"I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the people who helped us leave the city. I hope their lives are getting better" - the story of our colleague Rehina Chulinina, who managed to evacuate from occupied Mariupol

Rehina Chulinina

Before the war, Regina Chulinina, Child Protection Field Officer, worked at the Terre des hommes Mariupol office in eastern Ukraine.

But after February 24, when Russian troops began occupying the city, it was very difficult to evacuate, due to constant shelling and bombs flying into apartment buildings every day.

We offer you to get acquainted with the story of Regina, who managed to evacuate from Mariupol to the West of Ukraine and save strength for further work, helping children and families.


For me, the morning of February 24 began with a call from my friend who said that the war has begun. I was still asleep, but at about 4 am, distant shots started, from which I woke up. I didn't pay much attention to it because the situation was the same a week before, so I considered it another provocation (12 km from my house the territory of the DNR is occupied).

Outside the window, everyone was already chaotically running and military walking. Even then, they fired on the Eastern district, which I see from the window, and turned off the water in the house. The next day, the electricity, heating, and part of the connection went out. I firmly decided that I would spend the night with friends in the city and return home during the day. But on the third day of the war I could not return, the situation did not allow.

That's how my friend and I stayed together until March 18. On the 18th we managed to get out of semi-occupied Mariupol on foot. During these days, we managed to learn how to get food and water, light a fire and cook on it, sleep in a hat and gloves, and determine how close a military plane flies to our house.

Every day we thought it could not get worse. But then gas was added to the turned off lights and water, and the windows of the apartment were knocked out by the explosion. One hit the house, then another, and we saw dead neighbors lying on the sidewalk for five days and heard a plane bombing every 15 minutes.

The lack of communication and information could have led to despair, but we managed to catch a single wave of radio broadcasting news from Ukraine. We were looking forward to the news. That's how we learned about the possibility of evacuation. I went to the first two on my own, but came back because the evacuation failed, because the shelling did not stop. The two of us have already gone to the third evacuation without much hope, but at least we can catch up to hear family and friends. We were happy with such short conversations or messages. We were supported by everyone: close and distant friends, colleagues and acquaintances. It was really inspiring!

The fourth evacuation attempt was successful. We left the city to the sounds of street fighting and mortar shelling. We walked, hoping to stop the car, but no one had room in the cabin: it was occupied either by people or things. So we went halfway, when we were lucky, and we were taken to the turn in the village. Nikolske, 20 km from Mariupol. We had to stay there for the night. So in the cold school we spent the night on two chairs. The next day, for not providing personal data, we were threatened with problems with the occupier's police. We had to flee further, so we went on foot to Mangush, 13 km from Nikolske.

We were stuck in Mangush for three long days. There was already a stable connection and the Internet, but there were problems with food. We managed to buy bread and some salted peanuts. I've already kept in touch with my colleagues who have been helping us find a driver or a car to get to safe areas. Having several options every day, none worked. We also couldn't stop the car. Even families with children were not taken. By some miracle we arrived in Berdiansk with volunteers. There they met my colleague and the three of them began to try to get to Zaporizhzhia or Dnipro. We were unsuccessful, so we had to spend the night in a shelter again. There were no more seats for us and we settled in the lobby.

The next day, closer to evening, we were lucky for the third time, and we found a driver who agreed to take us. But we didn't have time until curfew, so we stopped again at the shelter in Tokmak. Shelter was at the base of the kindergarten, where the volunteers were educators. We were extremely well received and fed. The next day we reached Dnipro.

In Dnipro, I met my mother, who managed to evacuate there earlier. From there we continued our journey together to Chernivtsi to my friends who sheltered us.

All this time, my friend and I wrote a diary, read books, listened to intermittent radio, supported each other, and joked so as not to despair or go crazy. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the people who helped us along the way. I hope their lives turn out for the best. I began to appreciate my friends and relatives immensely. I started collecting new little relics, with which I will continue to escape from all the catastrophes of life, if necessary.