We continue the cycle of publications of the work of the Mariupol journalist Ivan Stanislavsky, who lived at the besieged Mariupol for 20 days, documenting what was going on.
Mariupol, the point of no return. My 20 days of war. Part 1
Mariupol, the point of no return. My 20 days of war. Part 2
I woke up early. It seems that I even caught up on sleep for the first time during the war. It’s been a week since it started, and again I got an unreal feeling of time. A peaceful life was a different era. The neighbor has already left. I ran home to feed the cat and see what’s going on. I walk through the courtyards and side streets, not along the avenue, which makes it easier to hide from sudden shelling. I passed the house of A.Ch. Everything is quiet. Several hundred people are waiting in line near the Obzhora supermarket. Standing in the open is very dangerous. It takes one missile hit nearby, and dozens will suffer. There is also a crowd near Dzerkalny supermarket. Everything is fine at home. The cat has become very cuddly and does not leave my hand.
He is not used to loneliness. He always likes to be near someone. I go back. There is a morning bustle at Terrasport. I. helps to prepare breakfast in the kitchen. I am joining the unloading of the food. Ethical problem: People who have been deprived of everything find refuge here but we take a place from someone who needs it more than us. In our gym, I. recognized her coach. She is alone with the child, no one else. I. jokes that she has an unused monthly fitness pass. The coach is present, there is a gym. It’s funny but no one laughs.
I charged the phone in the lobby and managed to exchange messages with K. He said he was hiding with his family in the toilet. There is water in the basement of their house, and the entrance where there is a storage is locked. It is impossible to run after the siren. It’s a common story. I called my mother. Compared to what’s here, everything is calm in the Kalmius District. There was a fire in the supermarket. One could hear everything. But there were no missile hits yet.
At 11 o’clock the light went out. The battery is only 30% charged. There is a generator in storage, but it is enough only for several light bulbs and sockets. Miracle! A.Sh. called me and asked where we were and how we were doing. He offered us to
move to their house in the West township. It seems like a good option. They live away from strategic paths or objects and have their own basement. I talked to I., she does not mind. It was decided that N. and his family would stay at Terrasport, where they were safe and got food and water, while we’d make room for someone who needed it more than us. We’ll be coming from time to time to bring extra supplies. We ran to the garage to get the car, gathered some things and food, and took N. Then we went home to take what we’d need at A.Sh.’s.
I met a neighbor at the entrance. S. is putting his bags in the trunk and saying that he will leave the city with his wife and son. He was at a checkpoint on the Zaporizhzhya highway. He offers that we come along. They leave in 10-15 minutes. It must be decided very quickly. I understand that we are not ready for this at all. We cannot go without giving heads-up to A.Sh. and without taking N. with his family. And there’s no mobile coverage. It is necessary to go and get N. at Terrasport, to have him pack things, then to go to A.Sh. and tell him not to wait for us. It’d take not less than an hour. And this “at your own risk”. At MY own risk. Now I am responsible for my own and other people’s families. I decide not to go. It is safer to stay now than to go God knows where.
I ask S. where they will go – he says he doesn’t know. Just anywhere in order to get out of here. We also have nowhere to go. S. leaves the keys to his apartment, where there’s still some food, a bag of potatoes. We have no coverage, so we will not know if they arrive or not. We say goodbye.
This situation derails me. I realize that I have not seriously considered the possibility of leaving Mariupol so far. S. already had a similar experience and has a refugee instinct. We don’t have it yet. Now this thought begins to gnaw at me from within. We are surrounded, communications may be cut off in the near future. The prospects are bad – the trap is closing. Would we go if we were just two of us, with I.,?
We got to A.Sh. You need to seriously clean up the basement so that everyone can be comfortable there. A.Sh., and his wife have two children, and so do we. He confesses that the stuff in the basement is from the previous owners of the house.
While we are throwing out the rubbish, missiles are flying very powerfully somewhere nearby. An explosive wave is shaking the windows, something is pouring from above. Frightened, we fly down and stand on each other’s feet for half an hour.
