The face of war: the siege of Mariupol staged

Vinnytsia (Ukraine), Sep 23 (EFE) .- A Ukrainian theater company has staged the harrowing experiences that its members lived during the siege of the port city of Mariupol, in the southeast of the country, surrounded for three months until it was taken by the Russians last May.

“The main idea of ​​our show is to talk about our grief, the pain we carry inside and what we go through,” Oleksiy Hnatyuk, director of “The Face of War,” explains to Efe.

Hnatyuk is one of the founders of Teatro Concepción, a company that performed in Mariupol before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

He fled the city on the shores of the Black Sea at the end of March and, after arriving in kyiv, began to contact actors with whom he had worked in his hometown and who had managed to leave what was once one of the industrial centers of Ukraine.

Together they created a fresh and raw show, based on their experiences and memories of the time they spent under the incessant Russian bombardment, which they now perform on a domestic tour, although they hope to one day be able to show an international audience what they lived through during the invasion.

The performance strikes a chord with many Ukrainian viewers, and when the curtain falls on a local theater in Vinnytsia (centre) the audience bursts into applause and many break into tears.

For the actors, it is also an emotional moment.

“I thought that the more we staged the play, the easier it would be from an emotional point of view,” says Dmytro Gritsenko, an actor and TV presenter who fled Mariupol in mid-March. “But it’s not like that”.

“The story we represent is not fictitious. Unfortunately, it is not a script or a performance that one can forget when the curtain falls. It is what we and hundreds of thousands of people from Mariupol and many Ukrainians are experiencing right now,” he adds.

Remembering the siege, he explains that finding water and food was the main challenge for the survival of the population. “We drank snow, rainwater, water from heaters, boilers, puddles,” he tells Efe.

Fleeing from Mariupol, he had to pass numerous Russian checkpoints, particularly on the outskirts of the city, where he was stopped and searched once every 100 meters.

Evgeny Sosnovskiy, an amateur photographer and actor, lived near the Azovstal plant that became famous when a group of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians barricaded themselves in the steel mill in early March and held out against Russian troops for 82 days.

Sosnovskiy, who remained in Mariupol until the end of April, survived being hit by a shell that hit his mother-in-law’s home.

“Half of the house was destroyed. I was buried under the remains of the roof, under the rubble, everything fell on top of me. I stopped hearing, everything was dark and I really thought it was the end, ”explains the actor, who had been thrown out of his house by Chechen fighters and later found it burned to the ground.

During the time he spent hiding in a bomb shelter with several relatives, his brother-in-law was injured and later died. “We buried him in a garden, next to a house,” he recalls.

Mariupol, a city of strategic importance, became one of the most bombed and damaged urban centers during the Russian invasion, until its total occupation on May 20.

According to a United Nations report, 90% of residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed, and of the pre-war population of 450,000, an estimated 350,000 have fled.

The UN claims that at least 1,300 civilians lost their lives during the siege, including 70 children, although the true figure is probably much higher and according to the Ukrainian government it amounts to several tens of thousands of people.

Roman Pilipey

The face of war: the siege of Mariupol staged