Mariupol family to arrive in Ireland next week

A family who spent a month in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol will arrive in Ireland as refugees next week.

Eugeniy Arsentiev, his wife Yevhenia and their children Nikita (16) and Kyrill (6) were trapped in the city from the first day of the invasion when the Russians began shelling the city which has now been destroyed.

The military airfield targeted by the Russians was about 5km from their home. “From that moment on, the sound of shelling did not stop,” he said. A day later their central heating was cut off, electricity went on March 1st, mobile communication and radio two days later. They were forced to risk their lives by cooking outside.

Mariupol has come to symbolize the full horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The city is devastated in a way no European city has been devastated since the end of the second World War. For Ukrainians it has become as much a symbol of resistance as a vital strategic asset to be held at all costs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he has conquered the city, a claim that is disputed by the Ukrainian military.

What is certain is that his troops have devastated what was once a prosperous, peaceful port city. In his insider account of the destruction of Mariupol for the Associated Press, journalist Mstyslav Chernov recalled how he watched the “last shreds of the solid middle-class city of Mariupol come apart”.

Until March 9th, the Arsentiev family lived in a windowless room in their apartment as a place of refuge. They had a lucky escape when they went to the Mariupol Drama Theater which was full and could not take anymore refugees. A week later the theater was hit by a Russian missile which killed hundreds of people.

The family on a trip to Georgia.

The family on a trip to Georgia.

On March 15th a Russian rocket hit their apartment which is at No 112 Budivelnikiv Avenue destroying their home and those around them.

After almost three weeks sheltering in the Mariupol Philharmonic building, they, along with 19 other people they knew, walked to Melekine, a village on the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov 20km west of the city.

There they were able to rent a room with electricity, water and a kitchen. They heard rumors the Russians were sending Ukrainians from Mariupol to Russia through a “filtration process”.

Ireland will be the last stop in a marathon odyssey which took them to via a land corridor to Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea, then to Rostov-on-Don in Russia, Tbilisi-Kutaisi in Georgia and finally to Cosenza in Italy. They arrive in Dublin on Wednesday and will be processed at CityWest.

Before the war, the family had a happy middle class life in Mariupol. Nikita was a national champion of Ukraine in ballroom dancing. Mr Arsentiev, who is a computer programmer and professional poker player, said they went to concerts, the theater, they rode bicycles in the Ukraine countryside, walked the promenades in the evenings, “enjoyed life and made plans”.

Mariupol was a “booming city”, he recalled, with two metallurgical giants. It was augmenting its reputation as an industrial city with its development as a cultural and tourism center.

Now it is all gone.

“We feel great emptiness. Russia took everything from us: city, home, friends. Some of them stayed in Ukraine, others went to Poland, Germany, France. Some of them we will never say ‘hello’ to again because they died. “

Video evidence has emerged of the apartment complex. All that remains is the concrete shell of what used to be a place where thousands of people lived.

Mr Arsentiev said the family had chosen Ireland as their final destination because the feedback from refugees about the country has been positive and the locals are “very hospitable”.

“I have always been impressed by Celtic culture and music. I could watch and listen to Riverdance endlessly. And Ireland was the first country to abolish visas and decide to accept Ukrainian citizens who ended up in the war zone. In addition, Ireland is an English-speaking country, “he said.

Source link