According to its own reports, the Russian army has yesterday, 8 March, put in place a new ceasefire in Ukraine and has opened “humanitarian corridors” for five cities. One of them is Mariupol, a port on the Azov Sea which is besieged by Russian troops. There have already been four attempts to evacuate the city, and many people were able to leave at the weekend.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has long-term partners in Mariupol, including the Pauline Fathers. Since 3 March ACN had not heard from them. Only on Sunday did one of the priests, Fr Pavlo, get in touch. They came out of Mariupol on Saturday evening in a convoy of 100 cars. They are still on the road and haven’t yet now arrived in a safer place. However, the priests have lived through an inferno. ACN would like to share this testimony from Fr Pavlo, to encourage people to pray for, and help, people in the war area.
“Mariupol is like Armageddon. It is hell. Please tell the world: it is a tragedy. There is just shooting at random. The whole town is like one big battlefield. Everywhere bombs are falling. Everywhere you just hear shooting. Mariupol is a city surrounded by the Russian army. The people are just sitting in their basements.”
“We could hardly sleep. Nobody could sleep. Our whole bodies ached from all the bomb attacks. I had set up a shelter in a corner – that was where I lived, so to speak. We were all scared. Our monastery was being built with the help of Aid to the Church in Need and the building was not yet complete.
Unfortunately, we had no basement. Recently we also had no electricity, no water and nothing to eat…only the supplies which we had brought with us. For two days I just had a tin: when you are going through something like this, you don’t feel hungry. You can survive without food, but not without water. People left their houses looking for water, and as a result many of them died brutal deaths. Walking in the street in Mariupol amounted to suicide. We said to the faithful that they should stay at home and that we would not celebrate any Masses, because it was too dangerous.”
On Saturday we formed a convoy of 100 cars and wanted to leave the city. The soldiers at all the checkpoints let us through until the separatists from the so-called Republic of Donetsk stopped us. We weren’t allowed to go any further, but they let us seek refuge in a little village. After that there were more detours. We had pregnant women and children with us. I can’t forget the picture of a pregnant woman on her knees, begging the separatists to let us through, but they refused.”
“You can’t imagine all the things we saw out there. They’re pictures you can’t forget: all over the place everything destroyed by bombs, and sometimes having to drive around bodies which were lying in the way. This tragedy cries to heaven!”
“We are now out of the city. Everyone tried to save their own life and get to a safe place, but what happens to the people who can’t and are still in Mariupol? With many people we have no contact: we have no idea where they are and who is still alive. Mariupol is a city surrounded by the Russian army. Dear God, when will this whole thing end? Pray for us.”