To the anniversary
tragedies of destruction
Military hospital No. 555 in Mariupol is the closest to the front line. The place where wounded are sent immediately. Doctors here provide care non-stop during the day and night - from the first days of the war to the present day.
Fully equipped with modern expert medical equipment. A polyclinic, surgery, resuscitation and intensive care department, traumatology, neurology, and therapy worked there. On the basis of infectious diseases, a department for patients with coronavirus disease has been deployed. There is a dental department with a modern mobile dental office.
On July 16, 2022, the Mariupol Military Hospital No. 555 was supposed to celebrate its first anniversary. But on February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale attack on the peaceful cities of Ukraine. The hospital was located in the Kalmius district near the Ilyicha plant. Next to the “Neptune” swimming pool. The hospital received a huge number of wounded, and not only military, but also civilians. And from the very first days of the invasion, the Russian military systematically attacked the hospital buildings with all possible means - mortars, artillery and aerial bombs. They destroyed hospitals in a targeted manner, knowing that there were civilians there. Knowing that there are wounded. Knowing that people are in need of medical aid there. That is why they beat as much as they could.
On March 16, as a result of an airstrike, the last working building of the hospital was destroyed. Those who managed to survive - both doctors and wounded - relocated to the locations of the Illicha and Azovstal plants. After some time, they were captured by the Russian army. And now for almost a year military medics have been held hostage in the Russian concentration camps.
We collected testimonies of doctors who were in the hospital at that time. You should all know about Russia's crimes. No military medic should remain in captivity. We call on the international community - help save military medics from the hell of Russian captivity!
Captured military medics
It started when I woke up from a heavy explosion at 5 a.m., grabbed my phone, and heard Putin’s address. In that moment, everything became clear. To me, he was obviously saying that Russia is coming to kill the Ukrainian nation and culture.
It’s classic fascism: “We are going to establish order at your place — with military help.”
A few months ago, I was reading up on current events in social media and realized we were moving in the direction of war. So, I prepared my exit backpack — it stood nice and ready, and by the end of the day on February 24, I picked up my surgical instruments, drove out to the military hospital in the closed part of the city, and offered my help. The head of the facility knew me very well, and they were happy to have me there.
I was performing surgeries by the next day. The injured kept coming. Generally, I would work on the heavily wounded. I tried to save some people’s lives, others’ limbs, and some just needed hope that they’d get better.
At first, they would bring in only the injured soldiers. Those soldiers would be processed in an observation hall and then moved to one of three places: X-ray, patient rooms, or one of five operating tables.
When a few injured soldiers from the front lines were dropped off at once, everyone available got to work. Up to eight people would work on one soldier. First, you’d have to cut through their clothes (which is not simple, with the frost outside). Then, anesthesiologists would get to work, and then teams of surgeons.
We worked fast to not lose patients, especially at the first stage; they were coming in with low blood pressure, shock pain, and heavy bleeding. Many soldiers came with modern NATO tourniquets (that super-cool tool saved the lives of many Ukrainian soldiers in our hospital). Most of them are highly trained in how to apply those tourniquets — and applied they were, massively. Later, doctors had to sort out where tourniquets were actually needed or not.
I’ve been a surgeon for 38 years. I’ve seen a lot in my career, but so many wounded, and so severely — never. Almost all the injuries were fragmentation wounds, and all of them were different. Bomb explosions, mines, grenades. Embedded, through-and-through, single, and often multiple wounds.
Shelling tore off people’s arms and legs, so we were doing a lot of amputations. If the fragments hit the stomach we did resection, taking out part of the intestines to save a soldier’s life. Sadly, a fragment to a skull meant a bad prognosis.
There were mutilated faces. Missile fragments had turned jaws into a mixture of teeth and bones; sometimes, the fragments went through the neck.
One 20-year-old soldier had part of his larynx torn out. When they brought him in, his head was hanging down, otherwise, he would have choked on his own blood. It was a miracle he made it to the hospital. We intubated him, folded up his larynx, then he was hooked to a tracheostomy tube. And that kiddo made it! Even better, he was walking around later, hugging the medical staff. He couldn’t talk anymore, though; he lost his vocal cords.
