People story


Story 31: Kateryna

To flee to the Ukraine-controlled territory from Mariupol in Spring 2022 was impossible. Russian troops surrendered the city and frequently shelled evacuation routes. They only allowed to leave Mariupol to Russia controlled territories, but most often organized forcible deportation to Russia, calling it “evacuation”. Kateryna with her boyfriend and a cat had no choice, they sat in a bus heading to Taganrog, Russia. This was the only way to save their lives — to become victims of forcible deportation, captives in the aggressor’s country.

Kateryna and her boyfriend went through filtration at the Russian border. They were interrogated for 8 hours; their phones were closely inspected; they were asked for names and contacts. Then Kateryna and her boyfriend were taken to a temporary accommodation centre, a former sports school. The staff there very actively offered them to go somewhere to Nyzhnyi Novgorod because there were more places for the resettlement of the deportees; otherwise they would be taken somewhere to the north or the far east of Russia. Kateryna recalls that it was basically impossible to get out without relatives there or the help of volunteers. Deportees are left without money because hryvnias are not exchanged for rubles. Credit cards are not accepted. People can exchange money, but only if they accept a temporary protection status. This is dangerous.

People without contacts with volunteers or relatives had only the option of taking temporary protection status to get a job and earn money for a ticket back to Ukraine. Kateryna met her friend’s younger sister in the temporary accommodation centre in Tagangor. She had to accept that option and find a job to escape from Russia.

Kateryna was fortunate to have distant relatives in Russia. She contacted them and asked for help. They gave the woman some money for tickets to the Estonian border. That’s how they got there. They were once interrogated by the Russians at the border. Kateryna, her boyfriend and their cat eventually crossed it and entered EU territory. It was a relief, she recalls, to be finally away from Russia.


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