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More than six months have passed since the fighting near Mariupol ceased, the city is gradually returning to its usual peaceful life. But the wounds are too deep – outside support is needed. Therefore, thousands of volunteers from all over Russia come here to help. Details are in the Izvestia report.

Nervous road to Azov

At a volunteer warehouse in Moscow, we load the minibus to the eyeballs and at exactly nine in the evening we move out, accompanied by a black sedan, beyond the Moscow Ring Road, from the sweet north towards the south. The four men in the cars hardly know each other. To stay awake, the minibus driver quietly sings a song in an unfamiliar language. The words sound melodious without any musical accompaniment.

“It’s in Moldovan,” explains Mikhail, who is driving. The boy sings that his dad died in the war when he was only two years old. There are many words in Moldovan that are softer than in Russian. Our father is a tati.

Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

Mikhail was asked to help the volunteers on this trip. He is a believer, sings in the monastery choir and tries to live “in a divine way.” So I agreed without hesitation, although we did not know the details until the very end – where, to whom we were going. We believed that we were transporting the cargo to Melitopol. Such a conspiracy is inevitable in the context of ongoing clashes.

Bringing new life

We left the toll roads, passed the Rostov Aksai and ran into a giant traffic jam near Taganrog. Hundreds and hundreds of trucks go to the Donetsk region at night. The humanitarian mission of the trucks is indicated by the inscriptions on the awnings: “We don’t leave our own”.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

The neighbors of our Ducat, stuffed with heaters and blankets, turned out to be KamAZ trucks carrying ready-made modules for new multi-storey buildings. The box-room (approximately 3 by 4 m with a window and a doorway) protrudes a little beyond the edges of the car platform. It’s not easy to go around such a “fool”, and it’s dangerous – the road is narrow, one and a half lanes there, one and a half back, repair work almost every two kilometers. But I don’t feel like pushing next to her in a fumes and roar – time is running out. On the border with the region, another participant of the trip is waiting for us – our contact. The team goes for a breakthrough – we poke our heads into the oncoming lane. It would seem that it is impossible to survive such stress without a strong driver’s mat. But this is not Michael: he is focused, attentive, restrained, but decisive. Dive after dive, we wedge in, apologize and dive further, as Mikhail says, “with God’s help.”

Volunteer path

The informal leader of our group is the driver of the sedan Denis. He walked ahead at high speed, keeping in touch with us by phone. The first time we met was at a gas station. Agile, strong, in a tracksuit with the emblem of the Kostya Tszyu team. Broken fists and broken fingers hinted at Denis’s difficult past.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

In the Rostov region, Denis bought several packs of thin cigarettes and distributed them to us, they say, for the soldiers who come across on the way. Later, I learned from other volunteers that this guy, the father of four children, has been taking care of an orphanage in the Moscow region since 2015, and after the events in the Donbass, he decided to help those who were affected by grief. Perhaps because from a young age he himself drank grief, early remained with his brother without parents.

“Actually, my name is Dionysius, which is a Greek name. As a child, I was worried about this, the children teased. I was still thinking, well, why am I not Seryozha or Kolya, like the others … This is how Denis became, – the volunteer tells about himself.

saving red cross

At the checkpoint there is a crowd of cars heading to Novoazovsk and Mariupol. Legally, there is no longer a border here, but martial law has been introduced in the region, so transport is carefully inspected, and border guards meticulously study documents. We understand that our goal is Mariupol after all.

The sleepy construction truck driver meekly waits for his turn at the tiny window to show the officer his passport and bills of lading. A long unbuttoned jacket over a home T-shirt and shorts, slippers on his feet – the trucker obviously waited in line for more than a day. The irony of the situation is given by the inscription on his socks “the whole world is at my feet.”


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

In fact, it turned out that the world is at the feet of volunteers. It was here that the fifth companion, Vladimir Gaidarly, was waiting for us, with him the column went faster. He arrived here in the medical care carriage of the Hospital of St. Alexis. This is Vladimir’s hobby – all week he drives an ambulance in the capital, and on Thursday late in the evening the management lets him go to Mariupol. Volodya does not drive empty – colleagues fill the entire car to the ceiling with humanitarian aid (hygiene products, food, diapers, consumables, etc.). The driver rushes 1200 km into the night, and 2-3 of the most severe patients are carefully put back into the carriage to be taken to a Moscow hospital. Such is the shuttle run.