There were serious injuries to pelvic organs. Two soldiers were brought in, fists holding pressure on their wounds. Their friends had their arms inside the pelvic wounds, stemming the blood flow. We were able to save those two.
I performed five restorative surgeries on hip and shoulder arteries. In a different situation, patients faced a risk of losing their limbs, but we managed to restore blood flow there.
Every day on the job, the circle around Mariupol tightened. Local hospitals suffered from a crazy number of injured civilians. There was a shortage of medical supplies and helping hands. Civilians kept coming when they heard our military hospital still operated. We opened the gates, let everyone in, walking or driving, and tried our best.
The need among civilians to seek out our hospital was increasing day by day.
I heard, and saw with my own eyes, brutal stories. One young woman, less than 20, was sitting in her room, reading a book. She came to us, her face covered with a shawl. I took it off, and she was missing half a nose, her upper lip, and her teeth. I restored her upper lip and fixed her nasal breathing. Everything else will require a complicated reconstruction process after the war is over.
Another time, two kids were brought in. Fragmentation injuries. An 11-year-old girl died in 20 minutes; we saved the other.
Why did it happen to them? Because they lived in Ukraine.
The war made it clear that Russians didn’t come to fight Ukrainian soldiers, but to bulldoze our land. When it came to Mariupol, all major electrical lines were destroyed first. Next, all of our water supplies were bombed. Finally, all the infrastructure and cellular towers were ruined.
Air bombing by Russian aviation intensified every day. When the city gets hit by a 500 kg bomb, every living thing in a 100-meter radius dies from the impact. All the window frames in the nine-story buildings nearby would be smashed, something would catch fire, and the trees would turn into 3–4-meter stumps. This is the horror of war in the 21st century.
Tanks were pounding from their cannons. The injured people, once in the hospital, told me that tanks were hitting 2–3 kilometers out for the sake of killing as many soldiers and civilians as they could.
One day the rear of the building next to mine was hit. The impact tore a 1.5-meter hole through the ninth floor. The outside wall was simply smashed into the building. Several apartments turned to rubble. The strike split the building in half.
My wife told me a story: She once came out of the hospital and saw a 16-year-old kid, just standing there, shaking. He was walking down the street with his dad when a bomb killed his father. My wife talked to him, comforted the kid the best she could, and went back to work.
Sometime later she came out again. The boy was bent over his father’s body on a stretcher, rubbing his hands together and asking: “What will I say to mom now… ?”
After some time, dead bodies were laying around the city.
On March 8, I happened to be on duty with the hospital chief. By then the number of casualties had increased significantly, so we talked about the first mass graves. We didn’t look for documents to confirm, we just buried people to avoid unsanitary conditions.
By this point, airstrikes were becoming more frequent, and my wife couldn’t go out anymore. The risk of death was too high.
Early in the morning on March 15, three rockets hit our hospital. One exploded in the reception area and heavily injured a soldier. The next night, on the 16th, the artillery style seemed different, and there were fewer hits from our side. That’s why, early the next morning, I decided it was time to leave the hospital.
I drove to pick up my wife, unaware of the ambush Russian soldiers had set up along the road. We noticed them later, as we took the same road to leave the city. Thank God they didn’t seem interested in us. My guess is they were waiting for an attack from our soldiers. We simply got lucky.
I stopped by my mom’s place to say goodbye. She is bedbound, and my sister looks after her.
There were no organized evacuation routes, so we had to get out on our own. To make it past multiple Russian checkpoints on the road to Tokmack, we deleted everything on our cellphones. It helped that I was a Mariupol resident — plus, I’m over 60. People my age get bothered less.
On the eve of the large-scale invasion, Olena went to Volnovakha for a rotation. For many years in a row, a reinforcement group worked there in the central district hospital: a therapist, a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse. They had one small room with minimal technical support, where they received the military. During her service in Mariupol, this was her seventh rotation to Volnovakha.
I didn’t sleep well during the night from February 23 to 24. Olena read the news until she came across the address of the President of the Russian Federation. Around 4 am, I heard an explosion, and within two hours, the first wounded arrived. The Russians fired at the checkpoints.
