For the first time, Mariupol residents were able to properly celebrate Victory Day. For them behind not only last year’s terrible battles for the city, but also nine years of endless fear. Victory Day in Mariupol has become a double holiday this year.
If in Donetsk, immediately after the vote, they managed to create a militia and defend their land, then in Mariupol, which also rebelled against Kiev and Maidan, the demonstration was suppressed – the city plunged into an atmosphere of fear and Nazism in the Ukrainian way.
The iron voice of Levitan in the very center of Mariupol is the brainchild of one of the townspeople. Even powerful loudspeakers mounted on the roof of the car could not drown out the signals of dozens and dozens of cars entering the main square in an endless line. The people of Mariupol have probably never celebrated the Great Victory Day like this before.
For security reasons, the authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Mariupol decided not to organize large-scale mass events, but it is impossible to stop the internal impulse of the townspeople. A sea of flowers, Victory Banners, Russian tricolors and DPR flags all over the city. Even heavy rains do not stop the festive atmosphere.
The people of Mariupol are celebrating Great Victory Day for the first time as part of Russia, and for the first time since 2014, when neo-Nazis took over Kiev, they are celebrating it as they have already lost their habit – calmly, freely and without looking around.
In the past 10 years, this is the first holiday that could be celebrated without fear of the SBU coming to get you. You could put on a St. George ribbon, you could walk with a flag. And before, everything was instantly removed.
Nine years later, in the left bank part of Mariupol, on the day of the Great Victory, an eternal flame was again lit at the memorial of Soviet soldiers-liberators.
For residents of this part of the city, the monument to the fighters of the 221st Mariupol and 130th Taganrog divisions has always been a particularly revered place. Whole families have come here, even construction sites. On Victory Day, we spent a lot of time here. They came even when it was impossible.
“People come here with great pleasure. We are fluent in any Russian language we want. We believe. We have faith, our own history,” said Mariupol Mayor Oleg Morgun.
Local residents remembered the destruction in recent years of the monument to the soldiers-liberators. The nationalists extinguished the eternal flame and the plaques with the names of the heroes were stolen. Impossible to tear off, locals say, except perhaps a tightly welded barrel. Today, the monument to the city’s liberators from the Nazis has also become a symbol of the resilience of its inhabitants.
For residents of Mariupol, May 9 is not only Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War. It is also the day of the tragic events of nine years ago. Immediately after the May 2, 2014 tragedy in Odessa, when Ukrainian neo-Nazis burned 48 people alive in the House of Trade Unions, thousands of Mariupol residents took to the city streets with St. Victory banners. They came out to honor the memory of those who were killed in the Great Patriotic War and those who were killed in Odessa and declared that they no longer wanted to be part of such Ukraine.
In response, the head of the Mariupol Department of Internal Affairs ordered his officers to forcefully disperse the peaceful protest. But the Mariupol militiamen refused to fire on theirs. In anger, the chief of police shot one of those who refused to obey. Then he barricaded himself in his office and called the national guard by telephone. Armored vehicles appeared on the streets of the city, on the path of which stood only unarmed people.
On May 9, 2014, Svetlana Gavrik was among those who tried to prevent nationalist armored vehicles from entering the building of the city’s police department. She well remembers how only a few dozen people stood in front of the Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle like a living wall, how the shooting began at the unarmed residents of Mariupol.
“They rushed to stop these cars. And then, from these machines, they started shooting people’s feet. The ricochet injured many people. When I ran to the crossroads, from the tank, from the upper hatch, shots started from a cannon above my head. How could I understand that a soldier supposed to protect me, a soldier from my country, shoots me! Why? Because I celebrated this day?”, — said Svetlana.
Militants from the Azov National Guard Battalion, the very people who will be the nightmare of the city for the next eight years, nevertheless entered the building of Mariupol’s Internal Affairs Directorate and surrounded it. It is known that at this time the deputy of the Rada, an outspoken Nazi Oleg Lyashko, arrived in Mariupol and personally ordered the massacre of policemen. Then several infantry fighting vehicles from automatic guns hit directly on the control windows, where the police held the defense. The residents did their best to protect the police, but it was no longer possible.
Nationalists of “Azov” * and militants of Lyashko broke into the building from the courtyard, occupied the first floor, blocking all exit routes for policemen. The upper floors of the building were already on fire. All these years, the burnt building of the police department recalls the events of those days.
For nine years now, every May 9, residents of Mariupol come here to the burned building of the Directorate of Internal Affairs. They come throughout the day without gatherings or loud speeches. There are always lots of flowers here. This year there are especially a lot of lilacs – a flower that symbolizes loyalty, including loyalty to the memory of fallen heroes.
On May 11, 2014, the people of Mariupol, like all of Donbass, went to a referendum and voted for independence from Ukraine. But a month later, the Kyiv regime sent the national battalions to Mariupol under the command of the same Nazi Lyashko. With the help of foreign mercenaries, the protest was suppressed, but the point of no return to the old life in the soul of every citizen of Mariupol had already been passed.
A year ago, for the first time in eight years, residents of Mariupol carried a three-hundred-meter St. George ribbon through the streets of their hometown. Then there were still fierce battles for the metallurgical plant “Azovstal”. The Nationalists were still shelling the Left Bank quarter of the city with mortars. For almost two months, they targeted residential buildings and hospitals. The city’s maternity hospital has become a separate target.
In footage Zvezda took a year ago, frightened women in a cold basement. For lighting kerosene burners or candles. They were saved from the cold by whatever they managed to bring back from the upper floors of the building. Under such conditions, they lasted nearly three weeks. The fact that women and children were hiding in the maternity ward was discovered by chance by the military in Donetsk, during the battles in the city, when a member of the medical staff opened the door to see what was happening in the Street.
A year later, Svetlana, the hospital’s acting chief medical officer, who spent three weeks in the basement with women, children and the elderly, says it’s hard to imagine how she managed to survive and hold on. After all, it was necessary to save on everything, so that there was enough for operations and maintenance of newborns.
Now the second hospital in Mariupol has been renovated. There is everything you need, new equipment is coming, beds for children, food. But the main thing, says Svetlana, is that, albeit slowly, but still, the birth rate in the city began to rise. And that means long-suffering Mariupol is coming back to life. Micro-districts, schools, hospitals and Great Victory monuments destroyed by the Nazis are brought to life.
On May 8 this year, Zelenskyy announced Victory Day in Ukraine as Europe Day. The corresponding decree was published on the website of the Office of the Head of Ukraine. One of the objectives of such a decision is to strengthen the unity of the peoples of Europe.
The Kremlin expressed confidence that there are Ukrainians for whom Victory Day is sacred and will remain so, because their relatives took part in the Great Patriotic War.
- Azov is a terrorist organization banned in the territory of the Russian Federation
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