Painter Anna Abramova used to live in Donetsk but was displaced because of the war. In Mariupol, she struggles to make a living as a website designer [Mansur Mirovalev/Al Jazeera]

Mariupol, Ukraine – The sea blockade cost Alexey Pilipchuk his job.

The 54-year-old used to bus workers to the Azovstal, a mammoth, Communist-era plant that resembles a backdrop for a post-apocalyptic movie.

Azovstal churns out steel slabs and emits toxic, putrid fumes that blanket Mariupol, a city of more than 500,000 in southeastern Ukraine.

Mariupol is Ukraine’s principal port on the Sea of Azov, a shallow body of water between Ukraine, Russia and the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Steel amounts to two-thirds of exports from Mariupol’s seaport, followed by iron ore, grain and sunflower oil.

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