– We were not mentally prepared for these terrible pictures. It’s one thing when one or two people are brought in with a bullet or shrapnel wound, and it’s another thing when car after car drives up to the hospital and you realize that it’s not the end of it all. And these pools of blood… These are some kind of movie scenes. How can there be calf-deep blood in the room? And then you see them with your own eyes.
We had no idea how critical everything was, it was increasing the tension. But you couldn’t afford to get lost in this misunderstanding. I remember that we started to take off the military socks from the boys. Because we did not know how close the enemy was. And if the Russians suddenly come in now and see the wounded, then they better think that they are just civilians. The whole day of February 24 was spent on my feet. The next night they also delivered the wounded boys. Doctors from the Volnovaha hospital helped us all the time, there was no separation: these are your patients, these are all ours.
And then we were given command to return to the hospital in Mariupol. There basement there was cleared some time before hostilities. That’s all the protection. At first, only military personnel were brought to us, then, when the Russians came closer, a lot of civilians appeared. There were many injuries and therapeutic patients as well. The war doesn’t stop the blood sugar levels that require insulin injections. And when the medicines disappeared from the pharmacies, we gave people what we had from our stocks.
I will not say that I felt fear then. There was something else. It’s like you’re having a terrible dream. You feel restlessness, anxiety, you want to wake up, but you can’t. Communication with colleagues rescued. When it started rumbling outside the window, and it was already March, we joked among ourselves: “Oh, spring thunderstorms.” Black humor turns on, you try to relieve yourself and those around you. And then, at your own risk and fear, you climb to the 4th or 5th floor, look out the window and see how the city is burning, how the district where you rented an apartment is burning. But it doesn’t matter what’s left there.
And then the next thought: it’s not just fire and smoke, there are people. And it didn’t fit in his head.
— At the beginning, the hospital received about three dozen wounded people a day. Later, this figure already reached more than a hundred. A lot of faces come to mind. But the most interesting thing is that they are all remembered not bent over from pain, but with smiles. You try to help the guy, even just ask about his condition, and he will definitely smile, take his hand and say: “Let’s get through.” And you understand where you leave them, you are in your place.
Our surgeons, nurses, junior nurses did not sit around the clock. The surgeons had the size of bags under the eyes till the chin. You hug them, you say: “We will manage.” But you understand how difficult it is for them. This is not work on a conveyor belt with equipment, they have human lives in their hands. It was scary for their health, physical and moral. For them to endure, because resources are not infinite, no matter how strong a person is. Especially if there is no food, sleep and reinforcement. You come up, push him, ask if he has eaten. He stands in gloves up to his elbows in blood, and you understand that the question is stupid. And on the walkie-talkie they say that they are taking the wounded again.
Some doctors from civilian hospitals came to the hospital to help. We also had civilians. People thought that war was war, and medical institutions and churches were security.
Our windows and doors were blown out by the blast waves. We slept for a long time dressed under four blankets, trying to keep warm. But it still felt like you were sleeping outside. Generators are not eternal, there is no hot water to drink at least for a tea. Only rain and snow do not fall on the head, because the roof is still holding.
In mid-March, wounded people began to arrive from the residential area across the street. This meant that the shells were flying very close. And on March 16, one such the projectile flew to the hospital yard, aiming at the monument to the fallen military medics. Then they crashed the nearby “Neptune” pool, a huge glass structure that had been under construction for many years, and it was to be opened. It was a matter of time when he would fly specifically to the hospital.And on the same day, an aerial bomb hit the intensive care unit. Surprisingly, almost no one from the staff was injured. Even the seconded paramedic-instructor-disinfector, who was at the very epicenter of the infection. Now he is in captivity. Then Olena was able to call her mother for the last time. And further communication was very rare – only text messages with the words “alive”.
After that, the hospital began to be moved in small groups along with equipment and medicines to the Ilyich plant and Azovstal. Olena ended up at the Illich factory. “Just get into the car, and wherever it took you, there you are. And you start all over again,” she says.
