«‎Ukraine on Fire»‎: war diaries through the eyes of Ukrainians who survived the occupation of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities

The stories of the project «‎Ukraine on Fire» on Instagram and Twitter are based on the stories of 27-year-old Katya from the besieged Mariupol. The girl embodies the collective image of a Ukrainian woman, in front of whom the Russian army commits bloody crimes against humanity. Katya becomes the voice of thousands of Ukrainians – silent witnesses of the inhumane actions of the occupiers in Mariupol, Bucha, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Melitopol and other Ukrainian cities.

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A few days before the russian attack, Iryna came to Mariupol to help her mother-in-law, who was seriously ill. She, her husband and 10 years old son were no longer able to leave the besieged city.

The war caught the family for the second time – in 2014 they fled the war in Donbass.

From the first days in the city, there were long queues in supermarkets. Then the stores started being robbed. People grabbed not only food, but also alcohol and household items.

Water was the first to disappear. Used water from the heating systems of the porches. Learned how to do «alchemy» on a campfire, turning technical water into drinking water.

One night during the shelling, felt the house jumped up. An air bomb hit the neighboring 14 floors building. Half of the house disappeared, a nearby kiosk flew into the sky and hung on a tree. After that, when we heard the roar of the plane, we were immediately hiding.

One day, a plane was flying. It dropped a bomb on a drama theater, where people were hiding. On the pavement next to it, «Children» was written in capital white letters. It was a direct hit. Only those who were under the stage survived. Few. If not for aviation, Mariupol would have survived.

There were days when we did not leave the basement at all, due to heavy shelling. One day, everyone in the basement got sick with rotavirus. Children first, then adults.

Mostly people were dying from shrapnel wounds, while standing in queue for water or cooking at home. This is how a man from a neighboring entrance died, when he went out for water. He has been laying there with the teapot. For so, so long.

It is impossible to count the total number of dead in Mariupol. Nobody counted anyone. Did not cover and did not hide immediately, did not collect documents. People were just laying on the streets, and we were passing them by.

«I used to think that it’s not scary to die, and that perhaps this is not our last reincarnation. But in Mariupol, I realized that I want to live. I really wished no one to die».

Iryna and her son went abroad, her husband joined the army. 

«Mariupol is an open sore in the heart of every Ukrainian. Is it possible to believe that something like this can happen in the 21st century? But it happened. And now this is our reality. Cruelty, cynicism and hatred. And tens of thousands of ruined lives…

Now the occupiers are demolishing the destroyed houses and trying to obliterate the traces of crimes. The first commissions consisting of collaborators and the Ministry of Emergency Affairs of Russia went bypassing homes. People were warned about eviction, but Mariupol residents continue to live even in the entrances with terrible consequences of the war, as in this photo».

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