In early 2022, life in the port city of Mariupol, Ukraine was safe and predictable for Adoriana Marik. The 31-year-old tattoo artist loved walking her dog by the seaside and meeting friends at cafes and public gardens. But all that changed on February 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation.”
Adoriana was forced to hide in a filthy network of basements and underground tunnels. For more than a month, under deafening round-the-clock bombardment, she huddled with little food or water, and no heat, surrounded by groans from the sick and the smell of death. She decided to escape.
ESCAPE FROM MARIUPOL: A Survivor’s True Story is the tale of her perilous journey to freedom, an incredible tale of a brave young woman’s indomitable will to survive. As told to award-winning author Anne K. Howard, the book is a must-read for those who appreciate tales of extraordinary courage.
From the Book
'Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1
I went to bed on the evening of February 23, 2022, sedated by the tapping of freezing rain against the windowpanes and the eerie silence that the city curfew brought to the streets below. At about 4:00 a.m., after a month of rattling his saber, President Vladimir Putin made good on his threat to attack his peaceful neighbor. I awoke to the sound of several powerful explosions. My friend Luda immediately phoned me.
“Did you hear the explosions?” she frantically asked. “Has the war begun? What to do?”
I told Luda that I would go to her and together we would decide what to do next. I had to act quickly. I was in flight or fight mode, like an animal in the forest running away from an unseen predator. In the space of a few seconds, I leashed Yola and threw documents and dog food into my backpack. I stumbled out of the apartment building, pure terror racing through my mind. My skin was covered in goosebumps as I experienced a nauseating feeling of inevitability. Brace yourself, I thought, do whatever you can to survive.
In the dimly lit streets, panic-stricken drivers violated the rules instructing residents to stay within city limits. In the distance, hundreds of cars congested the highway in the direction of the exit leading out of the city. The traffic jam stretched for several kilometers. It was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. As I tore down the sidewalk in the direction of Luda’s apartment, cars chaotically whizzed past at high speed, failing to brake for stop signs and red lights. Who cared about abiding by the rules when the sky was on fire?
It was a terrible night, a night when those of us that were still alive lost all hope that we would survive future attacks. In the street above, the screams of people trapped inside the bombed-out shelter reverberated for hours. At some point, what remained of the building caught fire. All of the people that were pinned down by the mountain of debris perished in terrible agony. By morning, the screams went silent.
Some of the injured people that fled the bombed-out shelter went on to die slow, agonizing deaths. We could not take their corpses out into the street. We slept next to them. As days passed, the corpses began to rot, emitting a putrid odor smelling like fruity feces and spoiled meat. The unholy scent made us gag. All hope was lost. Would we be among the dead in the days to come?
Though I was completely exhausted, I rarely slept due to the ceaseless bombing. Imagine what it would sound like if a fast-moving train crashed into your house followed by another train crashing into your neighbor’s house, and you will understand how powerful the booming was-- day after day, night after night.