‘Bukvy’ continues documenting Russian war crimes and stories of civilian deaths in Mariupol and other Ukrainian territories. These are the stories from ‘Museum of Civilian Voices’ established by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation.
Maria Dybko. Mariupol
‘Too much sorrow and too many losses’
Maria worked as a teacher in one of the Mariupol schools. On February 24, at two o’clock in the morning, the woman heard the first explosions, and already at 6 in the morning, she learned about the beginning of the war from the video of the President of the Russian Federation. Maria did not go to work that day, she stayed at home with her husband and child.
‘There were no plans to leave Mariupol. There was only confusion and lack of understanding of how to act in such a situation. Then my husband and I started to collect some things and went to our relatives to make a mutual decision together.’
The family did not return home, because fierce battles were already taking place in their eastern district. They moved to the relatives. However, there were no safe places in Mariupol. One evening, the apartment was seriously damaged by shelling of the area. Only the wall saved Maria, her child and her sister.
‘All we heard was the sound of broken glass, falling stones. It was already dark, and there was a pillar of dust. It was so scary!’
A close relative of Maria worked at the ‘Azovstal’ plant, so the plant became a shelter for the family from February 27 to April 30. At first, it was a peaceful place… After a few days, it was impossible to get out of the bunker because of the constant artillery fire.
Maria says that if it had not been for the joint efforts of the people in the shelter, they would not have survived. They cooked and found together, and believed in victory together.
‘I want peace for Ukraine and the country to remain in the pre-war borders. We have experienced too much sorrow and too many losses.’
Anton Shaulskyi. Mariupol
‘Despair was the biggest enemy’
Anton is 21. He worked as a paramedic in the ambulance team. On February 24, he went to work as usual.
‘On the first day, a man called us, the first wounded man. In my practice, I had not seen explosive injuries before. He was conscious, but seriously wounded, he was injured in his own yard, which was hit by a projectile.’
Anton talks about the terrible pictures of the houses that were on fire when he was pulling the wounded out of the apartments. The man could not have imagined that he would see so many corpses on the streets of his hometown.
‘Once the body of a girl was brought to us. An air bomb hit her house and she died. It was so creepy.’
Despair was the biggest enemy for Anton. According to him, you can endure hunger or lack of light, the inability to take a shower, but the worst is the loss of hope. The boy saw the suffering of the elderly, teenagers, children, and pregnant women in the Mariupol shelters. It was depressing that people asked for help, and it was not always possible to save them.
Nadia Shkilna-Voloshynova. Mariupol
‘The ceiling was completely ruined and the open sky was above my head’
Nadia woke up on the morning of February 24 and got know about about the night shelling. The woman says that the city’s bomb shelters were all filled with refugees. For the first time, Nadia went down to the basement with her husband, daughter and son, when the projectiles hit the neighboring buildings.
‘I live on the 9th floor, we ran out and protected children with our bodies, the house was shaking, it felt like it would collapse. Children stayed in the basement for three days and did not get out.’
Nadia’s husband died when the Russian tank targeted their apartment. The woman later found their family photos and personal belongings in the yard. Nadia buried her husband in the yard and managed to evacuate with children and parents.