People story


Story 13: Vlad

Vlad had been living in Mariupol before Russia’s full-scale invasion. Like other residents, he found himself trapped within the confines of the siege. In early March 2022, a devastating shelling incident destroyed his apartment, along with all his personal documents, belongings, and finances. Left with no other option, Vlad took refuge in various bomb shelters and basements, continually dodging relentless attacks.

One day, Russian soldiers found him and several others hiding in an apartment basement. They swiftly ordered the group to gather at a nearby school for intense interrogations. The next day, they were forced onto a bus that was bound for the Russian border. Vlad’s mother and grandmother were taken to a different location, leaving him in a state of constant uncertainty regarding their fate. Among the harrowing memories that remain vivid in his mind is the night he crossed the Russian border. Overcome with emotion, Vlad cried for the first time since the war began, unable to come to terms with the wrenching reality of leaving his cherished home and being uncertain about the whereabouts of his family and friends. His life has been shattered by the upheaval.

Upon arriving in Taganrog, Russia, the deportees were allowed to take showers for the first time in two weeks. It was there that Vlad found like-minded individuals, and together, they planned a daring escape to Estonia in the subsequent month of April.

Vlad’s passage through multiple grueling filtration camps was nothing less than a nightmarish descent, marked by ongoing battles with hunger, extreme cold, dehydration, and unceasing fear. Despite these adversities, he managed to document his experiences on his phone, evading the clutches of Russian authorities and preserving a crucial record of the atrocities he endured.


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