On April 12, 2022, Olena was captured by the Russians. And spent more than six months there. On October 17, 2022, she returned home as part of the prisoner exchange.
On February 24, I started my duty at my 4th Mariupol hospital. At lunch, the medical director came and asked if there was anyone willing to go to the military hospital to work. I went, it was obligation for me, if not me, then who? Military hospital No. 555 is located in the Kalmius district near the Ilyich plant. Next to “Neptune” swimming pool.
I arrived at the destination, where the commander of the hospital and the commander of the department of anesthesiology and resuscitation met me, I was supposed to work there. I was told what to do. They immediately showed who was assigned to which operating room and where to stand. Explained to me different situations and options for getting out of them. The first: who and what should be done during the entry of wounded soldiers. In the military, everything is much more organized than in the civil service. So every person: a soldier of a hospital, a nurse, a doctor, a service chief is responsible for something. And in order not to disturb the other, everyone knows what he is doing in a particular situation.
In the first days, no one realized that it would be that bad, how bad it was later. The battles were still far away. On the first day, we received 20 wounded soldiers. And then it happened like this: a dozen more every next day.
Everything was remembered: Children who died, Children who were not born, young fighters who supposed to live and live..
We all lived by one long day. The work was non-stop. Medics were not enough. The wounded were constantly being brought. We managed to sleep for a few hours. Then they got up and ran on. The sense of time simply disappeared. You don’t know the number or the date. No day of the week. Due to the fact that there was no connection, the phones simply lay somewhere. And it happened like this: someone says today is Sunday. And you are surprised, as if it was only Monday.
Very quickly, absolutely all medical services that communicated with the hospital from the outside ceased to function. And so it began: all the sick, whom only someone had the opportunity to deliver, were taken to us. These are women, pregnant women, men, children. All are civilians. And all of them arrived in different, often difficult, conditions. It happened that they did not have time to see help. First of all, doctors dealt with the person who has a chance to survive. Cynically. But the war was already on our street.
When it was still possible to drive around the city more or less safely, we took the soldiers after their stabilization to other hospitals. This was called evacuation. The hospital received a huge number of wounded, and not only military, but also civilians. The staff of doctors is limited. And if we didn’t take the operated patients further, we would have run out of places in the first week of work.
In March, we went to hospital No. 3 to organize an anesthesiology service. Before the war, there was an oncology department, a children’s surgery and a maternity ward. That is, there were areas that we did not have enough of. The plan was to locate lightly injured patients who could be cared for by civilian doctors and nurses. It will be easier for us. And there will be care for a large number of patients.
On the first day we arrived there, they began to organize operating rooms in the oncology department. By nightfall, they had already done something. They lay down to rest, there was an opportunity. But they woke up from the impact of artillery. The projectile did not reach us. The windows just shattered from the shock wave. The plaster was everywhere: on the equipment, on us. We quickly started covering the windows with bags.
We have done our work. The operatives were prepared. And in three days there was an airstrike. You’ve all seen the maternity ward in pictures. It was in this 3rd hospital. And the plane bombed not only the maternity hospital, but also other buildings. Nevertheless, we have organized surgical and anesthesia services.
From the first day of the war, our hospital was shelled constantly and in different ways. One day there was shelling from mortars. Was it by accident? I will never believe it. Maybe I don’t understand many things, but shelling one hospital building with mortars, what could be a coincidence? And a few days later, an aerial bomb shelled us. The first in “Neptune” – new swimming pool in the city. The second one – in our hospital. In two minutes.
Military hospital No. 555 was in Mariupol even before the war. So they knew about it. And they destroyed us on purpose, knowing that we were there. They knew that there were wounded inside. They knew that they needed help there. That is why they beat as much as they could. Parts of the hospital buildings were constantly being bitten off.
The most unpredictable thing is an airstrike. Another bomb dropped from the plane flew to the rooms where we usually rested. It was lucky only because we were in the operating room since late at night. There was a lot of work. When it was about to end and everyone thought that they would have a little rest now, an aerial bomb landed in our rest area: the nurse’s, resident ward, where there were beds for doctors to sleep.
