As Russian bombardments devastated their hometown of Mariupol, Yevgen and Tetiana decided they had only one way to escape with their four children: on foot.
Talking Friday to AFP in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia as they waited for a train westwards, the family recounted through tears and laughter their miraculous 125-kilometre (80-mile) trek to safety.
For weeks as the bombing laid waste to Mariupol, the parents tried to prepare their children Yulia, 6, Oleksandr, 8, Anna, 10, and Ivan, 12, for the perilous journey they faced.
“We explained to them for two months, while we were in the cellar, where we would go… We prepared them for this long journey,” said Tetiana Komisarova, 40.
“They saw it as an adventure.”
Last Sunday, together with her husband Yevgen Tishchenko, a 37-year-old technician, they finally thought the time had come to make their move.
Nervously, they led the children out of their building. It was the first time they had all left together since the Russian invasion began on February 24.
Around them they found a terrifying scene of utter destruction.
“When the kids saw, they walked in silence,” Yevgen said.
“I don’t know what was going on in their heads. Maybe they too couldn’t believe that our city no longer existed.”
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