Conflicts & War

The former Azovstal administrator who believed the stricken plant was safe

By Lourdes Velasco

Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, May 7 (EFE).- As a former administrator at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, Elina Vasylivna knew the complex had vast water reserves and decided to take shelter there with her husband on March 4 when their household was left without resources. They did not reemerge until nearly two months later, when they managed to escape via a United Nations convoy.

“When we left, we couldn’t believe the state of our city,” she told Efe. “You almost couldn’t see it, it was all black. The city is now built up with scorched corpses, everything looks like petrol,” Elina added.

She managed to leave the bombed-out steel plant on May 1 thanks to a humanitarian corridor established under the auspices of the UN, which helped evacuate around 100 people. According to Ukrainian authorities, around 200 civilians remained trapped at the Azovstal plant.

Like the others taking shelter at the steel works, Elina was cut off from the outside world except for the constant sound of Russian shelling and the radio.

“The walls shook, everything shook,” Elina, in her 60s, added.

Elina was with her husband, her son and son-in-law with around 30 others in her shelter.

At first, she was relieved to arrive at the plant, thinking that it would withstand the Russian bombs.

“I was an administrator there, I knew there was a big water reserve and that it was the most important element for survival. So, we grabbed our clothes and food and took shelter.”

There was food at the shelter to begin with, but it eventually ran out.

“The food was all over the floor, mixed in with the dirt. One day my son-in-law brought biscuits that were covered in cement. We had to clean them and eat them, because if not we wouldn’t eat at all.”

They would ask for food rations from the Azov battalion, a far-right former militia that has been integrated into the security forces. The soldiers would provide the rations but her son-in-law had to walk 1.5-kilometers from the shelter each day to collect the food.

Elina said there were seven children also taking shelter in her section of the Azovstal plant.

The refugees would listen to radio broadcasts from both Russia and Ukraine.

“We listened to both sides, to see what each was saying,” she said, adding that some of the Russian civilians taking shelter at the plant believed that the pro-Russian forces bombing the complex were coming to their aid.

Elina has no plans to return to Mariupol while it remains in Russian hands.EFE


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