People who survived Mariupol: Here is a story. Source: openDemocracy (oDR newsletter).

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People who survived Mariupol: Here is Daniil’s Source: openDemocracy. For other stories go to openDemocracy (oDR newsletter).

‘During the war, food is valuable’. Daniil Nemirovskiy

For several days, Ukrainian cultural institutions tried to locate Mariupol-based artist Daniil Nemirovskiy. They had no news for a long time. The artist from Mariupol had been sitting in the shelter of the famous Ilyich metallurgical plant, unable to contact anyone. While he was there, he drew civilians. He managed to take only three drawings when he left.

On 24 February, I was in a residential area on the city’s outskirts with my grandparents, far away from any military bases and units. The war soon came to this peaceful place – the Russians drove Ukrainian forces out. When Ukrainian soldiers returned to take it back, Russians began shelling this quiet neighbourhood almost immediately, and civilians started suffering.

I argued with my grandparents: they didn’t believe that going to a bomb shelter was necessary, they thought it was safe to remain at home. So, when their street was shelled, I decided to leave, but they stayed. Recently, my parents were informed that my grandmother was in hospital with a shrapnel wound.

The city’s residents had no information, particularly about any green corridors for evacuations. Our fighters and police officers said they were going to get help from battalions from Zaporizhzhia, a city about three hours away, and we all prayed for them to come. But no one came.

Mariupol is divided into two parts by the Kalmius River: the left and right banks. The Z forces [Russian army] first captured the left bank and began to move on. After that, fighting took place everywhere, particularly in the city centre. And who controlled the centre of Mariupol wasn’t clear.

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One of the drawings by Mariupol-based artist Daniil Nemirovskiy | Source: Daniil Nemirovsky

In early March, I moved to a bomb shelter at the first entrance of the Ilyich metallurgical factory. It is a well-equipped Soviet bomb shelter with two exits; but it’s hard to stay there for more than two hours [because it is so small]. The shelter had four sections, each of which was 4.5×4.5 metres. There were eight people and only four benches in my block. We spent all our time there and weren’t allowed to go out because it was too dangerous outside

Initially, the plant was mothballed for two to three weeks. But the workers didn’t return. We could hear bombs constantly dropping on the factory.

In wartime, food is valuable. We сooked on a fire in the street. In the first two weeks, it was freezing so our food was safe, but a lot of it started to go bad when it got warmer. By 10 March, we had no food and humanitarian aid was not allowed into Mariupol; the city was under siege. One day, police officers broke into some warehouses and shops and distributed food to people. This wasn’t looting. Once, [police officers] brought us nine boxes of sausages without labels or expiration dates. I believe that such large deliveries of food could not have taken place if the police hadn’t helped.

If you want to live, you leave on foot. On 21 March, I left my shelter and walked to the occupied areas, avoiding all checkpoints on the way. I knew buses were regularly leaving for the town of Volodarske [since 2016, the town has been called Nikolske], which is close by [and controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)]. I met volunteers there. Russian and DPR flags were everywhere. Russians and people from the DPR organise transportation to Donetsk and Rostov-on-Don, but a Russian soldier said that if I wanted to go, I had to undergo ‘filtration’. I didn’t understand what he meant by this. And of course, I wanted to go to Ukraine, though it’s difficult to do so from Volodarske to Ukraine, as there is no direct connection.

Mariupol is still holding out. But day by day, the situation in the city is getting worse and worse: people have less food and water and it becomes more difficult for them to get to Ukraine

DPR forces stole some Ukrainian buses and used them to send people to Rostov without even changing the plates. So I decided to go to Berdyansk, which is controlled by the Russian military forces, but I would say that it’s still Ukrainian. I waited two days for a bus and then eventually decided to make my own way. Finally, I managed to agree a deal with a local man, who drove me to Berdyansk for 750 hryvnias [£19.50]. We passed through four checkpoints on the way, two from the DPR and two from the Russian army, before finally arriving in Berdyansk.

In Berdyansk, even though Russian soldiers met us at the entrance to the city, there were Ukrainian flags and posters of ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself!’. Almost immediately, I received a message on my phone about an evacuation to Ukraine, which was supposed to take place from a sports complex. I went there, but there were no volunteers, no evacuation, no information.

Only the Russian propaganda radio was working. It said that soon all the city’s television channels would be switched to Russian channels. Ukrainian buses were not allowed into the city itself, so they departed from a place called the Azov Ring [a square at the entrance of the city]. Somehow I found out that 15 Ukrainian buses were to arrive, so I got to the Azov Ring and boarded the first bus. Then there were four more checkpoints, but they seemed less brutal.

Mariupol is still holding out. But day by day, the situation in the city is getting worse and worse: people have less food and water and it becomes more difficult for them to get to Ukraine.

Thank you Daniil. I hope your are safe. Your art is exceptional but has passion of those who painted at the time of the Holodomor.

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