At the end of January, Ira feels tired. So when her friends offer her a ten-day vacation in Sri Lanka, the 26-year-old English teacher doesn’t hesitate.
In Mariupol, a city of 550,000 overlooking the Sea of Azov, the atmosphere has been heavy lately. Rumors of an imminent Russian invasion are circulating. But Ira and her family do not believe in a bitter, all-out war. “We thought the fighting would be limited to the outskirts of the city,” says the Ukrainian via the WhatsApp application.Will go to Mariupol beach before war breaks out in Ukraine.
On February 2, Ira arrives in Sri Lanka. Idleness, change of scenery, sun… She decides to extend her stay. “I didn’t feel rested enough. When war broke out in Ukraine 4,000 miles away on February 24, Ira felt fear mounting. His family experienced the first air raids.
“On February 25, I got a message on my phone: My sister’s boyfriend’s sister. Before the war started, the latter always made jokes like: “If the war broke out, well, I would flee to my friend, he has a safe basement, I’m safer.” We thought it was a joke. Then I learn that my sister and my mother are at his house and that they are alive. »
First, Ira receives photos of her little sister and her mother, huddled in a room with no light, far from the windows, a bag on her feet, ready to flee. “As you can see, they were still smiling, no one expected the hell they had to face,” Ira said.
The faces on the sent photos quickly become more serious. Mariupol is under constant Russian fire. His mother, an employee in the Metinvest Group’s steel and iron works, loses her job: the plant is bombed and wiped off the map.
Ira’s mother and sister take cover during a bombing raid.
The days pass. The news of the Mariupol martyr waters the whole world. Ira managed to reconcile with his mother and sister via video call on March 1, three weeks ago of silence. “I learned that they lived in a part of the city under the control of the Russian army. There were supply points for food. But they run out of drinking water and have to melt snow to cook. »
Anyone who takes a walk in the city risks their skin with every step. “At one point my mother wanted to visit my grandmother, who lived nearby. She was approaching her window when a bomb or missile exploded nearby. There was an explosion and she got pieces of glass on her forehead. My sister’s friend, who is a soldier in the Ukrainian army, took care of her. It’s been in the basement ever since. As for the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, Ira hardly believes in it. ” They are afraid. There is no one to guarantee their safety. »Ira’s grandmother, sister and mother in front of the Mariupol Theater which was bombed by the Russian army while housing hundreds of civilians.
Ira plans to stay in Sri Lanka for a few more months where she teaches English to earn a living. Her family could join her. “They plan to leave Ukraine to go to Russia, to Moscow, where they have family. From there you can join me in Sri Lanka. I have hope that after the war Mariupol will be Ukrainian and we will all return home to rebuild the city. »
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine also admitted Thursday, April 7, that they are still fighting thousands of Ukrainians in the besieged city and that taking control “would take time”.
War in Ukraine: Dozens of civilians killed in strike at Kramatorsk railway station