Do you know how scary it is to leave beloved ones now, even for a few minutes? I repeat to myself that I am no longer in hell, but I continue to hear the hum of airplanes, to shudder at any loud sound and to pull my head towards the shoulders. I’m scared when someone leaves. There, in hell, not all those who left returned. Until the house of our friends was bombed, a lot of people gathered in it. Many ran between the shellings and told what they had seen on other streets.
A fragile girl Anya from the fifteen-storey building came every day. Her parents lived near the school on Kirov street, and she was very worried about them. She couldn’t transfer them to her place. For them, the distance between two bus stops was insurmountable. Her apartment was on the last floor. The planes that bombed the city seemed to be circling right above the attic.
Every day, Anya went to her parents under shelling. The mines whistled around and laid down next to her. She fell to the ground and covered her head with her hands. She was terrified. The path was not very long as for peacetime, but during the bombing, it was almost impassable. Anna walked along with it twice, back and forth, and saw how everything changed. Whole houses became ruins overnight. They stood with holes through the entire building with black eye sockets of burnt-out windows.
I thought she was a hero. She visited her parents and came to the house on Osipenko street to exhale before returning to her apartment. She drank water, stood in the doorway silently. Sometimes she brought precious diapers or cream for Nikita who was a week old. The baby lived in the basement of this house after his birth. He looked like a yellow chicken. He sorely lacked the sun.
Every day, Anya changed, as did the city. She was getting more transparent, and the dark circles around her eyes were getting bigger. Anya ate nothing. She said, “I can’t force myself, food get stuck in my throat.” She didn’t talk about what she saw during her hikes. There were a lot of children with us and Anya didn’t want to scare anyone.
When they started unstoppable shelling around our neighbourhood, she visited her parents once every few days. I thought she was so fragile and transparent that the shell fragments just didn’t touch her. After a shell hit the house of our friends, and we moved to another basement, we did not see her again. She is still in Mariupol. She has no car, but old parents and several cats.
On March 11, my friend’s husband died. The day before, they came to us and dreamed that we would meet after the war. Vitya, my friend’s husband, a cameraman gifted by God, but a silent one, this time firmly promised that we would definitely meet after the victory. And then he didn’t keep his word.
A day later, when everything was rattling and clanking, as if a giant glass was being cut with an iron saw, a plane was buzzing nearby, children were in the basement, and adults were lying on a long sofa and covered their heads with pillows. I also squeezed my eyes shut. I still don’t understand why. It seemed to me that a pillow would save me from a bomb. At that moment, 13-year-old Sasha ran into the house. He shouted, “I’m Sasha! Our house just got hit. It’s a freaking disaster.” We asked, “Where is mom, is everyone alive?” He replied that everything was fine, only dad was under ruins, and mom was digging him out.
Then it turned out that dad stayed under the ruins forever. The best cameraman, a very open-hearted man, a loving father and husband, calm and kind, was laying with a broken head and an unnaturally bent leg in his own apartment on the ninth floor. It was impossible to bury him. Get him out too. A few days later, the entire section along with Vitya burned down. The house was hit directly again.
There, in Mariupol, a lot of things were not important. We ate from the same plate so as not to waste water on washing, slept on mattresses all together, it was warmer this way, wore hats and rushed to everyone we met to find out the news from the neighbouring yard. We forgot that there are shops, that one can turn on the TV, chat on social networks, take a shower or go to sleep in a real bed.
Today, it became known that less than 40 thousand people left the city during the entire blockade. There are still hundreds of thousands of people in hell. Every day it becomes more and more difficult for them to survive. Please help them. Tell the truth about my city.
March 20, 11:05
Russian Text by Nadezhda Sukhorukova, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team – Mar 26, 2022