Escape from Mariupol
Reporting by Barbara Miller in Lviv
Refugees from the besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine are flocking to Lviv in the west of the country with harrowing accounts of the situation they left behind.
Katya Valenkova sobs as she recounts spending seven days in her basement, hiding from the bombs and fighting that creeps closer and closer to the city center.
She was without power for about 10 days, unable even to heat up soup for her toddler.
Worse still was what she saw when she emerged.
“Horrible things,” she said, shaking her head and wiping away her tears.
“Next to our house there was a ditch where they threw the bodies of people who had been killed.”
Katya managed to hang out with her daughter and her grandmother, the little girl’s great-grandmother, hitchhiking in someone’s car.
The trio eventually reached Zaporizhzhia, where they boarded a train for the 20-plus hour journey to relative safety in western Ukraine, leaving their parents behind to an unknown fate.
Anna, another resident of Mariupol arriving at the Lviv train station, also left her parents behind.
“There was no phone connection, but my dad managed to call me this morning,” she said.
“He says they are still shooting.”
Anna walked out with her son and some things.
She does not know if she will ever be able to return.
“I don’t know what will happen – basically Mariupol is no more.”
Anna is waiting in Lviv, hoping that friends from Mariupol will also arrive there.
Then they will decide what to do next.
Mothers with young children who arrive at the station with nowhere to go can spend up to 24 hours in a mother and baby room.
There are bedding on the floor, warm food and diapers for babies.
Volunteers working with local authorities will help them travel to Poland.
If they can’t pay, the freight cost will be covered for them.
Some find temporary accommodation in Lviv.
During our visit, a man walks in with a handwritten cardboard sign offering people a place to stay.
Within minutes, a small group of women and children accosted her.
The children wave to the volunteers as they tie the bags with all the things they now have and leave.