Mariupol was unashamedly bombed from everything: shelling from the sea, air bombs dropped from airplanes, artillery of various calibers, and mortars. Every time it’s severed limbs, torn chests and stomachs, shot heads. Everyone’s luck is different.
During the last airstrike, 4 operating tables worked simultaneously in our hospital, that is, an operation was performed on each one. There were two amputations. One soldier was operated on again. His name is Dima. He had a wound received during mortar shelling. And the ceiling, which was there before the impact the ceiling became the floor. At least 4 people remained under the rubble forever.
The plane did not stop flying around the perimeter of the hospital. It was a long time. We heard it all the time. And waited and waited for it to drop something else. Probably, if we didn’t do anything at this time, it would be difficult, and so the first goal was to take out the soldiers who cannot move on their own. And these are not just few people. This is a very large number of postoperative patients, many of whom still cannot move independently. We run, we can bend down, lie down, try to protect ourselves. And they are just on the beds. As they lay before the airstrike, they continued to lie after it and all the time the plane was circling over the hospital. And only we could take them somewhere, try to hide them. No one was left.
And in the process of this rush and analysis of debris, immediately, literally, 20 minutes after the airstrike, an extremely heavy pregnant woman was brought in at the last term of pregnancy. The woman is well-groomed. The man is next to her. He is not wounded. I start working on bringing her out of shock. In addition, she has a shrapnel wound, a fracture of the lower third of the leg with severe bleeding. To stop it, someone managed to put a tourniquet. It should only be on her feet for no more than 2 hours. Then it should be weakened.
The pregnant woman probably had the tourniquet on her leg for much longer than the permissible time. At the initial examination, it is clear that the leg will most likely be amputated. And we are empty. There is nothing left: the operating theaters are all full, the equipment is broken. Have you seen the photos of “Neptune”? Here we have the part that functioned till the end, as it looked after the airstrike.
And we only anesthetized the woman, brought her out of a state of shock, and postponed surgical treatment. Not because we wanted so much. And because we can’t do anything to her with our bare hands. The only thing we could do was to take the woman to a hospital with the first transport that appeared. As soon as they were able to, they began to prepare her for the surgery. But she began to give birth. She gave birth to a dead child. And then she died herself. And such a case is not the only one.
After the airstrike, we spent two days put back things in order. At the same time, new wounded were constantly arriving. There where was surgery activity, nothing left. We simply could not make surgeries. And then the management made a decision to evacuate. Some of the wounded soldiers were taken to Ilyich MMK, some to Azovstal, and doctors went with them. Citizens tried to leave the city on their own.
Yulia is a military medic. Her husband Anton Nedilko served in the rear guard. Both are in garrison hospital No. 555. When the war began, the couple worked without breaks for rest, so they had to take their three-year-old son to the hospital. It was impossible to leave the boy with his neighbors under daily shelling. All three were in the hospital until the moment when an aerial bomb was dropped on it.
“When everything around us started exploding on February 24, we almost stopped going out, we did it only occasionally. They were in the hospital all the time. Wounded people, both civilians and military, were brought to us from all over the city. Even children. There was no electricity or gas in the city, people were cooking outside, and at that moment something flew by. We saw people without arms or legs. From the first days of the offensive, we understood that something could also fall on us, but we had to stay in the operating rooms. All our doctors operated in body armor and helmets. We slept and ate like that. We didn’t take it off for many days,” says Yulia.
The hospital wasunder shelling for several times. After the first one, all the windows and doors were broken, glass fragments were everywhere. The wounded, among whom there were many serious ones, as well as doctors, began to be lowered into the basement.
Meanwhile, Mariupol turned into a city of death.
“You walk through the city, and there are corpses everywhere. They lie there, no one picks them up. A human was just walking down the street, something flew by. She died and remained in the same place. And so throughout Mariupol. What we saw, you won’t see even in a horror movie,” Yulia admits.
She says that in the first days of March, many hoped for evacuation, but very soon everyone realized: the city is surrounded, evacuation is impossible.
