Here is a surprising story of a man. To everyone’s surprise, Igor Pedin, 61, managed to leave Mariupol, a strategically critical region in southeastern Ukraine under siege by Russian troops since early March, to walk 225 km to Zaporizhzhia accompanied by his dog amid risks of bombardment and civilian massacre.
Igor Pedin, a former cook, made the headlines on the Guardian on Friday. With the city of Mariupol under missile attack, he ended up with no food nor drinking water. In April 23, he decided to set off with a sack filled with everyday supplies holding his nine-year-old dog Zhu-Zhu in his arms. Roads were partly dented and destroyed amid fierce battles with dead bodies laid down on his way. Every time armored vehicles passed by him in blasts of explosion, he trembled with fear but persistently walked onward to safety.
Pedin arrived in a town in Nikolske, 20 kilometers away from his city on his first day. Quitting drinking 15 years ago, he could not refuse to have shots of vodka in front of a father who lost a 16-year-old son to Russian troops, saying that he buried his dead son in the ground on that day.
Afterwards, Pedin had to pass through numerous checkpoints until he got Zaporizhzhia. He was taken forcibly by soldiers somewhere else and blackmailed too often. He made excuses at a notoriously strict checkpoint run by Chechens by saying that he was on his way to Zaporizhzhia to treat his stomach ulcer.
When he was on a bridge that he had to cross over to get Zaporizhzhia, he could have fallen 30 meters and died as the bridge was found partially destroyed. After reaching the other side of the bridge successfully, he encountered a crossroads but had no idea which path he should take. All of a sudden, a truck approached Pedin to drive him for two hours to the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia from which he could see the national flag of Ukraine. The truck driver who remained speechless behind the steering wheel crossed his fingers and handed him 1,000 Ukrainian hryvnia or 50,000 won when he dropped Pedin at the destination city.
Pedin walked into a tent, filled with volunteers, and said that he came from Mariupol, drawing attention from everyone else in the tent. “I suppose it was my moment of glory,” he recalled.