Ukrainians flee town to escape ‘very scary’ potential nuclear disaster:’For the first time, I saw that men were afraid’ | World News

From a distance, the campsite next to a large pond in southern Ukraine looks idyllic; a little line of cars and vans, the odd tent pitched on the ground and the smell of barbequed meat.

But, up close, it soon becomes clear that this is not a holiday spot.

Instead, it is where groups of families cluster every night to escape Russian shelling against their town about 10 miles away.

“It’s terrible, very scary,” said Maryna But, 42, describing life in Marharnets. She said about a third of the buildings had been destroyed.

“There are a lot of explosions, the windows shake, even my cat runs out of the house… It’s quieter here.”

Her town sits across the river from Ukraine’s biggest nuclear plant, Zaporizhzhia, which is under Russian control.

Clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area mean a double nightmare for local residents, terrified of the war and the potential for a nuclear disaster.

Maryna and her husband, Oleksandr, have spent the past three weeks living out of their white van at night by the pond and only returning to Marharnets by day. They own a couple of shops selling building materials and feel that they must keep working despite the risk.

“We will run away from here when there is nothing left, when the town dies,” she said.

Tetiana Shumkina is camping out with her husband and three-year-old daughter
Image:
Tetiana Shumkina is camping out with her husband and three-year-old daughter

‘Mummy, what is this?’

In a blue camper van parked next to theirs is Maryna’s friend, Tetiana Shumkina, 31, with her husband and three-year-old daughter.

They, too, have been camping at this site for the past three weeks. But Tetiana, a teacher, said the Russian attacks against Marharnets had become so intense in the past three days that they are no longer going home during the day.

“It is restless, unstable,” she said.

Her little girl, Emma, has been scared by the sounds of war.

“At night, when the artillery was firing, she would wake up and ask: ‘Mummy, what is this?'” Tetiana said.

Subscribe to the Ukraine War Diaries on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

Distant thuds from the fighting could still be heard at the pond.

Tetiana held her daughter close and played games with her to keep her happy.

The young mother said she was equally frightened by the war and the possibility of a shell or rocket impacting Zaporizhzhia, triggering a radiation spillage.

“This is all bad. War is bad. People die. Children die… I can’t choose, both are terrible for me.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘We’ll push invaders to the border’

‘Even men are afraid’

A team of inspectors from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is due to visit the nuclear facility this week to check for damage and assess the safety of the infrastructure.

But the officials do not have the power to stop the fighting, which has placed the largest nuclear power plant in Europe in such jeopardy in the first place.

For Alla Shevchuk, 62, the risk has become too great.

She and her husband have been camping out of their small, red car in a field down the road from the pond, which has also attracted crowds of frightened residents from Marharnets.

“It’s scary, very scary. Even men are afraid. For the first time in my life, I saw that men were afraid,” Alla said, her eyes filling with tears and her voice breaking.

“We have a friend in the town – he was concussed. There was an explosion in broad daylight, and he went deaf… How to return there during the day? You don’t know when and where and in what place [an attack might happen]. Just terrible. Terrible.”

Tatiana
Image:
Tetiana says the area is ‘restless, unstable’

‘I’m ready to go – I’m afraid’

The couple had been driving back to their home in the town during the day to charge their phones and feed their cat, but Alla said it was becoming too dangerous.

She opened up the car boot to show a stuffed suitcase, a few bags with more belongings and a plastic bowl filled with fresh tomatoes.

“I am disabled and have to carry everything with me,” she said, pointing to her things. “It’s a shame, but that’s how we travel, with everything we need.”

Speaking on Sunday, she said she planned to catch a train on Monday to move to Poland, where her adult son was living, having decided she could not stay in Marharnets any longer. Though her husband wanted to remain in the area for now.

“I’m ready to go,” she said. “I’m afraid.”

Leave a Comment