In early March, the Mariupol clinic where the heavily pregnant Marianna Vyshemirsky was awaiting the birth of her daughter came under Russian fire. Pictures of their escape went viral. The BBC was able to locate the 29-year-old in Donbass and interview her about her experiences – under the supervision of a pro-Russian blogger.
Before the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, she was an influencer and had advertised beauty products on the photo platform Instagram, among other things. She only found out much later that pictures of her went around the world. When she regained internet, she faced hate comments and threats on Instagram.
“I received threats that they would find me, that they would kill me, that my child would be cut up,” Marianna Vyshemirsky told the BBC. The Russian government used her pictures to spread false information about the war.
The images are proof that the attack on the Mariupol Maternity Hospital was staged, and that Marianna is an “actress” who, due to her past as an influencer, knows about makeup. The young mother rejects an alleged staging. “You could hear everything flying around, shrapnel and stuff,” she says. “The noise rang in my ears for a long time.”
Claims even went as far as accusing her of not only “playing” a pregnant woman, but also a second woman who was evacuated from the hospital on a stretcher. Reporters from the Associated Press debunked this hoax. The second woman and her unborn child died just days after the attack.
The 29-year-old is still concerned that pictures of her were used for false reports: “It was really embarrassing to hear that, because I saw it all,” she told the BBC. Together with the other pregnant women and the clinic staff, she fled to the basement to get safe from the attack.
Marianna Vyshemirsky is reluctant to criticize the Russian state in the BBC interview. Instead, she blames the “AP” photographers for focusing on her. The pictures for which she was attacked were taken after the attack in front of the clinic and a little later when she took her belongings out of the building.
At the same time, she says that when the photographers arrived at the clinic, she was one of the last women left in the building. “Everything I prepared for my baby was in that maternity ward,” she says.