Yesterday (Wednesday 30 March) was an incredibly emotionally difficult day for me.
My work partner and I were tasked to go to Lviv and extract two elderly people. We arrived in good time, without having to go through as many military road blocks. We checked into the aid centre and awaited our passengers.
They were Lollet (96) years and Una (79). They approached us on foot, each carrying one well-used bag for life. They had headscarves on and wore big, heavy, woollen coats. Both appeared to be very tired, confused and looked like they had spent a number of days outside. Neither lady would accept our help to get in the car and their bags were to sit on their laps for the whole of the journey to Poland.
We set off for the Polish border and as we got through the final check point, Una began to speak. She would spend the following three hours telling their story of how they escaped from Mariupol.
I’m going continue as if I am her.
“There were only four of us left in the cellar of one of the houses in our neighbourhood. The Russian tanks had been busy through the night as usual, just breaking houses with the tanks for no reason. The younger two went out on the daily hunt for food and water, but came back ten minutes later with nothing but fear in their eyes.
They said the Russians have only left four houses standing, but they are burning, so we must leave or we will die here.
On hearing this, the four of us picked up all we could and went outside. They did not lie, our home was gone. So we all walked until we saw Russian solders. We hid under a broken tank. We stayed here until it was dark, we were very cold and hungry, but had to hide.at night we walked further out of the city, when before it got light we hid in a big bin at a broken factory.
We had only walked about three kilometres and we still have no food or anything. That night we walked out of Mariupol to a small village, hoped to get help there, but it had been destroyed too.
Lollet and I stayed in a shed to rest and the other twowent to find help. They never came back; we had been slowing them down. Now it’s just us. The night came and we walked and walked till light. We got in a ditch for the day. We felt so weak and thought we would die. But night came again so we walked all night as fast as we could and got to a town before light.
I banged on a door until someone came, he gave us water and bread, then took us to where a big bus was. We were going to be safe and live. The driver said it is full so we have to stay here. We just sat on the ground and Lollet said ” So we are going to die here”.
Two younger women from the bus spoke to the driver and came to us; they said, “Please, have our seats” and helped us on the bus. They then left.
The bus took two nights to get to Lviv and now you take us to Poland to live.”
This was the story of a 96 year old and a 79 year old as they spent eight days on the move and walked 30 kilometres out of Mariupol to get to safety.
Postscript: Lollet is now the proud owner of the new wheelchair the lads (Graham and Chris from UK4UKR) brought over at the beginning of the week. At first Lollet was very reluctant to accept the chair, but once we managed to explain that her being in the wheelchair would mean that they would receive far faster and better treatment at the reception centre she gave in. They are just very humble and proud people.