Life became suffering. Stories with pictures from the siege of Mariupol.

 Life became suffering.  Stories with pictures from the siege of Mariupol.

The house is standing. Then, in one blast, it’s gone.

Without drinking water, people dig for water in canals.

A knock on the door. The Russian soldiers ask each other, “Should we shoot him?”

It was an ordinary day in Mariupol when the first bombs began to fall in late February. People were rushing to do their work. Within a week, the Russian army had besieged the city. Water was the first to go, then electricity and cell service. When the heating was turned off, cold and fear gripped those who remained.

Life became suffering.

USA TODAY interviewed four Mariupol survivors, who shared their experiences through interviews.

Of the four, one gave extensive photographic evidence of that suffering. Others said they had turned off their mobile phones when they ran away, so as not to be seen.

The last names of the Ukrainians were withheld from their request to protect relatives and neighbors who may still be in Mariupol. The exhibits here are based on photographs provided to them, their memories, and independent research.

But the stories, translated from their language, are repeated in their own words.

In one basement, people hug each other, unable to sleep – sometimes from the cold temperature, sometimes because they are starving. In one, children start dying of thirst.

They are lucky, they are able to go, they drive past bodies on the ground, past broken lives and foreclosed homes. A Russian soldier gives a chocolate bar to people who have nothing left, who left everything behind.

And as the summer sun approaches and the ground begins to thaw, the remaining neighbors begin to bury their dead.


“Once upon a time, there was nothing. Evening came, night fell. The city was completely dark. There was no light visible anywhere. The only thing that was visible was something burning in the distance, the result of a daytime bomb.” Read more


“He slept there until the last moment. They couldn’t bury him, because it was cold, the land was frozen. There were more corpses every day. Now these people were just rushing about their work and then the shell arrived. And that’s it – there’s nobody left.” Read more


“I feel sorry for my niece because she was a beautiful girl. I didn’t see him young, he was completely innocent, an angel of a child. Two years. Death is bad for a child – death from lack of water.” Read more


“All false bodies, false bodies, false bodies. So I can’t explain it, really, it was a shock. You just walk. We walked, walked, walked along the road and they all slept on the ground. Glasses, blood and men lying.” Read more

With Karina Zaiets, Ariana Torrey, Veronica Bravo, Katelyn Ferral and Janie Haseman.

It was published



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