‘Better dead than in captivity’, the sad consolation of the mother of a soldier who died in Azovstal – News

For more than two months, Iryna Yegorchenko prayed that her son Artiom, one of the Ukrainian soldiers defending the great Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, the last stronghold of resistance surrounded by Russian forces, would escape the war unscathed. But on Wednesday (11), the news of the boy’s death arrived like a thunderbolt.

Read too: ‘I don’t want to be the widow of a posthumous hero’, says wife of soldier who resists in steel mill

Devastated, Iryna says that despite the pain, she felt a form of relief: at least her son, who was 22 years old, will not be captured by the Russians.

He also won’t suffer from hunger or the wounds of war like many of his peers.

“I suddenly felt relieved. It’s easier to know that your child is dead than to know that he is in captivity, injured or starving,” explains the 43-year-old woman, who lives in Kiev, interviewed by phone.


With all the civilians evacuated after a UN and Red Cross mission, only combatants entrenched in a labyrinth of endless galleries and Soviet-era bunkers remain at the Azovstal steel mill.

On the surface, the Russians control virtually the entire port city on the Sea of ​​Azov.

Read too: Learn how Ukrainians are taking shelter from Russian attacks on former steel mills

Artiom, a tough-looking young man and boxing fan, sought refuge at the steel mill in early March. He spent 74 days with Telegram and Instagram as the only means of communication abroad.

“They weren’t allowed to call. Sometimes I just wrote a ‘+’ when I asked if I was still alive,” said Iryna, a psychologist, who also has a 20-year-old daughter and two adopted children, ages 9 and 6.


Artiom always claimed he was fine. The mother, however, says she noticed he was more honest with his friends. “He wrote them that his days were numbered, that he would not escape,” he declared, not holding back tears.

In the reports, he claimed that some colleagues died every day and that Russian tanks had managed to enter the industrial complex.

The soldier last spoke to his mother on May 7. She was out of contact with him until May 11, when she received a message: her son had died in a cinder block collapse.

“At least he didn’t suffer. Everything happened very quickly. He’s with God”, he consoles himself.

His concern now is the fate of the other soldiers locked up in Azovstal, those who are seriously injured or at risk of capture.

After weeks of fierce fighting, soldiers entrenched in Azovstal, including members of the Azov battalion, intensify desperate pleas for help on social media.

This week, one of its commanders, Serguei Volyna, described living conditions inside the steel mill as “inhumane”.

“Every minute, a new life is lost,” he said.

He appealed to Pope Francis, Western leaders and even billionaire Elon Musk for soldiers to have “immediate” help. The requests are repeated by the families of the Ukrainian fighters.

“My son is in the hell of Azovstal,” said on Thursday (12) Yevguen Sukharikov, father of a member of the Azov battalion, who fears a “massacre” if the soldiers are not withdrawn.

“Or do we take the risk [de salvá-los] or the whole world will watch their death,” Sukharikov insisted.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Thursday that negotiations with Moscow for a withdrawal had failed.

“They only propose surrender. Our young people will not accept to lay down their arms,” ​​declared the political leader, who is awaiting at least one operation to remove the soldiers in serious condition.

The city of Mariupol and the steel mill Azovstal became symbols of the resistance of Ukrainian troops against the Russian invaders. And for Iryna Yegorchenko the death of her son defending the country is a source of pride.

“He lived a good life, protected his own. He won a place in paradise,” said the mother.

Iryna doesn’t know if she’ll be able to recover Artiom’s body after the fighting. But she doesn’t want to see her son in a coffin.

“It hurts physically to know that he is not with us. I would like to see what his future would be like if this war had not started, what my grandchildren would have been like”, he laments.


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