Ukrainian woman describes devastation in her hometown
A Russian-language speaker from Mariupol, Tatyana Taruta is exactly who Russian President Vladimir Putin has said needs to be “liberated” from Ukraine.
Instead, Ms. Taruta said from Santa Barbara this week, Mr. Putin needs to be stopped.
Ms. Taruta, who was born and raised in Ukraine, spoke to Santa Barbara’s chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America Tuesday afternoon, describing how her hometown has been decimated by Russia’s war and how she believes the U.S. and other countries can help.
Ms. Taruta was actually supposed to be in Ukraine by now. She said she was visiting California with her husband, who is from Santa Barbara, and was expected to return to Ukraine on March 6.
But the war has prevented her from going home.
“She has a 2-year-old and was still desperate to go back, desperate to help her family, desperate to help her country,” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams said when introducing Ms. Taruta to the UNA-USA group. “She has a desperate need to make a difference during this crisis.”
Ms. Taruta described the “hell” that is now her home of Mariupol where her friends and family remain trapped without access to food, water or medication. People are praying for rain just to have water, she said.
And nowhere is safe.
Apartment buildings are bombed, there are constant gunfights in the streets, and bomb shelters are specifically targeted, she said. Civilians, including women and children, aren’t able to flee. She hasn’t heard from many of her closest friends in weeks and has no idea if they are still alive.
News reports have shown the absolute devastation and havoc the war has wreaked on Mariupol, a city of more than 400,000 people, in recent weeks. Last week, a theater where estimated hundreds of citizens were sheltering was bombed, despite the word “children” written on the outside walls.
The city is completely destroyed, Ms. Taruta said.
“Ukraine is a young democracy, and it’s the last democracy in the area,” Ms. Taruta said. “If this democracy falls, then the whole region is reigned by tyrants. This is one of the reasons why it should be important to the world that Putin is stopped.”
She emphatically added: “Nobody wants Putin there. Everybody hates Putin. They hated him before, but now it’s beyond hate. Nobody wants Russia to be in Mariupol.”
Ms. Taruta called for even stricter sanctions to be placed on Russia and Mr. Putin and advocated for all trade with Russia to be halted.
“But what’s most important right now is to stop this war,” she said.
During the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Ms. Taruta stood sentry outside State Street theaters, hoping to raise awareness about what her family and her friends are having to endure.
And she’s nowhere near ready to give up advocating for her home yet.