15 days in the blockade – the diary of a girl from Mariupol

17 / 03 / 2022

On March 1 Mariupol and its citizens found themselvesin blockade. From one side the city was shelled by the sо-called Donetsk Republic.From the other the Russian forces were pushing through northwards.It is only after two weeks of shelling that Irina and her children managed to leave the town. She recalls her life in the blockade, her thoughtsand feelings n Telegram Frontovi Notatki (Front Notes)

Below is Irina’s story.

13th day of the warI live here and I know what it all looks like from inside.I know the truth, I can see itafter 13 days now. And the truth is that our town is being eliminated, wiped off the face of the earth. On top of the fact that everything has been destroyed and ruinedthe 500 thousand locals are not allowed to leaave the place. Just banned from going. Endless shooting. Or no effort is made to organise evacuation. During these 13 war days we have lived through four different phases.

The first phase was during the first week. We stayed in our own flat Not believing in what is going on. We are at home, we read or listen to the news. We are cooking. My man does a lot of shopping to stock up on food. There are shortages, the supplies have stopped.

Heating is being turned off in town. It is getting very cold in our flat. We sleep with three sweatshirts on not to freeze. In case of fierce shelling we run to the bathroom for shelter.

Soon eleictricity and water supplies stop. Next day, March 3, our locality is fiercely shelled, the building is shaking. We go out after theshelling and realise that a neighbouring 4-story building has been hit by a missile. Glass was shattered in some flats in our building…These are our last hours in this home. We pack up and walk to a friend who has a private house. This house is on the ground, and there is a basement.


We and our friends are dwelling in the basement 2×3 m and sleepng on the wooden shelves where glass jars with stewed fruit had stood previously. Four grown-ups, a young pregnant woman among them, and four children. Without light, water, heating. Mobile telephony has also stopped working. Not a single possibility to get in touch with the ouside world, relatives and friends, no news, no understanding what is happening. Only shelling on a daily basis, only hardcore.

Evacuation that did not happen

On March 5 we learnt that a „green corridor“ had been announced. This marked the beginning of the third war phase. The most horribleone. The most cruel. We throw things and children into a car and drive from the locality with private-owned houses fast out of the town. The shelling goes on, missiles fly over our heads which is but unusual when one talks of evacuation.We drivein three cars. One has to lower speed, we are proceeding with the two left to get in line for the exit agreeing to meet later at the сheckpoint.

As soon as we leave the ouskirts behind and get into town we are fully shocked. During the period when we hidin the bathroom and then in the basement half of our town has Mariupol has been turned into ruins.

The TV centre is on fire, the living apartment quarters are demolished. Somewhere whole building sections have burnt, somewhere else not a single window glass remained. All the food stores have been wrecked. The Epicentre has burnt down. The Metro has been bombed. I walk through town. Iweep. My husband asks me to take some pictures but, deepin shock, I can make just some.


When we reach the exit point the military turn all the cars around not allowing to drive on as there are tanks further afield. Here we are –2020, democracy rules the world, myriads of peace making orgnistaions in action, human life is more valuable than anything else. And there are tanks further afield.

We turn around and come across our third car. While the guys tried to catch up with us their car was shot at wth assault rifles. They do not know who that was as the shooting was from some bushes and people were not to be seen. Looked like a Russian ranger unit.

Olena was wounded in the leg. This was not a screen capture from a film. This was our reality.

Our friends leave a child and his mother with us and drive to a hospital to get first medical care. Hundreds of cars that have not been allowed to leave the town are driving in panicky circles around town. Our children are crying from fear, they are begging to hide them. There is an inscription on every other car –„Children“. Every car has a white flag.

The evacuation is but disrupted. It had been planned but one fighting force or another has refusedto respect the cease fire.The shooting goes on around us. We are off to the town centre to find out somehow when there will be another „green corridor“.

No information. No one explains anything. No one knows amything. Police force cannot answer a question on what is going on in other localities as they are also cut from communication.