We finished cleaning – it turned out pretty well. There is enough space; someone can even lie down. A.Sh. is a resourceful guy: he has several spare batteries for the lantern, but unfortunately, he does not have a generator. Engines can be heard knocking from the neighboring yards, and they have electricity. I. constantly asks about N.
We eat soup and porridge for dinner – just gorgeous. Already after sunset, the “Hail” Multiple Rocket Launchers hit near the village. It seems they hit the step-down power transformer. Our hopes for a speedy recovery of electricity have faded. The phone is almost dad, just 5% left, and there is nowhere else to charge. We spend the night on the sofa in the hall. It’s chilly. We hear volleys constantly. It’s hard to sleep. During the night, we meet A.Sh. near the window several times. The missiles hit at and around the airport. We see flashes. The intensity of the battle is high. We hope that our troops will beat up the “guests” from Russia.
March 3. Day 8
Morning. Three degrees Celsius. Grim. There are no light and water. We look out of the window. The clouds are flying fast and very low. These are not clouds! It’s smoke! It seems that the Epicenter hardware megastore is burning. We hear shootings. A.Sh. and I figure out that our people are probably fighting a Special Operation Group at the entrance to the city. Suddenly we hear a barrage of fire from all barrels and then silence. Eliminated? It’s quiet. We do house chores. A.Sh. goes to the store, I. and I go to get water. Along the way, we see traces of shelling and a damaged house. It’s scary – we all are already in the combat zone. Hitting from the east is strange, not logical. Missiles should have flown in from the west. A huge crowd gathers at a humanitarian point for the civilians in a boarding school on Zelinsky Street. I. gets a place in the line, while I go to check it out. Of the three water tanks, two are already empty. There is no point in standing because there is not enough water. We decide to take the empty canisters to our apartment and come earlier tomorrow. I. wants to go to his aunt.
On our way, we hear the whistling of mines several times. For the first time so close – flying overhead. His aunt and her family live at the intersection of Zelinsky and Prospekt in a nine-story building with windows to the west. Very bad location.
They behave somewhat carefree, sit at home, do not go down to the shelter during the airstrike alerts. We chatted a bit and go home to feed the cat. We decide to take it with us so as not to walk there every day, because it looks like it’ll soon be impossible. We went to get water but came back with a cat. The wreckage of the “Tochka-U” multiple rocket launcher is seen on the wasteland between the technical college and the school. The mere sight of this thing shocks us. It’s this thing that fired yesterday, and the house we saw earlier was damaged by it.
Now everything is converging – it was launched from the east, somewhere in the occupied territories. But it is unclear what they wanted to aim at. There are no military facilities here, people are hiding in schools and colleges. Large-caliber artillery, aircraft, and now ballistic missiles. Only nuclear weapons remained unused by the Russians. I would not be surprised if these lunatics dare to use their entire arsenal soon. A.Sh. has not returned yet. He ran to the store – he was standing in line. I. wants to go to N. and invite them to return to our apartment. The main thing for I. is that we will be closer to each other. But N. does not want to hear that the apartment is more dangerous and she needs to get food and water on her own. N. was brought from Terrasport. And we ourselves went to the West township again.
A.Sh. hasn’t returned not yet. I run to the store again – he’s still there and is already at the checkout. I’m waiting on the street. When one hears the plane, the queue is running away. The explosion is somewhere far away.
In a half an hour A.Sh. appears at the door. with two packages. It’s about 3 o’clock, I’ve been standing for five hours. He recounts how the system works: the scanners do not work and there is no light. One approaches the cash register with the goods, and the cashier rewrites the barcode in a notebook. Then she calls the security guard to look at the price in the hall, and uses a calculator to add 20% (apparently, it’s a bonus for working in particularly dangerous conditions). For every single product. It can take 10-15 minutes or more per buyer. The result: only milk was bought from the list of useful items and only beer from the list of pleasant ones. Some snacks and sweets, nothing else. A.Sh. says that after enduring so many hours, you already buy everything in a row to suppress the feeling of wasted time.
