An ethnic Greek lady named Sofia from Sartana on the outskirts of the besieged city of Mariupol spoke with a journalist about the war and the situation in the Greek-founded town.
It is recalled that up to 120,000 Greeks live in Mariupol and its surrounding towns and villages, including in Sartana.
Patrick Lancaster, who describes himself as a video and photo journalist mainly covering the Ukraine war and the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, asked Sofia where they are now.
Sofia responds in Russian: “The city of Mariupol, the village of Sartana. It is a Greek village. This is the centre of it. All this you see is what we have, the destroyed buildings… Well, war is war.”
Lancaster: What happened? How was the situation a month ago compared to now?
Sofia: A month ago, everything was fine, everybody used to work, everyone somehow survived. And that’s what happened, you see.
Lancaster: Now the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia are in control here, is that right?
Sofia: As I see, it is so.
Lancaster: When were Ukrainian forces here the last time?
Sofia: It started on 24th, today it’s been a month now.
Lancaster: Ok, one month. So on the 24th the Ukrainians left, right?
Sofia: I don’t know anything. They are shelling and when it happens, we start to hide.
Lancaster: How can you understand something at that moment? Who is shooting and whom?
Sofia: We hear the shelling, we hide the children and cry. No one likes that. People are left without homes, some are left without children, some lost parents. War is no good to anyone.
Lancaster: What is the Donetsk People’s Republic to you?
Sofia: I don’t know about the DPR. I assume you know the whole history yourself. I’m not a politician.
Lancaster: Was there a referendum here eight years ago or not?
Sofia: Yes, of course there was. Most people asked for the Russian language, but they decided to Ukrainise us so that everybody speaks Ukrainian. Well, I don’t know. I’m an adult and have studied both Ukrainian and Russian at school, but I can’t speak Ukrainian all the time. It was forbidden to speak Russian in the store.
Sofia: There was some tension. Employees paid fines for not saying “Good afternoon” in Ukrainian in stores.
Lancaster: A fine?
Sofia: They paid a fine, money, for not speaking Ukrainian. The salespeople.
Lancaster: Got it.
Sofia: I can’t do it, I’m not a politician. I just go around crying and that’s it. I started to get nervous, so I went out to clean up, just for myself. You need to do something useful. I don’t know where my three granddaughters are without parents. We sent them, they were afraid, crying. And now we don’t know where our granddaughters are. It’s scary, you know? Someone can’t divide safes and bags of money, and poor people like us run and hide and just want to live. Do you understand? We are already used to the fact that there is no money, everything is expensive, we are already used to it. We just want to live.
Lancaster: Who is to blame for all this?
Sofia: I can’t answer that, I don’t know. I’m not a politician. I feel sorry for both of them. Why is it necessary to die? What for? We need to talk. We need to find a common language. We must make concessions. This is my opinion, not to kill. This is not right. I feel sorry for both of them, they are people. We’ve been friends all our lives, we’ve been together. Russians and Ukrainians.
Half of our village is also Greek, it is a Greek village. I’m Greek. So many Ukrainians live here with their families, they got married. So many Russians here. We have always lived together. I don’t understand what started here. I spoke Russian, and I am Greek myself. As I went to school, everything was in Russian, I started to learn Russian and studied English and Ukrainian.
Lancaster: Were you born in Greece?
Sofia: No I was born here. It’s all history. Queen Catherine II resettled the Greeks around the Sea of Azov. She did not want this territory to be taken by Turks, Muslims. She wanted Orthodox people here, so she settled the Greeks. They fished h ere, they built houses. All the villages around Mariupol are Greek. But we learned both Ukrainian and Russian.
Lancaster: And Greek too?
Sofia: Now they are teaching Modern Greek, not old [Byzantine] Greek. God only knows who is to blame for this and the rulers who started it. We want peace, to go and live. We are already used to having nothing. If only there was peace, but we lost that as well. Look at what we are doing now.
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