Now we are in the Teatralny Square. Lots of people are also waiting for some information there.The locality where we had been before the so called evacuation is under fire. Returning there is very dangerous. Besides, going there, back to the outskirts, could mean being left without any further news on evacuation.

We decide we need to stay overnight somewhere in centre to be able to leave the town first thing in the morning if the corridor is announced tomorrow. We ask my husband ́s colleague for shelter. He agrees to take care of us all: my family, my pregnant friend ́s family, a stranger child whose mother had been shelled and their mother, that is, all in all there are eight of us!


To remind you, there is only gas from city communications. Flats are cold and dark. No water. On this day we manage to get for a short time into mobile telephony, tell our relatives that we are alive and read the news. We spend the night at the colleague ́s flat. There is no corridor on the next day either.

У We have almost nothingto eat as we thought we were going to be evacuated and did not take anything with us. All the food had been left at a friend ́s building. And we cannot go and get it as there is fighting going on there and the military would not let us.

This night in towncentre is the most horrible of all since the beginning of the war

We are in somebody ́s flat who we almost do not know, with no food, without any hope of being evacuated. We ask to allow us to stay one night more because we do not know what to do next, how to find the friends whose child is with us, how to get out of the shelling area. Today the last part of the mobile network is being bombed and we are no more able to get in touch with anyone.

By the evening time today they are turning off gas -the last hope of the population. That means we cannot cook now. I am becoming hysterical not knowing how to feed the children without gas and light.

A friend called me and said there would be heavy shelling during the night. She remebers a similar sutuation with gas back in 2014 and merciless shelling right afterwards.

We decide to go to bed in our clothes so that we can run to the basement very quickly when we have to.My friend was right. This night is becoming the most horrible one since the beginning of the war.

At 21:30 they start to shell the centre of the town hard. We go down to the basement. During the hours that follow some kind of bombs are dropped on us. I do not really know what kind of weapon that is but it is sure very powerful. Everything is roaring, the building is shaking, the windowglass is flying out of flats.

We remain alive. We pray and cry a lot.


In the moring we can see that a missile had smashed part of the roof óf the building where we stayed overnight, and a flat on the upper floor was wrecked.

People are getting out to make a fire closer to the multi-storey buildings for some tea and heat up food. Smashed glass is being swept away. Fragments of the roof are carried away from the pavements. One tries to assess damage inflicted.

The „green corrider“ is not given.

ТакThis is how yet a new phase of our survival in the shelling area begins.

Life in hell

We make up our mind to move from centre to a privately-owned house, not to my friend ́s but to her father-in-law ́s. They have a large house and there are several rooms on a floor below ground level where one can hide from bombs. Besides, they have a generator, a brazier to cook, one can make a fire and heat water.

We collect our food from the friend ́s house and proceed to a new military camp. There we find a man and a young woman who had been shot in the leg and give their child back to them.

At the time when we were accomodated there were 25 people in the house. We sleep in the basement rooms on the mattrasses laid on the floor getting out to the upper floor to eat and play unless there is heavy fire. There is no heating, gas, electricity, water supply or telephony connection.

We listen to the news on the radio and long for evacuation.

14th day of the war – March 9

Today we put all the food that we broght on the shelves and sorted it out. It turned out that we do not have a lot really, what with 25 mouths to feed. We hid the candies from the kids so that they would not be able to find their way to them. We should give them out by bits otherwise everything will b eaten up in two days. Nobody knows when we can buy new sweets and biscuits for children again.

Shelling does not stop. Missiles fly above the buildings non-stop. A man went out today to his locality in order to get into his flat. He made pictures of the buildings nearby. The locality almost does not exist. It is shot down, burnt down, turned into ruins.

We listen to the Ukranian news. It is reported Sumy has been evacuated, 18 thousand people were carried out of the town in 2 days. Mariupol is mentioned in an aside, vaguely, unemotionally. Looks like they are trying to agree on the corridor. Looks like there is a corridor and at the same time there isn ́t as shoooting goes on non-stop.

