A woman walks past a building damaged by a bombing in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 13, 2022. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo
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Life under bombing in Mariupol: How long will this disaster continue?

On Wednesday, March 30, 2022

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I was born in Mariupol, and I have spent my whole life in Mariupol. I studied and worked and had a good time in Mariupol.  And when MSF hired me, I was happy to do meaningful work too. Life was good in Mariupol.

But suddenly it became real hell.

At first, none of us could believe what was happening, because in our times, this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen. We didn’t expect a war and we didn’t expect bombs. We thought it was just talk on TV and that someone would stop this madness from happening. When I realised that it was actually becoming real, I felt sick—so sick that I couldn’t eat for three days.

In the beginning, things almost seemed more or less normal, even though we knew that nothing really was normal anymore. But then the bombings started and our world as we had known it existed no more. Our lives became weaved between the bombs and missiles falling from the sky, destroying everything. We could think of nothing else and we could feel nothing else. The days of the week stopped to have any meaning, I couldn’t tell whether it was Friday or Saturday, it was all just one long nightmare. My sister tried to keep count of the days, but for me it was all a blur.

In the first few days, we fortunately managed to donate some of MSF’s remaining medical supplies to an emergency department in Mariupol, but when the electricity and phone network went down, we couldn’t contact our colleagues anymore and we couldn’t carry out any work. The bombing started and became worse each day.

Our days then consisted of trying to stay alive and trying to find a way out.

People look at a burning apartment building in a courtyard after a bombing in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday 13 March 2022.

How can one describe one’s home becoming a place of terror? There were new cemeteries all over town, in almost all neighbourhoods. Even in the little yard of the kindergarten near my house, where children should be playing. How can this past ever bring a future for our children? How can we take more pain and sadness? Each day is like losing your whole life.

In Mariupol, I was moved to see so many people helping others, with everyone seeming to always worry for someone else and never for themselves. Mothers worried for their children and children worried for the parents. I worried for my sister—she was so stressed because of the bombings that I thought her heart would stop. Her fitness watch showed 180 heart beats per minute and I was so stressed to see her like this. I told her it would be stupid if she were to die from fear in the midst of all this! With time, she adapted more and instead of freezing with fear during the shelling, she told me about all the different hiding places she could think of. I was still extremely worried about her and it was clear that I needed to get her out of there.

We moved three times, to find the most secure place. We were lucky, as we ended up staying with an amazing group of people that I now consider my family. History has already proven that humankind survives when staying together and helping each other. I saw this with my own eyes and it really moved me.  

I was also moved to see how brave people were, or how brave they had to be. 

We tried to leave every day but there were so many rumours about what was happening and what was not, we started to think it would never happen. One day, we got the information that a convoy was going leave and we scrambled into my old car and rushed to find the departure of the convoy. We told as many people we could, but now I am filled with sadness when I think of the ones I couldn’t tell. It all went so fast and we couldn’t call anyone because there was no phone network.


The departure was a giant mess and panic with lots of cars going in all sorts of directions.

We saw a car that had so many people in it that it was impossible to count them, their faces were pushed to the window screens. I don’t know how they made it out, but I hope they did. We had no map and we worried we would take the wrong direction, but somehow, we chose the right one and we made it out of Mariupol.

It was only as we tried to leave Mariupol that I realised things were actually worse than I originally thought. It turns out I was lucky to shelter in part of the city that was relatively spared, but on the way out I saw so much destruction and sorrow. We saw giant craters among apartment blocks, destroyed supermarkets, medical facilities and schools, even destroyed shelters where people had sought safety.

We are safe for now, but we don’t know what the future will hold. When I finally got access to the internet, I was shocked to see pictures of my beloved city in flames and my fellow citizens under rubble. In the news, I read about the shelling of Mariupol theatre, where many families with children had sought shelter and I just I can’t find the words to describe how that made me feel. I can only question why.  

Farewells at Kyiv station. Ukraine, 8 March 2022

It’s almost one month since this nightmare began and the situation gets worse every day. People in Mariupol die each day because of shelling, bombing and due to the lack of all basic needs – food, water, healthcare.

Innocent civilians struggle through unbearable conditions and hardships every day, every hour and every minute.

Just a small part of them have managed to escape, but a huge number are still there, hiding in destroyed buildings or in basements of ruined houses without any type of support from outside.

Why does all this still happen to innocent people? Until which extent will humanity let this disaster continue?

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