Russian warplanes bombed the Donetsk Regional Theater of Drama in the port city of Mariupol on March 16. The theater served as a shelter for about 1,300 people. A young woman named Mariia told Radio NV how she managed to escape from under the rubble of the building.
"I wasn't in the bomb shelter itself because there wasn't enough space for everyone there," Mariia said.
"At some point, people were settled in the theater itself. I was in the hall where (there is) a stage. There were up to 2,000 people (in the building). But three days before the shell fell, people had stopped waiting for the green (humanitarian) corridor (to open) and started driving out in their cars."
Mariia did not have the opportunity to evacuate, so she remained in the shelter until the airstrike.
"I have neither a driver's license nor a car – I couldn't leave. I also had two dogs and a cat at that time. Nobody wanted to take me into the car. (The animals) died in the drama theater," Mariia said.
"When the shell fell, I was in shock for several hours. I was standing on the square in front of the drama theater probably for two hours and was crying."
She said that shooting had started almost immediately again and people rushed in all directions, both to the nearest bomb shelters or houses.
"In fact, I have no family left. The dogs were part of my family. I came to my senses and realized that all I had left was a backpack with documents – no food, no money, no clothes. Nothing was keeping me in Mariupol. It didn't make sense to go to another shelter – it was bombed today, (there were) no guarantees that this would not happen at the place I went next day," Mariia said.
She tried to stop a passing car: she thought that it would be easier for her without animals. But people didn't even stop in panic.
"I turned around, went through the city to the sea, (and then) along the beach toward (the village of) Melekine, because I heard that it was safer there," Mariia noted.
"Something like a transit point was organized in Melekine where people could rest and move on. They took me there. So I gradually reached (the town of) Berdyansk by sea after four days."
The girl said that in Berdyansk, she had signed up for the evacuation queue to the city of Zaporizhzhya, but, according to her, there were too few buses sent for the number of people who wanted to leave.
"According to the list, I was supposed to be on the 20th bus. But only six buses were sent to take people out," she said.
Given her circumstances, the military nevertheless put her in a bus.
Mariia said that she is safe now.
"When I was walking, I think I was on adrenaline and didn't pay much attention to it," Mariia said.
"But in the drama theater, when there was an explosion, I received a concussion. On my way (to Zaporizhzhya), while standing up, I probably lost consciousness three times – I just fell out of reality. I arrived in Zaporizhzhya. Friends hosted me. I'm safe now."