Photo facebook.com/fcshakhtar

In three days my youngest son will have his birthday. He will be four. Before the war he had asked for all kinds of toys for his feast and I had promised to buy them all.

I have not a single little present now, no toy. In peaceful times it was senseless to buy toys in advance since one can get them at any moment. However that moment of peaceful existence is gone.

A feeling of no way out, no contingency plan.

I cry again.15th day of the war –March 10.

We sleep and eat in the basement rooms. We almost never get out to the upper floor as the shelling does not stop. They shoot using different weapons,from everywhere, sometimes close by, sometimes from somewhat farther away.

Today a plane of the enemy was flying in circles above the town dropping bombs. A hospital suffered from the bombing yesterday and the nursing home where I had delivered my youngest son.

У меI have no words and no tears. I manage to cry sometimes if there is a trigger –like a rhyme about the Russian ship, family pictures from pre-war life or news from the radio that Mariupol and its blockade have been declared another Leningrad.

Again no agreement on cease fire and the „green corridor“ for the dwellers.

16th day of the war March 11

March has turned out to be very cold. This can be felt especially because there is no heating in the building for two weeks. We have put everything we have that is warmest and thick, this but saves us little from the cold. It is surpisingly not very cold in the basement where we sleep, and we feel quite comfortable under the blanket during the night.

We listen to the news again, and again theycannot come to an agreement on the „green corridor“. Unaware even if the humanitarian convoy is allowed into town or it will be destroyed by fire on the way..

The radio has told us today that not letting civilians out of town is a special order by Putin. Allegedly, our evacuation depends on him alone. However no one knows what is really going on as there is no truth anywhere.

17th day of the war —March 12

Today is my youngest son ́s birthday. He is four. My friend remembered that she had a new unpacked toy at home that could be given as a birtday present. Good that she lives not far from our „military camp“ and we ran together to collect the trophy.

My son was very happy with this single present. For two hours afterwards he carried it arond unpacked. We asked him, Why don ́t you unpack it? He replied he was afraid to lose it if it was unpacked. My heart as much as breaks, with no way to orgainise a normal peaceful bithday for a child.

In our food store we found ready-made wafer crusts, spread some boiled condensed milk on them and decorated with peas. We even found some candles for this cake of a kind. We sang „Happy Birthday, little Danya!“ and my son blew out the candles. Later he said this was the happiest birthday in his life.

Photo facebook.com/fcshakhtar

As never before I have an acute sense of desperation today. I cannot go to my multi-storey home as there is no gas, or electricity in the town to cook food or warm up. Food is not to be found anywhere. No shops, they are all turned into ruins. No supplies. On top of this, we are not allowed to get out of blockade so that we can return to normal life in our country.

Frightening sense of there being no emergency plan to live on.

Again no real mention of Mariupol on the radio. We are told it keeps defending itself. They cannot agree on corridors.There was an attack on the Sviatogorska Lavra, a sacred place of Orthodoxy in Sviatogorsk. 920 refugees from the Kharkiv region were hiding there, including 200 children. Does one need words or comment? There are only four letters to render this –PAIN.

19th day of war –March 14.

Early morning today with 9 cars we left Mariupol for Melekhino.There was a message from guys who had chosen this route so we also decided to take risks.Melekhino is a small spa place 15 km away from Mariupol. My heart kept skipping abeat from fear. We had to drive around anti-tank mines on the road once.

On reaching a small guest-house we were accomodated till the next day and explained how to drive futher on. It is quieter here, one can only hear how missiles that hit Mariupol roar.

It is very cold at the guest-house. There is electricity, water and mobile network though. I am sending messages to my relatives and friends that we are OK. I write this and realise this is not a fact yet. We are OK today. But now we aim to get to Zaporizhzhia, and this is not easy at all to say the least.

