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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Searching For Marianna, A Pregnant Doctor From Mariupol Held Captive By The Russians

We’ve heard about the plight of the soldiers-turned-prisoners from Mariupol. Here are some traces of the disturbing fate of a young female doctor who’s been taken away.

Photo of a paper dove reading "Mariupol" at a shelter of the Ya Dopomozhu NGO center for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

A paper dove reads "Mariupol" at a shelter for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

Paweł Smoleński

"Wait for me, because I will return…"

Marianna Mamonova wrote these words to her family, among the text messages and short phone calls that are the only remaining fragments used to piece together her recent past. We also have a photo of her, posted on Russian websites, where she looks into the lens, gaunt and exhausted, signed with a number like a concentration camp prisoner.

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Until the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mamonova’s biography was available to anyone who wanted to know. She was born in 1991, studied at the Ternopil Medical University, and later at the Kyiv Military Academy. After completing her studies, she was sent to work in the coastal city of Berdiansk. Her mother says that this is where her daughter's dream came true: She’d always wanted to be a military doctor, and worked in Berdiansk for three years, receiving the rank of officer in the Ukrainian army.

Beginning in 2014, she’d worked stints as a front-line doctor in the Donbas region, and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February she went to war again. This time in Mariupol.

She worked at a military hospital, where buildings were marked with huge Red Cross signs visible from the air. For the Russians, it helped point them where to drop their bombs. As the siege continued, army medics were deployed at the Ilyich metallurgical plant (where Marianna went) and to the Azovstal steel plant. They took the wounded and the sick with them, caring for thousands of patients, soldiers, and civilians for weeks.

Cry and pull yourself together

Marianna wrote to her siblings and parents that the horrors of Donbas were nothing compared to what was happening inside Mariupol. The new experience had surpassed her comprehension of war, and repeated Russian crimes weighed on her psyche.

"Every time I go to bed, I think about my family and cry,” she wrote. “After a moment, I pull myself together and get back to work."

I pull myself together and get back to work.

She worked with the wounded in the field hospital, and at night went out on the streets to look for victims of the latest raids. When dying of exhaustion or from wounds that could only be calmed before death, she attached – like other Mariupol doctors – ribbons with information so that their loved ones could find them and identify them.

"If I come back alive, my life will change dramatically,” she wrote to loved ones in a message. “I know how much each slice of bread and bottle of water is worth to survive or save others from hunger or thirst. Wait for me..."

Ukrainian medics

Two volunteers help an elderly woman get off a Red Cross bus after she was evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhia on May 8.

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Moscow’s trap

Subsequent texts indicate that Marianna — despite her past frontline experience — was struggling with her mental health. The information grows more and more fragmented, coming from a brave woman who understands that she has chosen a path with a dead end; She is both deeply afraid and intent on keeping the fidelity of her oath and mission as a physician.

At one moment, she had an opportunity to escape from the besieged city where 20,000 civilians had already died, but she declined. In the middle of April, the Russians cut off the Ilyich shelter from Mariupol, and the shelter became a trap.

In the last SMS to the family, she wrote that the situation was getting worse, but tries to hunker down together with other doctors and nurses. Around that same time, Marianna had realized that she was pregnant, although she could not confirm this with a medical examination.

Babies taken away

According to the calendar, she is in the seventh month of her pregnancy, soon to give birth to a child. This means that if Marianna does not get out of prison, the child will be taken into the Russian state system, likely to be put up for adoption, or vanish forever into the network of state orphanages, converted into a Russian.

All we know about the fate of Marianna and other medical workers from Mariupol is information circulating on Facebook and other social media. This concerns several hundred people, doctors, and nurses.

The Mariupol prisoners were divided according to gender: The men were taken to the camp in Olenivka, where an explosion last month killed dozens. The women were taken further east, reportedly to a prison in the Russian region of Taganrog.

The conditions there are believed to be terrible: A dozen people in double cells, and during the day you are not allowed to sit down or lie down. The Russians probably want to exchange the women nurses for their own prisoners, but this is not within the framework of the Geneva conventions or the rules of war conducted by civilized states.

Marianna isn't the only pregnant woman locked up in a Russian prison. But besides the fate of their future sons and daughters, those from Mariupol must now also worry about the prospect that the Russians will put her in a cage set up in the city’s theater for an expected show trial against Ukrainian prisoners. This is not how Marianna had wanted to return.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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