“20 days of the war, 14 days without any communications, 12 days in the hospital, 4 of which we were held captive by the Russian ‘liberators’” — Olena from Mariupol
In 2014 Olena Filimonova fled the war in Donbas, and in February 2022 she woke up from explosions in her town Mariupol.
After Mariupol was encircled and completely cut off from the world, she decided to stay and help in a local hospital for a few days with her husband where he had been working. They took only their backpacks with documents, laptops, valuables, and spare clothes: “We were sure we would return home…”.
The girl recalls that in a few days it became clear that going outside was too dangerous because of constant shelling and bombing.
“The location of the fighting we were finding out not from the news, but from the stories of wounded who were brought to us. I have never seen anything like that: it was a meat grinder, you can’t say otherwise. So many people died. The corpses were taken from the hospital 30 bodies at a time and buried in a mass grave,” Olena said.
They were sitting in the dark almost 24/7. It was getting colder every day, not because of the weather outside, but because there were fewer and fewer windows and walls every day as the hospital where Olena and her husband were staying also came under fire.
“Once we have woken up being already held captive by the Russian occupiers. They were walking in the hospital corridors. The “liberators” placed their tanks and soldiers on the territory of the hospital and were making a human shield out of people to prevent the Ukrainian Army from hitting them. […] Living people were labeled: X — no chance, O — still alive. People X were planned to be taken to the broken reception room and left to die there,” Olena continues.
Olena still does not believe that they escaped: “We took a risk, although we knew that route was mined. While we were leaving the city, I was looking at the ruins and crying. The looters were taking the last food out of the closed warehouses, and the corpses of the Ukrainian military were laying on the roads. We had nothing but documents, laptops, and money. Everything was left at home. Do I feel sorry for that? Of course! We have been building our home for 8 years. But at the same time, I understand that this is a meager payment for our lives and health,” said Olena Filimonova.