When an aerial bomb was dropped on the hospital on March 15, there were ongoing operations in it, rescuing civilians who had lost limbs.
“The ceiling simply fell, someone managed to get out from under the rubble, someone remained under it forever,” recalls Yulia.
The hospital management decided that it was impossible to provide medical care in such conditions.
“Operational facilities were destroyed, tools and equipment were destroyed. Street fights also started 300 meters from us. We had no weapons, no one guarded us. We understood that at any moment the Russians could come to us, take us prisoner or kills us,” says Yulia.
Hospital staff began taking patients to the nearest bunkers. Among them there were many heavy ones who could not move on their own. They rescued people day and night. So some ended up at Azovstal, and some at the plant named after Ilyich
“When we were going to the bunker, a man, one of the patients, approached me and said: “Where are you going with the child?” I say: “To the bunker, we have nowhere to go, everything is broken.” Then he told me not to even think about going there with the child, because we will never get out of there,” recalls Yulia.
So she decided to try to leave the city, and her husband stayed behind to help evacuate the wounded to the plant named after Ilyich
“Anton stayed, a lot depended on him, he was very worried about the sick. Three drivers remained with him. Then I found out that in the bunker they arranged bunk beds together, led the light,” says the woman.
Julia understood that she could not leave the service, but at the same time she had to save her son. Therefore, during the conversation with the commander, I did not hear any objections. She was warned that the trip could be dangerous.
“My son and I were leaving the city when we were fired upon. I went out at my own fear and risk to save the child, because I understood that everything was hopeless – the doctor recalls. — The road from Mariupol took three days. Twice came under fire. I hung white flags from the car, wrote “Children” on the glass, but they still shot at us. I was being checked by a Russian soldier at the checkpoint, and 500 meters away he was shooting at us. Mines were exploding, equipment was broken everywhere,” adds Yulia.
On April 29, Yulia learned that her husband was captured on the 12th of the same month. She has no more information. According to preliminary data, Anton and other prisoners from the plant named after Ilyichcan be detained in the Olenivsk correctional colony of the Donetsk region or in one of the pretrial detention centers of the city of Taganrog in Russia.
On February 22, we were gatheredby alarm. And we have already started living in the hospital, without going home. We had barracks regime. But no information was given that there would be an invasion. It all started on February 24, and it was very intense. We had to be ready to receive wounded patients. Therefore, from February 24, an intensive reception of wounded soldiers, civilians, adults, and children began. And we started to provide help to everyone. How did we start working? Very cohesive. This adrenaline… We had one operating room and two operating rooms: a smaller one (with one table) and a larger one (with two tables). In general, we have a two-stored building, so they began to open operating rooms on the first floor. So we had 4 operating theaters and another intensive care ward, where we took difficult patients already after surgery. And the rest of the patients are sent to the surgical department for nursing care. It was just a colossal amount of work. There were a lot of wounded. We didn’t count for sure, but it was more than 40 wounded in a day. And mostly these were severe wounds – mine-explosive injuries, limb amputations, wounds to the stomach, chest, and head. It was something terrible. When there was a second and the girls and I could talk somewhere, we had the impression that they just wanted to drown us in blood. There were so many wounded and the amount of work was so terrible that it is simply impossible to describe in words. But everyone worked very, very unitedly. Each of us knew his scope of work and everything was done very quickly. The hospital has not very wide corridors, not very large rooms, but there was a huge number of people there. And everything had to be done quickly – bring it in, take it out, put it down, place it, pick it up. The team is just great. There were more than 100 people from the hospital. From the surgical staff with the anesthesiology service, with nurses and doctors – somewhere up to 40 people. Civilian doctors also joined us. They came from different hospitals and helped us. They helped a lot. These are nurses, surgeons, and anesthesiologists. However, there were not enough hands because there were many operating tables. We needed more doctors and nurses than we had. I don’t remember the exact date when it happened, it was sometime after March 10. A bomb hit the hospital building. The intensive care unit was completely destroyed. When I walked down the corridor and, for example, opened the door where we had a dormitory, there was just a street behind the door. That is, there were no offices at all on one side. It was awful. And then a decision was made to evacuate the personnel and the wounded to the Azovstal and Illich factories. In particular, an aerial bomb was dropped in front of the main entrance to the surgical building. And we got the impression that they really knew where the hospital was. And people simply have nothing sacred. That’s all. The bodies of the fallen soldiers came and were taken away by the representatives of the units. And the civilians were taken away by their relatives. Why was it decided to split up and go to two factories? This decision was made after the bomb destructed the hospital.
