A 59-year-old Ukrainian woman spoke of the harrowing ordeal of spending weeks in a “filtration camp” after leaving her home in war-ravaged Mariupol.
The woman, identified as Olena, said a Russian officer ordered her to remove her top while she was in the filter camp in Nikolske, a city in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).
Olena was shocked when the Russian officer claimed that the bruises on her shoulders could mean she was a sniper.
‘I told him I will be 60 in August. How could I be a sniper?” she told The Guardian.
The officer didn’t seem to care what Olena had to say.
“I’m not wearing my glasses anyway,” he is said to have told her. “Take off your top now.”
After fleeing Mariupol, Olena had to sleep hungry and cold on the floor in the camp for three weeks before it was her turn to be questioned by Russian officers, according to Business Insider. She is currently in Georgia, along with thousands of other Ukrainians who had to arrive in Russia before they could travel to Georgia.
These Ukrainians were unable to flee the Russian-occupied towns by moving west into areas still under Ukrainian control. So, having no other choice, they had to move east and into Russia to escape the fighting. In order to enter the country, they first had to be processed in these filter camps and were examined for possible links to Ukrainian nationalist groups.
Russian officers would photograph the Ukrainians, interrogate them, take their fingerprints and analyze the contents of their phones. The Ukrainians are also being questioned about whether they or anyone they know served in the Ukrainian military.
The filtration process ends if one can “pass” the interrogation. They are then reportedly given a stamped piece of paper with the date of their filtration. If they don’t “fit”, they should be questioned further.
Men in the filter camps are also ordered to strip down to their underwear for each Ukrainian insignia.
Olena recalled how during her interrogation a man at the table next to her was questioned for a key ring bearing the image of the Ukrainian coat of arms. The man was then brutally beaten with batons by four guards, who kicked him in the head before dumping him outside. The man did not have a coat or hat because he was thrown outside into the freezing cold.
Olena, who was traveling with her 65-year-old sister Tamara and 70-year-old brother-in-law, said they had one meal a day in the cafeteria for the first few days. The Russians later closed the cafeteria and ordered them to find their own way to feed themselves.
While Olena is now safe in Tbilisi, Georgia, she said her goddaughter is still in Mariupol.
She “sent me pictures with crosses all over the ground. The graves are even in our courtyards,” Olena told The Guardian. “I want to go home, but that means somewhere in Ukraine is not occupied by Russians.”