- by theguardian
- 22 May 2022
The equivalent of walking by foot from London to Sheffield but through a war unseen in its scale in Europe since 1945 and towards the oncoming convoys of tanks, armoured vehicles and nervous trigger-happy Russian soldiers racing towards Mariupol; it meant sidestepping mines and crossing destroyed bridges with his dog and luggage, where an erring step would lead to a 30ft drop to certain death; he would have to pass the smouldering homes and weeping men and women with their heartbreaking stories of death and suffering and their loss of will to live on.
Indeed, such would be his extraordinary feat that on one remarkable night Russian soldiers at one of the many checkpoints he would pass through gathered in the quiet of the evening to hear his story, stuffing cigarettes into his pockets for the onward journey and wishing him luck.
He may not have been invisible, Pedin repeats, the tears welling in a rare moment of emotion. But he was, he adds, lucky.
There was already little left to stay for; there was scant food or water, the dead were piling up in the streets.
Pedin prepared meticulously. He packed a bag, weighed it and challenged himself to reduce the initial 70-kilo weight to 50.
The initial task for Pedin and Zhu-Zhu was to traverse the five kilometres to the city outskirts, an aim that he had little faith could be achieved.
Russian soldiers were handing out food and water at the end of long queues of desperate ashen-faced people. He stole by the crowds, avoiding eye contact with the soldiers, and walked up Zaporizhzhia Road.
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