Natalya was born in Mariupol. It’s the only place she’s ever lived.
It’s a city “one could live in,” she says.
“We had the sea. All was good. I love the sea so much. I will not see the sea ever again,” she tearfully told Euronews’ Anelise Borges.
Natalya is now safe in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and her beloved hometown is unrecognisable. Once home to over 500,000 people, the port city is in ruins after four weeks of almost non-stop Russian shelling. Natalya witnessed most of it from the basement of her home.
“It was right above our heads,” she said. “Planes would fly from 3 a.m. and every 10 minutes you would hear a plane passing. And I guess some of our defence system was nearby and they would fire, and every time they hit a target, everything shook. We were just sitting there thinking the next one is for us.”
Natalya survived 20 days without electricity, running water and very little food. Many of her neighbours weren’t so lucky. She says the house next door to hers was hit by a bomb and her neighbour was trapped under the rubble.
“Two other neighbours went to get him out and were killed by shelling,” she said.
With most humanitarian corridors failing to evacuate civilians, her son-in-law Viktor, who requested we change his name for this story, took the desperate decision to go in and take Natalya out.
He wasn’t prepared for what he saw.
“It looked like hell,” he said. “Ninety percent of the buildings were hit, half of them were burned. And then there were a lot of dogs in the street, you could see them roaming around in search for food.”
Viktor said the streets were covered in rubble and rubbish, and the skies were filled with planes. Sounds of explosions were nearly constant.
“I felt like I was in a game or something,” he said. “It was like a computer game or something. I still can’t believe it happened.”
Viktor doesn’t want to be identified because he says he’s scared of not having access to Russian-controlled areas in the coming weeks. He hopes to continue helping people on the other side.
As for Mariupol, he says he doesn’t think the city will be rebuilt.
“I’m really at a loss of what to say,” Viktor said. “But I don’t see any future there. Not at least for another 10, 20 years.”