My 11-year-old son and his pet cat were evacuated to Zaporizhia.
“We were sent to an area occupied by Russian troops where there was no fighting. Despite the occupation, we have cell phone reception. For the first time in a month and a half we were able to contact relatives who were concerned about our safety, watch TV, and rest in housing where there was hot water and normal food. Most thankfully, there was silence and no shelling.”
“However, we cannot stay in Russian-occupied areas forever. We made plans to evacuate to Zaporizha in the north, which is under Ukrainian rule. We needed a car to evacuate. Luckily, we received a phone call from a relative in Moscow. A friend of mine was going to send a truck from Mariupol to our village so we could evacuate our families.”
Early in the morning of April 23, Igor and his family set out for Zaporizhia.
“As we passed through some checkpoints, we encountered the ‘Kadyrovtsy’ (a unit from the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation). They are famous for their extreme behavior. They overturned cars and searched inside, checking everything, even children’s and women’s underwear. In the end, they told us, ‘There is no road ahead.’”
Igor and his group had no choice but to drive in the opposite direction. After a while, they saw a Ukrainian flag. A volunteer noticed Igor and his group and approached them. The volunteer gave them the following instructions: “Give them a map with evacuation routes.”
Igor followed the route he was given.
“We drove through villages, fields, mine-filled fields, and along dirt roads with many checkpoints. At the last Russian checkpoint, we were warned to pass through as quickly as possible, as this was a gray zone (danger zone) ahead. However, the entire road was littered with mines, and we had to drive slowly through them.”
“The gray zone lasted about 30 km, and artillery shells were exploding on both sides of the road. When we saw a checkpoint with a Ukrainian flag, we were so happy we all cried. It was only by a series of miracles that we survived the inferno.”
“In Zaporizhia, we were greeted by national and international reporters. After a few hours of reporting, we spent the night in a comfortable hotel.” The next morning, they left for Lviv in the east, arriving safely on April 26. After their desperate escape, Igor and his family are now temporarily living in a hostel.