Anne K. Howard

What Happened in Mariupol When Russia Invaded? Here’s one Ukrainian woman’s gripping account.

Escape from Mariupol: A Survivor’s True Story tells the tale of Adoriana Marik, a Ukrainian refugee who escaped war-torn Mariupol after spending five weeks underground during the worst bombing and fighting. At the end of the book, Adoriana writes: 

The story of my escape from Mariupol and my life as a refugee is a mere grain of sand on a beach containing millions of grains: each one tells the story of an individual Ukrainian’s suffering since the first shells dropped over Mariupol on February 24, 2022. 

In this three-part series, I will tell you about the plight of another Ukrainian refugee from Mariupol. 

Diana in Mariupol

Her name is Diana, and her story is very similar to that of Adoriana’s, reminding all of us that the tragedies and human suffering in Mariupol at the start of Russia’s invasion are not fictitious, as some Russian bots would have you think. According to Ukrainian officials, at least 23,000 civilians were killed in Mariupol in the early months of Russia’s invasion. Adoriana and Diana were the lucky ones who managed to escape. However, their memories of the horrors they witnessed in Mariupol will stay with them forever.    

Tell us about your life before the war. 

💙Diana: I spent my childhood and youth in the sunny city of Mariupol, on the shores of the Azov sea. From the moment of my birth until March 29, 2022. I attended a specialized secondary school 40 named after E.M. Misko (former director of this school). I  studied in a class with a mathematical specialty. After graduating from school, I enrolled in (PSTU) “Priazovsky State Technical University” at the Faculty of Energy with a degree in “Environmental Protection Technology,” a bachelor’s course. Now I am in the 4th year of this program. Because of the time difference, I attend my remote classes at 1:30 am. Because my university was razed to the ground, it operates from the city of Dnipro at the⚐ moment.

Wow! What motivated you to go into the field of Environmental Protection? 

💛Diana: I’ve been interested in environmental engineering since my school days. My house was located next to the Azovstal steelworks and overlooked the coast of the Sea of Azov. When I admired the sea tide from the window of my house, I could feel the air pollution coming from the plant. That’s when I decided that developing a project for gas cleaning facilities was necessary. To implement this solution, I study at the university.

Diana has a passion to protect the environment

In the book, “Escape from Mariupol,” Adoriana Marik also talks about her frustration with the poor air quality in Mariupol. It’s beautiful that you devoted your studies to making the city a clean and healthy place. I’m sorry that you can no longer work to clean the air in Mariupol, but your expertise will be in high demand worldwide. Tell me about the start of Russia’s invasion. Where were you? How did you feel about it?  

💙Diana: On February 24, 2022, I was at my home and was getting ready for practice class, which was supposed to take place at the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works. But we were informed that there were rocket strikes. “War has begun” in Ukraine. Immediately the question is: “Where to run, where to seek shelter?” This photo of me was taken in my grandmother’s apartment on the first day of the invasion. 

On February 26, the trains stopped going. There was no evacuation by bus. People tried to flee in their own vehicles, but some were shot in them…

Russian soldiers knew that innocent civilians were simply trying to escape the city to get away from the shelling, and they shot at them? 

💛Diana: Yes. 

Adoriana said that the shelling was nonstop. She hid underground with her dog as neighboring buildings were razed to the ground. Did you also hide underground? 

💙Diana: Yes. Beginning March 1, we were in the basement of our apartment building, as there were constant shelling, tanks, machine guns, and later airstrikes. Everything around our building collapsed and burned, and people were killed. Every day, more and more people fled to the basement beneath our building. Since our basement was only designed for technical use and building maintenance, people brought their own chairs, on which we sat during the day and slept at night, since there was not enough room for everyone to sleep on the floor.

How did you survive in that ice-cold basement? 

💛Diana: Being in the basement, we lit the room day and night, first with candles, and later we made our own improvised lamp from oil and pieces of cloth. There was no electric power. There was no heat supply or water supply since March 1. March was cold, and the temperature dropped to 10 ° F. Even in three fur coats, it was impossible to stay warm for me. Men carried water from a broken bakery where people standing in line were often shot at and bodies of civilians were laying on the road. There was little food and very little medicine, but most of us were not seriously sick. Our one comfort was hot tea, which we boiled in the yard on bonfires.

Russian soldiers shot at innocent civilians standing in line to receive water? 

💙Diana: Yes. 

What did the apartment building look like after the heavy shelling? 

💙Diana: I have photos of the destruction of the apartment building. Every day, it incurred more damage. Here is a picture of the building in the early weeks of the invasion.   

Credit: Civilian structures were destroyed

Tell me about what it was like hiding beneath the apartment building. 

💛Diana: In the basement, I was with my family and close ones, my 83-year-old grandmother, our neighbors, and everyone from neighboring buildings in the district who could not leave were also here. Doctors living in the apartment next to ours, small children, and elderly people. Some of them died during our stay in the basement. For example, one elderly woman had a heart attack during the bombardment, and nobody was able to help her. We used the restroom in our apartment during the absence of shelling, and some people brought buckets with them. There was no contact with relatives and friends.

Thank you for sharing some of your story, Diana. In the next blog post, we’ll talk more about life underground, and how you escaped. I also want to share your Go Fund Me page so readers of this blog can make a donation to assist you in completing your online studies and making ends meet as a Ukrainian refugee presently living in America. Sláva Ukrayíni! Glory to Ukraine!

Diana’s Go Fund Me Page

For those interested in reading about another Ukrainian refugees story, visit Amazon page: