Mariupol Resident Describes Escape From City by Sea

WDmitry Yurin stood just 100 feet from the Donetsk Regional Drama Theater. He was getting ready for his 31st Birthday at home, with his mother, when Russian forces struck. It was so strong that the explosion threw them off of their feet.

“I heard screams,” he says. “I came closer, and then I saw with my own eyes around 200 dead people.”

The Associated Press reports that more than 1,300 persons, including children and women, had taken refuge at the theater after it was attacked in March 16th. Yurin was shaken after she helped pull children and women out of the rubble. The Russian army had been occupying the city for several weeks. Thousands of residents were left without running water, electricity, or food. This was different. “I looked at my hands. They were fully covered in blood,” he says.

In that instant, he made a decision to flee Mariupol. “I did not want to stay,” he says,“I did not want to die.”

Continue reading: Mariupol: More than 5000 Civilians Killed, Mayor Says

Russia controlled the main roads into and out of the city and prevented aid and humanitarian routes from being opened to civilians fleeing heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. A keen fisherman, Yurin knew the area of Mariupol’s port well. His best option was to leave the Southeast Ukrainian capital by sea. “I crossed myself and jumped into the water.” His mother wouldn’t be able to make the journey, and didn’t want to leave their home behind.

Yurin was buoyed with a few plastic containers and he swam in freezing temperatures along Mariupol’s coast. Yurin started from Pishchanka Beach then headed west, until he arrived at Melekyne. He was concerned that freezing temperatures would cause his muscles to cramp so he tied safety pins around the neck of his neck in order to puncture his legs.

He swam for 3 hours and then stumbled out onto the water. A woman gave him tea while a man took him to Berdyansk. This city was also under Russian control. He made his way towards Western Ukraine.

Continue reading: Last Ukrainian Defenders of Mariupol Reject Russian Offer to Surrender and ‘Keep Their Lives’

With no phone or documents with him, Yurin is now in Lviv, not sure of what’s next. Yurin continues to have trouble remembering what he witnessed in Mariupol. “I don’t sleep more than an hour and a half per night,” he said in an interview in early April over Zoom. His mother is the one he worries about. “Before I left, I told her, ‘I am going to try to take you out of there,’” he says. He still hopes he’ll be able to.

Ukrainian forces continued to battle in the besieged capital as of Wednesday. According to estimates, around 100,000 people still live in the city’s encircled area and hope to be able to flee.

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