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Supermarket becomes beacon of light for those making 'terrifying' escape from Mariupol

The Epicentre hypermarket is located in Zaporizhzhia. It’s a bizarre, but extraordinary location.

As in any supermarket-like shed, you can see people parking and grabbing food from the aisles.

Alternately, if your time has been there for the past four weeks you will have seen thousands of people in overcrowded cars pulling into the parking lot, climbing out, and staring with disbelief at the surroundings.

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This supermarket was turned into a refuge for the 60,000 fleeing southeastern areas of the country.

Image The Epicentre hypermarket is located in Zaporizhzhia
Image A supermarket has been converted into a refuge for 60,000 people fleeing the country’s southeastern regions

The journey to the Epicentre is not easy. Most people spend several days trying to reach Zaporizhzhia, their first stop in Ukrainian-controlled territory.

After weeks of living in the ruins, Mariupol residents have found a light at the supermarket.

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There are around 100,000 people still trapped in the rubble. Local government officials as well as international NGOs have failed to organize evacuation convoys.

A convoy of buses reached Berdyansk in Russia, carrying more than 2,300 people back to Zaporizhzhia. However, attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross for 54 vehicles to Mariupol were unsuccessful.

A spokesperson for the ICRC stated that the parties could not “provide the necessary security guarantees and conditions”.

Image Zaporizhzhia was their first stop on Ukrainian-controlled territory

Most people who escape are those who have taken part in their own evacuations.

Many people have cars, or know someone who does. There are also others who were driven out by volunteers.

Maria Tsimerman, a mother of two, was our guest. She has a beat-up van and a tremendous sense of duty.

She drove into Mariupol to collect the sick and injured, while also leading citizen convoys that left the city.

She is a former resident and knows what it’s like to be there.

Image A beacon of light has emerged from the supermarket.

As she got out of her van, I asked “Did your car drive into Mariupol?”

She replied “Yes”, in a matter of fact manner.

“That’s very brave.”

She added, “Yes, but not the first.”

I inquired: “Did the Russian military grant you permission to enter the city?”

“No, that was not my decision. But, when I was sitting in a shelter with my husband, my children, and my spouse, we made a promise to each other that we would help others like us.”

Image It’s believed that at least 100,000 people are still in Mariupol

Continue reading: Sky News team’s horrifying account of the violent ambush in Ukraine

Maria was kind enough to answer my questions about her recent journey.

“The military sweep is making Mariupol a very scary place. It’s terrifying to see the Chechens there, (Ramzan Kadyrov’s men).

“I drove wounded people, injured by shelling and it wasn’t easy. (Russian soldiers) checked everything and took our money and phones, so it was very uncomfortable.

She smiled, got back into the van, and Kateryna, a member of her convoy, suggested that she had something to add.

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Maria was able to get us out of our jam, but we didn’t know where to go. We drove through the minefields and under shelling.

“She is brave, and she drives by herself in front of a column male drivers.

“Could that be possible?” She inquired.


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