‘I’m not giving up’: Those who fled Mariupol search for clues about loved ones left behind

With no electricity or cellphone service in the city, families are forced to turn to social media to find out if loved ones are still alive.

As fears mount for the besieged city of Mariupol, friends and relatives of people still trapped there are conducting an increasingly desperate search for information.

Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment for nearly two months, leaving residents trapped with little food, clean water or medical care. There is also no electricity or functioning cellphone service, making communication all but impossible for loved ones who remain.

“I hope and I know that my mom will be all right,” said Ilya, 20, a customer service representative who fled Mariupol several weeks ago without his mother, who decided to stay. “She will be OK. She will leave that city.”

As fears mount for the besieged city of Mariupol, friends and relatives of people still trapped there are conducting an increasingly desperate search for information.

Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment for nearly two months, leaving residents trapped with little food, clean water or medical care. There is also no electricity or functioning cellphone service, making communication all but impossible for loved ones who remain.

“I hope and I know that my mom will be all right,” said Ilya, 20, a customer service representative who fled Mariupol several weeks ago without his mother, who decided to stay. “She will be OK. She will leave that city.”

Like many other Ukrainians, he is scouring social media groups like “Mariupol Search for Relatives and Loved Ones,” where a stream of photos on Facebook shows missing people posted by worried relatives. Many posts include details of where their loved ones live and were last seen in the hope somebody has information.

Some posts are updated with reassuring messages of survival; others call off the search with news that the person has died, adding to a toll that local officials say now stretches into the tens of thousands.

Nick Osychenko, 41, said he fled Mariupol with his family on March 15.

“We drove out of the city. And the worst thing I remember is dead bodies around us. So you are driving around dead bodies, dead children,” he said, speaking over Zoom from Zaporizhzhia, about three hours’ drive north of Mariupol.

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