Overnight stay with a kind person

The traffic situation in the suburbs of Mariupol is much more difficult than in the Rostov region. In some places we drove on freshly laid, still warm asphalt. There is practically no lighting, except for the headlights of oncoming trucks. Suddenly, an obstacle will rise in front of us. Hit. It seems to have worked – it was a plastic part from a truck, it looks like a fender. It was only after dark that we learned that the collision had cost us the front number – it remained somewhere near Novoazovsk.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

And then the black eye sockets of the Mariupol high-rise buildings appeared – an ominous sight. We find ourselves in the private sector, where a kind person is waiting for us, who provides accommodation for volunteers and helps in every possible way to distribute assistance among the townspeople. Izvestia is yet to name him. We will only mention that he was one of the first, even during the hostilities in the city, began to help people. He evacuated the families of neighbors and acquaintances, found out the fate of the missing, shared shelter and food.

All horror in one photo

Now everything is not bad with the supply in Mariupol. On the host’s table there are fish, tomatoes with cheese, pastries.

“But there were moments at the beginning of spring when people were sincerely happy with plain water on the table. There was something to eat, but there was nothing to drink, except perhaps from a puddle,” says the owner.

He recalled a case when a neighbor brought a liter jar of clean water to one of his relatives for his birthday.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

The horror of that terrible time for him is reflected in one photograph. He holds out the phone: there is no blood, no corpses – only a sign on a peg: the same surname is repeated several times, only the dates of birth are different.

“The whole family was gone at once,” the man says and turns away.

People scurry about in ruined houses like gray shadows. It shouldn’t be like this, the locals explain to us – most likely, these are marauders. And yet, the light at the end of the tunnel is visible – the city is in full swing cleaning the streets and active construction.

“I am an optimist,” says our Mariupol guide. “But even I did not expect that the city would be taken care of with such zeal. The terrible houses in the shape of the letter “p”, where the entrances in the middle fell out, have already been removed … True, our landfill is growing, but the construction is going on day and night.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

While communication problems remain, the only operator operating in the region is not keeping up with the growing demand for SIM cards. People wait for days to get a number.

Survive by community

The mission of the National Center for Assistance to Missing and Injured Children, under whose auspices Izvestia traveled to Mariupol, reached its destination – one of the city’s churches.

“Now we will unload part of the cargo here, and then to the boarding house,” Giorgi Bulia, the coordinator, commands. He got involved in charity work after meeting Elena Milskaya, the chairman of the Center’s board of trustees. As a result, I realized that his vocation is to be useful to others. He has been doing what he loves for five years now.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

Quote author

The National Center for Missing and Injured Children was established in 2014. The main goal of the organization is to create a well-functioning system of helping children in the country. Volunteers of the center regularly donate school supplies and basic necessities to the residents of the liberated territories, and more than 2,000 children have been assisted in the six months since the beginning of the NWO. The organization also supports the mobilized and families of SVO participants.

He, along with Volodya, Mikhail and Denis, quickly fills the refectory of the small church with blankets, mattresses, heaters – this is the main thing that the townspeople asked for on the eve of winter. But it was not possible to quickly break into a boarding house for the elderly and disabled – we were invited to dinner in the temple. It so happened that on this day at the same table in the refectory they gathered on the occasion of the name day of a male parishioner and in memory of a six-year-old girl who died 40 days ago. Words were heard at the table both for health and for the repose of the soul. Parishioners say that the community helped them survive in a terrible time and remain human. Only faith and people, as the rector of the temple told us, helped a young mother survive the loss of her daughter, who died of pneumonia.


Photo: Izvestiya/Ivan Petrov

The boarding school is undergoing renovations: hundreds of new window frames are waiting in the wings near the walls of the medical building. However, the building was not damaged as badly as other objects of the city. There are elderly people lying here, many of whom look to our Volodya as a savior – he will take some of them with him to Moscow for treatment.


The back number of our minibus moved forward to the place of the lost one. And Volodya had to deliver three elderly patients to a Moscow hospital. One woman has an Ilizarov apparatus on her leg, the other has hearing problems. The third, a man with a fractured femoral neck, was to be taken from Bezymenny. Everything worked out in the end, and quickly. We said goodbye to the ambulance driver after Rostov. He turned on the service flasher and briskly rushed towards the capital.

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