Ukraine nightclub owner says he evacuated more than 200 from Mariupol: ‘God protected me’


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A nightclub owner in Ukraine is claiming Tuesday to have helped evacuate more than 200 people from Mariupol in a war-battered red van, which he is planning to turn into a “monument” after the conflict with Russia ends. 

Mykhailo Puryshev, 36, said he made six daring journeys to save residents of his hometown in March before being told by a separatist soldier to not come back or risk detention and punishment, according to Reuters. 

“The bus came under shelling, a strike, mortar, rifle fire, to be honest, there are so many marks of war on it,” Puryshev told Reuters

Mykhailo Puryshev poses for selfies with people fleeing Russia’s invasion, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, in these undated photos obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.

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“The only injury I had was a glass shard in my side,” he added. “But my coat saved me and I only got a scratch. God protected me of course. My bus looked after me.” 

Puryshev, who ran a nightclub in Mariupol prior to the war, told Reuters that when he first went back to the city on March 8, it was like a “cloud of smoke, like a bonfire.” 

“The last time I went it was just ash with the black coal of buildings,” he said. 

A part of a destroyed tank and a burned vehicle sit in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 23.

A part of a destroyed tank and a burned vehicle sit in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 23.

Puryshev claims he made eight-hour drives through Russian-occupied territory to reach Mariupol, dodging mud and corpses in the road, in addition to being on alert for land mines. 

He said he first instructed his nightclub staff to set up a bomb shelter for around 200 people in its basement before rescuing them and others who had sought refuge there. 

A convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 21.

A convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 21.
(Reuters/Chingis Kondarov)

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“The scariest moment was when it would go quiet. Once, it was quiet for eight hours. We thought: that’s it, it’s over,” Puryshev told Reuters. “When [the shelling] did start again, it was so awful that the children wet themselves.” 

When the war ends, Puryshev said of the van, “We’ll turn it into a monument when we return to Mariupol.” 



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