Ukraine, on the front line in Mariupol: “Let’s save the children, then let’s go back to fighting”

from Francesco Battistini

The city still bears the marks of recent injuries, 10 kilometers from the front and 50 from Russian troops amassed beyond the border: our land, say the inhabitants, who quarrel with pro-Russians in the shops. And in the town hall fight the wifi password

from our correspondent
MARIUPOL – Vulica Klyivska, 62. We need not be told from America what the Russians can do to us. Have you seen how the facade of my building looks? There isn’t a piece of wall without bullet holes. War make-up. It took Marina German seven years to redo the make-up and perfume shop on the ground floor. And the opposite of the mini-market and the second-hand clothes shop are the same. Marina fixed the doors first, which were smashed. Then he put up the sign, For you, that a welcome for the Ukrainians and a challenge to the invader: Beautiful, huh? I’ve finally started working again! But I have to return the money to the bank. If the Russians come back to attack us, that’s enough: I shut down and go to Kiev to my sister. Beyond the counter, an indignant customer, in silence. Until he intervenes: But what does he say? I live up here. I was born there. And I don’t accept these things being said: attack by whom? In 2014 it wasn’t the Russians! it was the Ukrainian army that pierced the building!. Throw the money, enough with this propaganda !, pay and go.

Putacaso come back Putin. Say it to yourself as normal conversation in Mariupol. Arguing also, in this Ukraine that has always conversed in Russian. The front 10 km in l. The troops amassed from Moscow and the C-300s are 50 km away, in Rostov. And since September 2014, since the Russian Army rained 126 missiles on the houses of Vulica Klyivska and the eastern district of Shidny, which all intelligence in the world look at here. Mariupol locked in a vice: when Putin thought of connecting with Crimea and building the longest bridge in Europe over this Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov, in 2018, he did it on purpose 35 meters high, not one more, so as not to let us pass under the large Ukrainian ships that had to reach the coal and steel port. Mariupol a morsel: to take it, means to connect the secessionist and pro-Russian republics of Donetsk and Lugansk with the Crimean peninsula. A corridor that would reach Odessa, a ten percent of Ukraine all in the hands of the Russians, including the mines.

The war only on TV and on social networks, the mayor Vadyn Boychenko minimizes, and at the exit of Shidny the air looks like that: a lone military truck numb in the wet snow, a soldier focused on his cell phone – ya tebe liubliu, malenka, I love you baby – more than about us taking pictures. The first line of daily life and who passed the Wermacht’s Operation Barbarossa, who lived the purges of one of the most ferocious secretaries of the Stalinist Communist Party, Zdinov – who was from here and renamed the city with his name for 40 years – who saw the 30 dead and hundreds of injured in 2014, who lives in Mariupol used to these emergencies. Lazy, the mayor had the old Friesian horses softened and decorated with flowers. And he only bought the alarm sirens in December.

There are no Covid masks, let alone gas masks. And of the 1,100 Cold War bomb shelters, says MP Kateryna Sukhomlynova, we only have about twenty ready. And anyway, no one tells us how to make two hundred people stay there. We train in the first aid, this is: We teach children how to behave – the deputy is moved -, to be ready more than in 2014. Of course, we had to prepare ourselves eight years ago: now late. The Russians are over there. Few armed people. And we have a president, Zelensky, who is not up to the task. Kateryna has a 17-year-old daughter, Ieva, she shows us the photos and cries: At home I have medicines, documents, what is needed for emergencies. But if they arrive, I’ll take Ieva out of here first. And then I go back to fighting.

Resist and we will resist. the only idea. There are 4,000 people being treated in psychological support services. In the town hall, fight the password of the wi-fi. Even those who eight years ago were with the pro-Russians of the Donbass, 80 percent of the population of Mariupol, will resist, and now who knows: When they bombed us then – recalls Volodymyr, an engineer from Shidny -, my wife Lina and my children, Paulina and Diana, they were in shock. I took them and took them to Moscow. Then for I realized that this is my land. And we’re back. We will stay. The civil airport is now a military stopover, American weapons have landed from the Baltic countries, it will not be easy to take Mariupol: There is a great desire to sell the skin dearly – sure the head of the border police, Mihalo Vershynin, so young yet already a veteran of the war -. They may win us over, but how will they stay? More than a siege, I expect small military attacks. Maybe terrorism, car bombs. But yeswe know how to defend ourselves. We have gathered a large number of volunteers. And well-trained people not to panic.

In 2014, after the bombing of Mariupol, Europe took only three days to impose sanctions on Putin. This time let’s see – says the deputy Kateryna – if you will support us or if we will have to do it alone. Every morning at 9, the order, everyone public buildings and ports of call must fly the Ukrainian flag. The large Azov and Ilica steel mills – Ilica as Lenin’s patronymic, 30,000 employees – are called upon to export and pollute as always. The Kalmius River the usual sewer. Oligarch Rinat Ahmetov, the boss of the Donbass, with an annual income of 9 billion dollars, continues to be the richest man in Ukraine. The theater e the Savona cinema, which is so called due to the twinning with Liguria, they work the same. War? – liquidates Taras Bruniko, a former worker and now a taxi driver – My problem has always been to live on a salary of 600 euros. On the great central artery, Viale Della Pace, there are two cafes with the same name, Felicit: one in Russian (Stchastiye), the other in Ukrainian (Schastia). The Russian one closed for months.

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