One month of the Russia-Ukraine war.

In the southern city of Mariupol’s train station, hundreds tried to flee while those who stayed behind had no idea that weeks of a brutal siege were to come.

In subzero temperatures, long queues formed at cash machines and petrol stations. On the first night, families prayed and cried in a church, their children spending the first night of many to come on a rollout mattress underground.

The main hospital in Mariupol was overwhelmed in the first days of the war with civilians wanting to donate blood.

Nik, 28, who works in logistics, said he would never leave his city no matter what lied ahead and would do anything it took to help his people. “I don’t know how to hold a weapon, but at least I can give my blood this way,” he told Al Jazeera.

As the days went by, fighting moved closer and it became increasingly clear that staying in Mariupol would be a huge risk. On the route to Dnipro, there were tank tracks, burned-out vehicles, and villagers removing street signs to confuse Russian troops.

Dnipro has so far been spared the intense fighting seen in other cities nearby. As a result, there was time to quickly mobilise a volunteer army and teams to distribute humanitarian aid.

It has also become a filter city for people fleeing bombardment in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Volnovakha, and other parts of eastern Ukraine.

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