How Azovstal has become a symbol of freedom, courage, and hope for every Ukrainian
For more than two months now, Ukraine has been fighting for its freedom and independence, and one of the main symbols of this struggle has been the Azovstal metallurgical plant, which occupies about one-fifth of Mariupol, a hero city almost completely destroyed by the enemy. Today, as the invaders try to completely surround the city, the plant remains a refuge for both Ukrainian defenders and civilians hiding from Russian missiles in the metallurgical giant's bomb shelters. We tell the story of this already legendary place, which became for each of us a real reincarnation of the Zaporozhian Sich.
Today, the metallurgical giant Azovstal is the only stronghold of resistance to Russian aggression in Mariupol - the plant covers an area of 11 square kilometers, or 25 Vatican or three Central Parks in New York. The history of Azovstal began almost 100 years ago - in 1933, after the completion of the plant, the first 100 workers began to smelt iron. In 1941, the plant was shut down due to the war against Nazi Germany, but in 1943, after the liberation of Mariupol, a gradual resumption of its work began - during departure, the Germans blew up the main facilities, including blast furnaces and open-hearth furnaces. In 1945, the Azovstal enterprise was revived for the first time.
Three years after the end of the Second World War, Azovstal was transformed into a plant with a full-fledged metallurgical cycle. In the 1970s, the second stage of its development began - oxygen-converter and electric steel shops were opened. The company has become one of the leaders in the entire Ukrainian economy, which produced many unique types of metallurgical products. In 1996, Azovstal joined the Metinvest group of companies.
Until February 24, 2022, Azovstal was one of the main taxpayers of the Mariupol budget. It employed about 10,000 people, sometimes entire dynasties.
The latest history of Azovstal, as well as the whole of Ukraine, began on February 24, 2022. Since the full-scale invasion, the company's management has taken care of the safe shutdown of this industrial giant. In his address, Azovstal CEO Enver Tskvitishvili said: "Coke ovens have been shut down, temperatures have been lowered and liquid glass has been filled in to prevent the coking process from continuing and maximizing coke oven gas production. , and coke batteries do not pose any danger to the lives of Mariupol residents. "
Almost since the start of active hostilities, the territory of Azovstal has become a refuge for thousands of Mariupol residents who began to hide here from the daily Russian bombing. First, the company's warehouses were able to accommodate up to 14,000 people at a time. They were built with all the rules of civil security in the early and mid-twentieth century and could withstand the bombardment of half-ton bombs. Secondly, with the experience of 2014, the Metinvest Group has prepared 100% bomb shelters at its enterprises. Necessary stocks of food, biscuits, hygiene, and protection products for people were made, osmosis devices were purchased to be able to purify any water, and sleeping places were arranged.
Since March, the Russian army has been bombing the territory of Azovstal every day, including super-heavy three-ton bombs, and trying to storm it. Soldiers of the Azov National Guard have been declaring a critical situation in recent weeks and are constantly asking the international community for help. The situation on the territory of the plant is critical - food and water supplies are depleted, and the wounded need urgent medical intervention. "Our wounded are dying in unbearable pain every day, because medicines, disinfectants, and painkillers are long gone," said Marine Commander Major Serhiy Volyna in mid-April. It became even more difficult on Azovstal on April 28, after the enemy fired on a field hospital - part of the hospital-equipped premises, including the operating room, collapsed. This makes it impossible to help the wounded.
The situation here is changing every day - on May 1, the first optimistic news appeared that with the support of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, they managed to evacuate people from Azovstal to the territory controlled by Ukraine. On the evening of May 2, more than a hundred residents of Mariupol evacuated from the territory of Azovstal finally reached Zaporizhzhia, but, according to Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, about 200 civilians remained in hiding. As of May 3, Ukrainian defenders reported that the occupiers continued to drop bombs on the territory of Azovstal and try to enter the enterprise.
It is difficult to predict anything today, but we are convinced that the Ukrainians will definitely rebuild Azovstal, which has become a real symbol of the courage of this war. Rinat Akhmetov, the plant's owner, said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps: "I am proud that the stronghold of resistance is located at the Azovstal plant. I believe that our military will be able to defend the city and civilians will be evacuated. And I believe that the Russian military will be punished for all the crimes committed in Ukraine and Mariupol. Mariupol is the deepest tragedy and catastrophe that cannot be forgiven. "