Escape from Mariupol: 14 in a single car and the grandparents remain to die

Of Andrea Nicastro

Another 20,000 displaced from the city on the Black Sea, 300,000 remain trapped. The older ones give way to the young, who arrive without luggage and without memory

from our correspondent

ZAPORIZHZHIA – One of the last cars to land in Zaporizhzhia was theirs. A gray Mazda CX with the windshield folded inward in a web of crack. arrived after midnight. There was a curfew, pitch black. Two hundred and fifty kilometers of highway have become 400 of dirt roads and ghost towns to avoid mines and destroyed bridges. The engine cuts out, exhausted like everyone else. A child, an adult, a kid, an adult and again and again come out. There were 14 souls in that machine. Three families plus Sasha, 6 years old. The father and mother remained in Mariupol. They did not have a car to leave. Get it. Take him away. Save him. The Mazda with the broken glass was leaving, the green corridor was open, for Sasha there was a place. Fourteen instead of thirteen. Salvi, for.

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The fugitives from the siege of Mariupol have no luggage, they have not even brought the memory. Olga tried to convince her grandparents, but they, stubborn, said no, we’re old, we couldn’t get used to it, you go. Olga’s voice breaks, her gaze seeks understanding for the lie everyone wants to believe. The truth is that the grandparents often stayed in order not to take away the place from young people. Of the 160 who arrived with the column on Monday, the oldest was 57 years old. The others were children and parents between the ages of 30 and 40.

The day after

After a night’s sleep, the 14 of the gray Mazda are still in one of the kindergartens in Zaporizhzhia converted into a reception center. They gave him clothes, hot meals, a chance to wash for the first time in 13 days. At 10 below zero, without water, the clothes stiffen, change color, like the face and especially the hands, but you don’t smell of sweat. Even yesterday, however, after a shower, his eyes wander lost. It is the women who speak, who dissolve in tears, who tremble as they tell of those endless days. Men are outside smoking or on the phone to reconnect the threads of life. Not over for them. They cannot leave the country, they must enlist or participate in the war effort in some way, as if 12 days in a crumbling and starving city were not a sufficient offering to their homeland. Natalia: At first we couldn’t believe it could last that long. Now it will end, we said. Instead it got worse and worse. When we heard the bangs, my husband and I would put the babies under and we all bury ourselves with blankets. They cried, they didn’t understand, but if the roof collapsed, we hoped to protect them with our bodies.


The prose theater with white columns and neoclassical friezes in the center of Mariupol, explains Irina, which has become a refuge. There are still a thousand people in there. They only eat what our soldiers bring once a day. They left from a burning city, with corpses on the streets. The fire station was also hit, so the bombed buildings burn quietly for hours, the flames go from floor to floor up to the roof. Below, people continue to shelter from the bombs. Having passed the Russian controls, everyone had to find their own way. Along the secondary roads, dozens of charred cars or even just riddled with shots of those who had tried to escape in the previous days. Inside the corpses.

Who has seen

In the Zaporizhzhia circus, a Soviet-era building that still smells of tigers and horses, a wall full of appeals, telephone numbers, names of those who should have already passed, but cannot be found, makes an impression: a person who has seen it by Mariupol. The psychologists who receive them in Zaporizhzhia say they can only try to reassure them. The fugitives are ashamed of having lost everything, of being like beggars. In hand they have the documents, the deeds of ownership of the house, the mobile phone and the ATM. Nothing else. Not even the children brought their toys. The little ones, as soon as they find one, take possession of it, never leave it. For adults, however, it is a comfort to withdraw some money, to feel again the masters of something. Rather than facing the traumas, now, you can only hug them, calm them, let them feel that they are in a safe place. Perhaps, since the war does not stop.

The only hospital

More cars were arriving from Mariupol last night. Many, perhaps even a thousand, twenty thousand people on board, but still nothing compared to the 200 thousand or 300 thousand inhabitants trapped. The deputy mayor managed to get news out: the only hospital still active controlled from the outside by Russian soldiers. Between health workers and the sick, 400 prisoners. Anyone who tried to get out was shot.

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