“My name was on Russia’s kill lists,” Mariupol journalist who joined territorial defense says


First-hand accounts

Mariupol journalist Maryna, 23, had to flee Mariupol in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion in Fenruary 2022, as her name was on the Russian hit lists compiled prior to the invasion. In Kyiv, she felt that her journalistic work wasn’t enough, so she joined the local territorial defense to defend the capital amid the Russian offensive on Kyiv that was repelled only in early April.

“I didn’t want to leave Mariupol, but on the first night after the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, high-ranking people approached me and said that my name was on the hit lists compiled by Russia. They said that I had five minutes to pack my stuff,” said Maryna, a 23-year-old journalist from Mariupol.

She ran home and packed her documents, money, a few pairs of socks and underwear, pants, two sweaters, a laptop, a power bank, a flash drive, a flashlight, a knife, and her favorite pendant. And, together with her boyfriend, she left Mariupol.

Russia bombs Mariupol

A street in Mariupol, obliterated by Russian aircraft and artillery. Source.

Maryna was born in Sumy Oblast, and after graduating from school she moved to Kyiv, where she lived for five years. For the past year and a half, Maryna has lived and worked in Mariupol, where she was caught in a full-scale war. Now the young woman, together with her boyfriend and friends, are serving in the Kyiv Territorial Defense in one of the city districts.

“During the first days of the war, I hardly slept: I constantly monitored the situation and wrote news, because then I was the only person in the entire editorial office who had a stable internet connection. I understand that the information war is also a war, but I felt that it was not enough for me. Plus, I reprimanded myself for leaving Mariupol, where my friends, relatives, and my cat with newborn kittens were left. And to avoid sitting in a safe place when the fate of the country is being decided, my boyfriend and I joined the ranks of the Territorial Defense of Kyiv.”

Maryna knows how to handle guns and shoots well, her boyfriend is a paramedic. She says that even with these skills, they would not be accepted to the Territorial Defense due to the huge influx of volunteers and the lack of weapons and ammunition. They managed to get in with the help of friends from the Ukrainian scout organization Plast.

In the territorial defense, Maryna performs various tasks and goes on duty. She says that she has developed a sense of fatalism (come what may) and acceptance of the situation, because we don’t have any control over many things now.

Destroyed Russian armored convoy in Ukrainian town of Bucha. 1 March 2022. The Russo-Ukrainian War (2014-present. (Photo: Serhii Nuzhenko, RFE-RL)

Destroyed Russian armored convoy in Ukrainian town of Bucha. 1 March 2022. The Russo-Ukrainian War (2014-present. (Photo: Serhii Nuzhenko, RFE-RL)

Maryna still can’t believe that everything that happened to Mariupol today is reality. The city is surrounded by occupiers from all sides, it is constantly under fire, people have no food, water, light, heating, or communication (as of now, Russia controls most of the city, cracking down on those who managed to survive Russia’s obliteration of Mariupol: the invaders jail the Mariupol residents suspected of being pro-Ukrainian and mass deport others to Russia, – Ed.).

“They talked to us like we were criminals” – how Russian occupiers deported me from Mariupol

“It is hard to describe the whole range of emotions because you’re constantly thrown from one side of the spectrum to another, but mostly it’s anger and powerlessness. Powerlessness because there is nothing I can do to help my relatives and friends who have stayed in the cities occupied by the Russians. I’m afraid something might happen to them. We gave the keys to our apartment to a friend so that he could go to feed the cat and kittens, but there is no connection with him, just like with other Mariupol residents.”

Maryna plans to continue to serve in the territorial defense and do everything in her power to bring the victory closer. She dreams of returning to Mariupol. And of getting married after the victory.

Recorded by Yulia Kabanets. Illustrated by Karina Katsun.

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