In the evening, we drank beer with salted peanuts, remembered the past, and dreamed of celebrating the end of the war. They discussed the situation on the fronts and our troops’ prospects – the kitchen analytics. It is gratifying that the whole civilized world is on our side. Aid and sanctions come along, albeit with a squeak. Russia wanted to attack Ukraine, but in fact got a war against a dozen countries and faces international isolation. Something is glowing In the north, in the direction of 23th nneighborhood. Maybe it’s electricity? (In fact, the Port City mall and the surrounding neighborhoods were on fire. I realized that later.)
March 4. Day 9
Artillery shelling and heavy fire can be heard from Flotska Street since the morning. We need to get some water but we are waiting for it to calm down a bit. It is a long way to go to the humanitarian point, and one will have to cross Bakhchivanji Street, where, according to our feelings, there is also a shooting. The idea is not very good.
We assume that the Russian Special Operation Group was there and they were shooting on the streets. So we decide that it is better to go down to the well at the dene. We have been arguing for a long time whether to go or to wait, because somehow there is no pause in the shooting sounds. We start anyway. We meet people with canisters, who say that we should go to the Sea Lyceum where the waiting line is longer, but the place is safer. Let’s get closer and understand what’s going on. We see the infighting close to the well at the dene– we hear Kalashnikov rounds firing. I go downstairs to look around.
Someone is coming upstairs. I try to move to the side and step on something – a boot. I look closely and see a body littered with garbage. It is not difficult to catch a stray bullet here. We get out.
I remember that I have two full canisters of 10 liters in the garage. Not far from here – just two streets down – but now the shortest distance can become unreachable.
As soon as we return, a missile hits somewhere very close, and the wreckage hits the roof. We wait in the basement for about 20 minutes as usual.
Son of A.Sh. is seven. At this age, he is not yet fully aware of what is happening. Child’s mind assimilates and reflects information in its own way. His games have become fatal, imaginary heroes are increasingly capturing and killing each other. I am surprised to find out that, not knowing the concepts themselves, the guy simulates situations of betrayal, blackmail, psychological pressure, and execution.
It’s time to go out. Nearby, something is burning; you can see smoke and hear the flames crackling, consuming its prey. It’s in the direction of my garage cooperative. The car is inside, and now it is the most valuable of all. Transport is an opportunity to get food and water, and it is also an opportunity to escape. Let’s go see. I have bad feelings. The barn next to the gatehouse of the garage cooperative is on fire. No one was injured. Firefighters are not coming. People came out of the neighboring houses to make sure that the fire does not spread. It seems it’s not going to. This time I was lucky. An elderly guard says with excitement that it was at this time that he chopped firewood for the stove and hit it with a log. I am trying to joke. He reports that all cars are intact, and the situation is under control. In the fire, the shingles crack as shots.
A.Sh. and I go to pick up filled water canisters. Missiles hit again. Somewhere in the distance, we hide in a pit but just in case. At this time I think that it would be possible to put the car in the yard of A.Sh., but I will not gain anything from it. Missiles can also hit there. As we leave, we see a piece of iron right in front of the gate. When we entered the garage, it was most definitely not there. The half-ring is about 10 cm in diameter, the ends seem to be cut with a gas cutter. I wanted to pick it up and throw it away so that someone wouldn’t puncture the wheel but it was too hot to hold in my hand. Thank God. It was getting dark. The sounds of close combat and mortar shelling have stopped, but the night’s silence is periodically interrupted by volleys.
Somewhere very close, perhaps from a dene, two large-caliber guns are firing. One, to the west, in the direction of the airport, and the other one, somewhere to the south, towards the checkpoint (not Melekin). The sound is incredibly loud. A shot, then the rustle of a projectile, and after a while, a barely audible explosion. Fortunately, there is no gunfire to answer. A.Sh. and I are trying to analyze what this means. And this, obviously, means that our troops withdrew from the airport and took up positions close to the western areas or even in the city itself. These findings are disappointing, as there may soon be city battles, a real meat grinder.