Tatiana’s apartment building on fire, uploaded on social media.
— So you were able to evacuate to Zaporizhia from there?
No, we found out at the end of the checkpoint that the only buses were going to Donetsk and Rostov via the sorting camps. But we were informed that there were ‘couriers’ who did not go through the sorting camps, but took the back route. We still had some money on us, so we decided to pay the courier.
There were several checkpoints along the way, where our belongings and cell phones were checked. When we arrived in the town of Berzhansk, our cell phones were connected. I was happy to call my family and friends and find out the real news.
— You finally saw the light.
Yes, I was happy to call my family and friends and find out the real news. But the difficulties are not over. We left Berzhansk in a small bus, but at first the Russian soldiers would not let us through and we had to turn back. The next day, we left again, this time passing 15 checkpoints before we were able to reach Zaporizha.
At the checkpoints, Russian soldiers would remove only male passengers from the bus, remove their clothes, check for tattoos, and inspect their belongings and cell phones. One young man had a smartphone, which they took away, threw to the ground, shot and destroyed. When we arrived at the first checkpoint in Ukraine, everyone on the bus was crying with joy.
A number of people living in the same apartment died.
–What is your life like now?
We have taken refuge in a relative’s house in Lviv. My husband was finally able to have surgery on his jaw (which was badly injured) in Lviv, but because of the time that had passed, it was already getting worse. We are both still in the hospital. He is paralyzed and cannot consider returning to work under the current circumstances.
The apartment in which we were living in Mariupol was hit by an artillery shell in early March when we were in the hospital and burned down. Several residents of the same apartment died and were buried in the yard. Our car was also burned. A friend later showed me a picture on a social networking site of our apartment building smoking after the shell landed. I still don’t know if my brothers, nephews, and colleagues are safe because there is no cell phone service in Mariupol, and I am very worried about them.
— What about schools in Mariupol?
I was the head of the 11th grade, the last year of school. The students were supposed to graduate this summer. Schools in other parts of Ukraine are offering online classes, but Mariupol schools are not in a position to do so. The school stopped teaching immediately after the war started and never heard from them again. Only one student from my grade remains in Mariupol with his family. All other students were evacuated to safer areas. In other grades, there have been deaths and missing persons.
Eleventh graders who fled Mariupol and other combat zones and were evacuated can take the national graduation exam and enter Ukrainian universities even if they are in other European countries. Students displaced to the Russian side can take the exam if they leave Russia and move to Europe or return to Ukraine; June is (Ukraine’s) graduation season, but this year they cannot even have a graduation ceremony.
–Russia has announced that nine schools in Mariupol have resumed classes.
They want the children who remain in the city to study throughout the summer vacation so that they can teach the Russian curriculum starting in September. Mariupol schools have many problems. There is no lighting. Even if there is a generator, the school facilities themselves are broken or looted and cannot be used. There is no water or sewage system. There is a shortage of food for school lunches. Most teachers have quit.
The occupiers want the children left in Mariupol to grow up in the spirit of the ‘Russian world’. There are no classes in Ukrainian language, Ukrainian literature or Ukrainian history. Russia has banned everything Ukrainian for centuries and destroyed our culture, and history is repeating itself right now.