WESTERN UKRAINE—Marianna Podgurska, a beauty blogger from Mariupol who was caught on camera with her face covered in blood after Russia bombed a maternity ward and a children’s hospital in Mariupol, gave birth to a baby girl on Thursday night, her relatives said.

Marianna’s aunt, Tetyana Liubchenko, who lives in Bodrum, Turkey, confirmed the news to The Daily Beast in a phone interview. She said Marianna’s husband Yuriy was able to call them this morning to let them know.

“Her husband called and said that Marianna gave birth to a baby girl. Her weight is 3,200 grams. He said he was together with her in a hospital, in a hospital’s bomb shelter,” Liubchenko said.

Marianna Podgurska was pictured by an AP photographer in Mariupol after a Russian strike on a maternity ward and children’s hospital there on March 9, which killed three and injured 17 people. Photos taken of Marianna after the attack showed her wrapped in a blanket after apparently getting injured in the attack.

Ukrainian authorities called the attack a war crime. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov admitted the hospital in Mariupol was targeted and tried to justify the attack by saying it was “a military base of Ukrainian radicals and there were no patients there.”

Several Russian embassy accounts on Twitter and Russian users on Instragram then launched a smear campaign against Marianna Podgurska, accusing her of being an actress and saying the photos and videos from the bombed hospital in Mariupol were staged. Twitter removed those posts violating the community standards, but there are still offensive comments on Podgurska’s Instagram page.

Podgurska’s aunt Tetyana Liubchenko in Turkey told The Daily Beast she last saw Marianna in person in June last year, when she and her husband visited them in Bodrum on a vacation. Marianna shared photos from their vacation in Turkey on her Instagram. Tetyana sent The Daily Beast photos with Marianna’s husband and her, taken during that vacation, to confirm that she is indeed a relative.

Tetyana with Marianna and her husband Yuriy.

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“They planned this baby for so long, they waited for it to arrive,” Marianna’s aunt Tetyana Liubchenko said, unable to hold back tears. “When Russians invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, they immediately surrounded Mariupol and started bombing it. Evacuating Marianna to the Western Ukraine was too risky. She decided to go to the nearest hospital to spend the last days of her pregnancy there, because she was afraid that cars and ambulances would not be able to pass under the constant Russian shelling and bombs.”

Liubchenko says that when she found out that the hospital in Mariupol has been bombed, her heart broke. “I thought no one survived there. But then, in a couple of hours, I saw Marianna’s photos on social media. I was so happy that she was alive,” she added. “For two days, I didn’t have any information about where she was and whether she gave birth or not.”

Liubchenko said she was trying to reach Marianna and her husband on the phone and inquired about her whereabouts in Mariupol’s social media groups, to no avail. “It’s virtually impossible to reach anyone in Mariupol right now. Mobile connection stations have been destroyed, there is only one still functioning, and people go there under constant shelling to tell their loved ones that they are still alive,” she said.

Liubchenko said the phone call early this morning from Marianna’s husband Yuriy was like a miracle. “We spoke just for a few seconds, then the connection dropped. He said everything was fine, and the baby girl was born yesterday. They named her Veronika. Vero-Nika, Nika as a goddess of victory. We believe in [Ukraine’s] victory,” Liubchenko added in tears.

Mariupol, a city of 400,000 on the southern Azov sea coast, has been besieged by the Russian troops since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. There is no mobile connection, electricity, heating, or drinking water. Food and medicine supplies are running low as the city is disconnected from the supply routes and is isolated from the rest of Ukraine. There are reports of looted shops.

People in Mariupol are losing hope they can survive and get help.

Mariupol is under constant artillery shelling and aerial bombardment. According to Ukrainian authorities, at least 1,500 civilians have been killed there since the beginning of the invasion, including children. A six-year old girl died from dehydration, and an 18-month-old boy died as a result of Russian shelling of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials reported.

AP photographers Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, who are currently in Mariupol, took photos of bodies lying on the streets and in mass graves, as authorities have been unable to transport them to burial sites because of shelling. Russia had violated earlier pledges to provide a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians trapped in the city.

“The situation in Mariupol is horrifying,” said Liubchenko. “It’s minus 4 degrees Celsius there now. Children and adults live in bomb shelters without heating, they get cold and sick. It’s a terrible humanitarian disaster. People in Mariupol are losing hope they can survive and get help.”





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