January 30, 2023

Evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant arrive safely in Zaporizhzhia

3 min read

After disembarking from the buses, the evacuees headed for the tents set up by the Ukrainian government to assist them in the next part of their journey.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in a speech on Tuesday night that 156 people had reached Zaporizhiya through evacuation corridors from the plant in and around Mariupol.

He said, “I am grateful to all the people on whom the salvation of these people depended. Who agreed and who helped. I am grateful to everyone who helped people through the path of human compassion.” Provided physical mobility. “

CNN spoke to some of those who arrived.

An elderly woman who got off the bus was carrying a small amount of medicine, a plastic cup, a toothbrush, a tissue paper – things she had been going through for weeks.

“I don’t have anyone here. I don’t know where to go now,” he told CNN.

She had been sheltering underground in the azustal for weeks and was tired. She lived in the dark, and still had a flashlight around her neck. It was difficult to see in daylight.

“An immense relief.”

An evacuation convoy from the besieged Azovstal steel plant is arriving in Zaporizhzhia.

Many of the evacuees looked overwhelmed, tired, pale and thin, but they were also relieved to be safe.

Elena Tsibelchenko, a former employee of the plant, said she was in the bunker with her family from March 2 to May 1.

He survived on soup and canned food and without sweet tea – but not much, he said.

He told CNN that when he left, there were still 42 people – civilians – left in his bunker.

Talking about the bombing, Tsybulchenko said, “I never thought the earth could shake like this. It didn’t just shake, the bunker jumped and shook.”

“Mariupol was my city, but now it’s over, there’s nothing there,” he said.

Tsybulchenko said she lost a valuable family legacy, including a 150-year-old traditional embroidered dress.

“It simply came to our notice then. [Stalin’s policy of collectivization that led to the Great Famine, where millions of Ukrainians died of starvation]Deportation, World War I, World War II – it was not destroyed by the Nazis. And the fascists did not destroy Mariupol. But the Russians came and destroyed it. “

After arriving in Zaporizhzhia, the migrants get off a bus.

He said the family had three apartments. “And it all burned, everything burned.”

On the way to Zaporizhzhia, Tsybulchenko said she cried when she saw the Ukrainian flag.

Sergei Kazmenko, an employee of Azostal who has been at the plant since March 8, described the conditions in the bunker as damp and without ventilation.

“People are rotting in the basements,” he said, “… there’s dampness, no ventilation.”

“At the beginning of the war, the plant had 36 bomb shelters, but at the moment there are only a few left,” he added.

A man receives Anna Zetseva and her 6-month-old son, Svyatoslav, in the registration and processing area for internally displaced persons in Zaporizhzhia.

Kozmenko said that when he left the plant, he saw two floors of his bunker filled with badly wounded soldiers.

He said Russian soldiers searched all his belongings and examined him for tattoos. “They offered options to return to Zaporizhzhia, or to Russia, or to stay in the DPR. Some stayed in Russia. They did not force it.”

Kazmenko described a difficult journey with many stops and routes. He said the evacuees knew hundreds of people who could not join the convoy, including a shopping center outside Mariupol and about 500 people waiting in the countryside on the way.

“Seeing a 6-month-old baby playing with a haystack, his mother told me that for the first time in his life, He has succeeded in doing so. Tears of joy were shed when family members who had been stranded in different parts of the plant for two months were reunited. ”

The evacuation from Azovstal was mediated and coordinated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“It is a great relief that some of the citizens who have been suffering for weeks are now out,” ICRC President Peter Moore said Tuesday.

“The ICRC has not forgotten those who are still there, nor in other areas who are affected by hostilities or who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Wherever they are, we have no access to them. We will not give up. “

On Tuesday evening, Zelensky said he would “continue to do everything possible to get all our people out of Mariupol and Azostal. It’s difficult. But we need everyone who stays there: civilians and soldiers.”

He also accused Russian troops of failing to adhere to the ceasefire and continuing attacks on the Azustal plant.

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