Driving into the 'apocalypse' to save mum and dad

Driving into the 'apocalypse' to save mum and dad


22 Apr 2022 at 03:22
Driving into the 'apocalypse' to save mum and dad

As Russian forces encircled Mariupol, a Ukrainian woman undertook an extraordinary journey into the besieged city to rescue her parents. She is among a small number of people who have braved the risk of attack or abduction to drive in through front lines and a blockade. She has told the BBC of the "apocalypse" she witnessed there.

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Within days of Russia's invasion, Anastasia Pavlova understood what the war was going to mean for Ukraine. The 23-year-old escaped the bombardment of Kharkiv, a city where shelling of residential areas was "indiscriminate" - in the words of the local mayor - from the start. Anastasia and her fiance Abakelia went south, to the city of Dnipro. She felt safer here in the tower block apartment of Abakelia's family. But she agonised over the fate of her own parents, who lived on the outskirts of Mariupol.

Her mother, Oksana, had faith. She found peace in prayer, and tended the roses in their small brick-built bungalow in the Cheryomushki neighbourhood, an industrial suburb. For the 54-year-old religious studies teacher, the city is the country's most special. "It has a big name, Mariupol, named after the Virgin Mary," she explains.

But her prayers were being drowned out as Russian troops advanced.

"Day after day, shells of various calibres were flying over the roof of our small house," says Oksana. "On the fourth day of war I started to think: 'I am not going to get through this.'"