A giant fireball exploding from the side of an apartment building in the hard-hit port of Mariupol was just one of the many disturbing signs of ongoing Russian attacks in Ukraine on Friday.
The unceasing violence in cities throughout Ukraine prompted yet more residents to join the 2.5 million who are estimated to already have left the country. In the besieged town of Irpin, a suburb of the capital of Kyiv, two men held tight to the arms of an elderly woman fleeing her home Friday. Wearing a white headscarf with orange and yellow flowers and a flowered blue skirt that was visible under her brown winter coat, she edged forward slowly past an overturned car and destroyed bridge, wielding a cane in her right hand.
Some Ukrainians have either decided to stay put or haven’t yet been able to leave. One such elderly woman took shelter in a basement of a home in Irpin that had no heat or running water. She sat on the edge of a bed bundled in a big winter coat and stared out forlornly through the opening of a large gray, woolen scarf wrapped around her head.
In another basement-turned shelter, a man wearing a blue down coat and winter wool hat bided his time on his cellphone as he lay on a bench next to a table covered with first-aid medicines, tissues and empty paper cups.
Amid the scenes of death and devastation there were hopeful signs of life. A young pregnant woman captured by Associated Press photographers fleeing down a stairwell of a damaged maternity hospital Wednesday gave birth to her baby. On Friday, she lay on a hospital gurney dressed in polka-dotted pajamas with the newborn cradled in the crook of her arm.
Those who fled their hometowns had to leave most of their belongings behind, but many refused to abandon their pets. A young woman fleeing her home in Irpin cried on Friday as she kissed the head of a cat she had wrapped in a blanket. Meanwhile, 84-year-old Irpin resident Antonina could be seen holding tight to the leashes of her 12 dogs after being evacuated from her home in a wheelchair.
In two poignant images, AP photographers captured innocent children as they accompanied their frightened relatives on journeys to safety. In one, a toddler with pigtails, a pink winter coat and matching pacifier places her hands on the window and peers out from the bus taking her family to neighboring Romania. In another, 5-year-old Ukrainian refugee Christina, dressed in a cheery purple winter coat, hugs her grandmother Elena as they wait with others for a train that will take them from one area of Poland to another.