In order not to risk either the personnel or the injured. So that no one dies. How did this distribution happen? It happened by itself. They just decided among themselves, I’m going there, and I’m going there. That is, it was done without thinking, it had to be done as soon as possible. We shipped the equipment that will be used to work, collected medicines, materials, and tools.
In the operating room where I worked, the windows were covered with sandbags. But during one of the operations, a bomb fell and they flew away, all the tools and materials were in the glass. Everything was thrown up by the blast wave.
In such conditions, we gathered and left for the plant.
On April 12, 2022, Olena was captured by the Russians. And spent more than six months there. On October 17, 2022, she returned home as part of the prisoner exchange.
“In the middle of March last year in Mariupol, I was seriously wounded in the stomach and leg, the enemy’s aviation carried out about 100 (!) raids on the city that day. After all, the enemy felt practically unpunished in the sky above Mariupol: we had nothing to shoot down his planes and helicopters. Therefore, daily massive (almost every five minutes) airstrikes were common practice. At a certain point, I decided to ignore them: you can’t wait out all the bombings in the shelter, and I had to do my job. That’s right, I went to one of the command posts and came under bombardment: a Su-24 fighter dropped a 250-kilogram high-explosive aerial bomb (FAG) near the place where I was.
Serhii was sent to hospital 555.
“At the 555th military hospital, it was still working then. There, I was anesthetized and operated on. The doctors performed their work very well. I sincerely thank them for this. Not far from the hospital was the “Neptune” pool, in which many civilians were hiding at that time. The next day, Russian aircraft struck the Neptune. Many people who were there were killed or injured. The wounded began to be taken to the military hospital, because it was the nearest hospital from that place. About half an hour passed, and the enemy plane also bombed the hospital. The doctor then told me that at that time in the operating room they were helping several people who had been taken from the bombed-out swimming pool. All of them died already in the operating room.
Due to the fact that the hospital was overcrowded. I was placed after the operation in the corridor. If I had been in the ward, I would probably have died. And so, the door of the ward was torn from its fastening by an explosive wave and they covered me, taking on themselves the blows of concrete fragments that flew from the walls and ceiling.
– Were you very scared then?
– No, not too much. It was much more frightening then to fly on a rotorcraft over the occupied territory.
— It turns out, you were lucky to survive twice in two days. When you heard that they would try to evacuate the wounded from Mariupol by air bridge, did you believe in the reality of this plan?
– To be honest, not very much. I will tell you about the evacuation in order. From the bombed-out hospital I was taken to Azovstal. One day, we, the wounded, were told that military helicopters would try to break into Mariupol from behind the front line, and this would give us a chance to evacuate. A date was given when this could happen. But the helicopters did not arrive that day. Like I said, we doubted it was even possible. So when they announced again that the planes would arrive tomorrow, I did not believe that they would be able to break through to us, because I knew well the operational situation around Mariupol. Fortunately, my pessimistic prediction did not come true. It is because of this—the evacuation—that I am speaking to you now. Because if I had stayed at Azovstal, I definitely would not have survived: injuries were severe, and it was very, very difficult to get medicines there.
— How was the evacuation by helicopters carried out?
— The wounded were woken up at 4 in the morning. They were taken to the site on the territory of “Azovstal”. They waited there until 6:40 (I remember everything well, because during that time there were four artillery shells on the territory of the plant, plus 4 airstrikes). We were lying in the back of the car in the open air. And here came the helicopters! I didn’t believe that they were ours until they landed. Quickly uploaded the supplies, loaded us and flew. The flight felt like a roller coaster – it was thrown in all directions. When we sat down to refuel in Zaporizhzhia, I understood: everything is OK, we broke through”