An American independent journalist covering the war in Ukraine described witnessing a humanitarian crisis as he embarked on a 20-hour journey to get out of the country, finding himself with no other option as Russia invaded.
“It’s a disaster,” Manny Marotta told WHD News.
Thursday morning, Marotta “woke up to the sound of air raid sirens and the announcement on loudspeakers that bombing might commence soon.” It was then that he and another foreign journalist began looking for ways out of the country.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Thursday, sparking a war that officials have said already killed hundreds of people. Overnight Friday, street fighting broke out in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, where Russian troops closed in. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused an offer from the U.S. to ensure his evacuation, saying, “the fight is here.”
After discovering there were no trains, buses or car rental services, Marotta and his roommate “set out on foot west because we considered that to be our only option.”
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“Our first sign of trouble was that we started hitting gas stations with no gas and tons of cars parked outside,” Marotta, speaking from a hostel in southeast Poland, told WHD News.
Marotta, 25, said it was “tragic” watching people, young and old, abandon their vehicles, carrying everything they had with them.
Next, Marotta described encountering Ukrainian army soldiers, who were announcing that Zelenskyy had declared men ages 18-60 be conscripted, blocking those Ukrainian men from leaving the country.
It was “terrifying” for “every 18-60-year-old man going to the front,” Marotta said. They begged.
“Look, I have kids, please don’t make me do this,” some men pleaded. But ultimately, the men had no choice but to stay and fight a war that could “probably kill them,” Marotta told WHD News.
There were a lot of “heartfelt, emotional goodbyes. Kids crying because their dad was gone,” he said.
“Kids barely old enough to be adults, and all these old people becoming a part of the Ukrainian army all at once to try and fight the Russians, but at the cost of tearing apart families,” Marotta explained.
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Marotta told WHD News, “The world needs to be aware of the humanitarian crisis happening in Ukraine right now. There are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians at the border suffering.”
“Out in the cold, no food, water, toilet, ability to check the internet, charge phones, communicate,” Marotta continued.
“I know that because I was doing it last night,” he said.