I hope not to die of cold during the night and that tomorrow we will proceed to Peace Land.

20th day of the war –March 15

МWe drive at our own risk to Zaporizhzhia. A small convoy of several cars, there are children in every car. We have packed our kids with all kinds of things at the back seats, wrapped them into blankets and protected with notebooks from sides. We have made a nest that can defend them in case the cars are shot at.

White pieces of cloth looking almost like white flags on the cars and the signs „Children“. We are all afraid. But the craving to get out of the hell that Mariupol had been turned into is stronger.

The Russian military are on the road from Mangush to Vasilivka, that is, almost everywhere till Zaporizhzhia. This territory is under their control. There are very many check-points where they check documents and the luggage.

The military are polite. One of them even asked us if we were in need of medical assistance and water. On the way -miltary equipment that had been burnt down, tanks, howitzers, battlefields, mines, shell fragments.

The more check-points we pass, the more tears are running down my face. I look at the Russian soldiers. They look like us. From outside men are similar to my neighbours and friends. They are not Tartars or Mongolians. They are not the Turkish yoke. They are not the Germans from 1941. I read our identity from them. Оur being alone in the world. And cry even more.

Why did they come to our country? Why are they doing this to our towns, roads and hopes? We are but the same. How can one treat his relatives like this ? How can one allow all this?

On seeing more polite Russian military on the way my friend made an assumption that these could not do to our Mariupol what they did. Sure, some OTHER Russian military bombed it.One cannot beat it. One is unable to grasp the meaning of it. One cannot forgive this.

Being almost in the vicinity of Zaporizhzhia we got into shelling of a Ukranian check-point. We drove around it by goat-tracks, the land was burning close by.It got dark. Then the Ukranian military met us. They said they would drive with us and show the way to the city which will be safer.

Such cars come to Zaporozhye from Mariupol. Photo www.facebook.com/vsiumar

It took us 11 hours to overcome the 250 km distance between Melekino and Zaporizhzhia today!

Now is the 11th hour. Normal time is three. Very strained. Very stressful. In one piece we reached our friends to spend the night there.

Tomorrow we will go on. Zaporizhzhia is not quite safe either.

21st day of the war –March 16

We woke up at 5 a.m. because of a powerful explosion somewhere close to our overnight stay in Zaporizhzhia. Half-asleep and frightened, we pulled on our clothes and carried our kids to the bathroom. Zaporizhzhia too has been hit. Looks like they targeted a railway station 1 km away from us.

We loaded our things on a car and drove on at once.

At the exit from the city a Ukranian in military uniform passed a handful of sweets for our kids through a lowered glass when he heard we were from Mariupol. I wept for the next half hour.

I noticed. The farther away from home, the more tears. When we were within our own walls, in our own town, we believed less in what is going on. The walls reminded us that the buildingwas there for us. Now we are moving further and further away from it. We underatsand more and more what is going on. Everything is stripped naked, becoming helpless, open, heart-breaking.

Where are we going? What is ahead for us? Where will we be? Where is our house?

Today the Russians dropped a bomb on the Mariupol Drama Theatre in the heart of the city. Refugees from the left bank were hiding there whose dwellings were bombed during the first week of the war. There were many children. They were just blocked by fragments of the building thus ruined. The rescuers cannot so far reach for and save anyone as this area is continuously shelled. No way to count victims.

This news makes me nauseous. I feel physical disgust towards the war and those who started it. I want to howl with helplessness and being unable to return to previous life.We have reached the Chrkassy region and stopped overnight there. Myself and my family, my friend ad her child. Other people from our group drove in different directions, each according to his or her plan.

We need some sleep. Our clothes need washing up. We discuss further routes.I am deeply worried about my friends who stayed behind in Mariupol and I cannot get in touch with them. At any moment life of any citizen may be cut short. Just all of a sudden. Unexpectedly. From a missile that hit your house. From the folly of the people in power. From lack of respect for human life.


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