent and hide, because it is dangerous. But we believe that justice will prevail. And we are waiting when Ukraine will restore its legal borders and we will be able to live as citizens of free democratic country and to become a part of global civilized society with our individual colors. And we will not have to hide from anyone and hide our Ukrainian identity.
To all those who help Ukraine
Thank you so much for taking so many of us refugees from Ukraine under your wing. May your kindness and care return a hundredfold to you. We Ukrainians want very much to be friends with you, to visit you not as refugees, but as guests with gifts. We want to invite you and treat you with the best we have. We want to cooperate and solve global problems together with you in the field of ecology, technology, overcoming hunger and humanitarian problems, to improve life on the planet together with you in every possible way!
But now we are all in great danger. Don't believe that Putin only wants Ukraine and will stop at the border with Poland. On the contrary. If Putin takes over all of Ukraine and its resources, the power of the Russian army will multiply. And then he will be unstoppable... Please don't let this evil come to your land as well!
I believe in the victory of good and justice. We must all unite so that the law will prevail, not evil. I believe in our victory. The truth is with us. We will win!
I am well aware that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is hurting your economy, making fuel, food, and utilities more expensive. But you must understand that this is not a TV quiz where you can walk away after the first loss so as not to lose even more. This is a war which you can either win or be defeated. And no treaties with Putin or his guarantees will protect you. Do not make concessions to him - this will not save you, but on the contrary will make you more vulnerable. Only a determined and united opposition will save you.
P.S. This post will probably make the occupiers very angry when they see it on social media. And they will be looking for me to punish me. So to avoid trouble for myself, my family, friends and relatives, I am not posting any personal information here. And I will remain in the shadows until Mariupol returns to the legal borders of Ukraine.
From the editors
In war conditions it is difficult for us to quickly verify the factual information contained in the testimonies of our eyewitnesses. It is important to remember that this is a personal view of what is happening. It may not always be factually accurate. But it is very important to preserve it for the future.