The evacuees of the Azovstal steel plant arrive safely in Zaporozhye

After disembarking from the buses, the evacuees headed to the tents set up by the Ukrainian government to help them with the next part of their journey.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly speech on Tuesday that 156 people had arrived in Zaporozhye from the plant and its surroundings in Mariupol via the evacuation corridors.

“I am grateful to everyone on whom the salvation of these people depended. Who agreed and who helped. I am grateful to everyone who provided the physical movement of people through the human corridor,” he said.

CNN spoke with some of the evacuees upon their arrival.

An elderly woman got off the bus with small amounts of medication, a plastic cup, toothbrush, and tissues – things she had been living with for the past weeks.

“I don’t have anyone here,” she told CNN. “I don’t know where to go now.”

She had been hiding underground in Azovstal for weeks and looked exhausted. She lived in the dark, her head still wrapped around her neck. She was having some difficulty seeing in the bright daylight.

“great satisfaction”

A convoy of evacuees from the besieged Azovstal steel plant arrives in Zaporizhia.

Many of the evacuees looked tired, exhausted, pale and thin, but they also felt relieved that they were safe.

Elena Tsybolchenko, a former employee of the plant, said she was in a basement there with her family from March 2 through May 1.

She said they subsisted on soup, canned food, and unsweetened tea – but not much of it.

She told CNN that when they left, there were still 42 people – civilians – left in their bunker.

Speaking of the bombing, Tsybolchenko said, “I never thought the ground could shake like that. It just didn’t shake. The bunker jumped and shivered.”

“Mariopol was my city, but now it’s gone, there is nothing,” she said.

Tsybolchenko said she had lost a precious family inheritance, including the 150-year-old embroidered traditional costume.

He survived the great famine [Stalin’s policy of collectivization that led to the Great Famine, where millions of Ukrainians died of starvation]And deportations, World War I, World War II – not even the Nazis destroyed it. And the fascists did not destroy Mariupol. But the Russians came and destroyed him.”

The evacuees get off the bus after arriving in Zaporozhye.

She said the family had three apartments. “And everything was burned, everything was burned.”

On the way to Zaporizhzhya, Tsybolchenko said that she began to cry when she saw the Ukrainian flag.

Sergei Kuzmenko, an Azovstal employee who has been at the plant since March 8, described conditions in the cellar as damp and without ventilation.

He said, “People are rotting in basements..there is dampness, there is no ventilation.”

“At the beginning of the war, the factory had 36 bomb shelters. But at the moment there are only a few left,” he added.

A man welcomes Anna Zaitseva and her six-month-old son Svyatoslav to a registration and processing area for internally displaced people in Zaporizhia.

Kuzmenko said that as he left the factory, he saw that two floors of their bunker were filled with seriously wounded soldiers.

He said that the Russian forces searched all his belongings after evacuating him and checked for tattoos. “They offered options to go back to Zaporizhia, go to Russia or stay in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some stayed in Russia. He didn’t force them to.”

Kuzmenko described an arduous journey with many stops and detours. He said evacuees were aware that hundreds of people who passed were unable to join the convoy, including about 500 waiting in a shopping center outside Mariupol and in villages along the way.

& # 39;  They never expected Mariupol's resistance.  & # 39;  The locals were terrified by the relentless Russian attack on the vast steel mill protecting the Ukrainians

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, said in a statement: “When I saw a 6-month-old boy playing with a straw of grass, his beaming mother told me that this was the first time in his life that he had been able to do so. I saw tears of joy. The family members who were trapped in different parts of the factory were reunited for two months.”

The evacuation from Azovstal was mediated and organized by the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

“It is a great relief that some of the civilians who have suffered for weeks are now out,” ICRC President Peter Maurer said on Tuesday.

“The ICRC has not forgotten the people who are still there, nor those living in other areas affected by hostilities or those most in need of humanitarian relief, wherever they are. We will spare no effort to reach them.”

On Tuesday evening, Zelensky said, “He will continue to do everything to get all our people out of Mariupol and Azovstal. It is difficult. But we need everyone who remains there: civilians and soldiers.”

He also accused the Russian forces of not adhering to the cease-fire and continuing the strikes on the Azovstal plant.