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Mariupol Chronicles, Part 8

I still can’t understand how people care about something different apart from saving their lives. When we got to the first safe place and saw some bread in the shop, we bought all of it. My friend’s mother demanded from me to buy as many long loaves and bread bricks as possible. She said, “What if there isn’t any bread in places where we are going? We will sit in the basement without any bread again.”

I still don’t understand how people worry about such trifles as an old mobile phone or low wages. In our basement, every hryvnia was no use to me. And the phone battery died after a day without electricity. My little nephews slept in their daytime clothes. And not only because it was extremely cold, but also because if a bomb fell, and we remained alive under rubble, it would be better to get out with jackets and boots on.

You know, after the first ten days of constant shelling, I began to feel its beginning. My lungs became terribly empty, and I was short of breath. I would lay on two chairs in the room with gray, ice-cold walls. There were tubes above and below me. My family with my little blonde nephews, my friend’s family, and my dog Angie, whom we drag into the basement and pull out of it against her will, were near me on mattresses and boards. The dog refused to walk in the yard covered with ash and glass even for a minute.

It was hellishly hard to walk Angie because the bombings were endless. I cracked the front door, pushed the dog from the house, and hopelessly looked at how she ran down the stairs, trying to find a spot between shell fragments on the burned land, then she sat, but a mine disgustingly squeaked and exploded nearby, and she ran back. We waited for a minute and tried again. I was standing in the doorway crying. I was very scared. Angie was scared, too, but she didn’t cry. She was looking at me from below with her brown eyes full of suffering. She couldn’t understand what was going on.

Our basement had many compartments. There were people in a lot of them, even babies in some. Near us, there was a family of an adult son and his old mother. They were very calm and restrained, pampered our children with candies and cookies, and gave us some butter and salo (Ukrainian variant of bacon) because they were going to leave the city. Our children were so frightened that they barely ate. But they swallowed candies and cookies instantly. It was a real treasure and a little joy in the gloomy dungeon booming from explosions. The children even cheered up a bit.

7-year-old Varya asked me to tell her about Peppa Pig for the first time since the beginning of the war, and when I promised to buy her any doll she wanted as soon as we left the cellar, she even believed me. The little girl only asked for clarification, “All shops have been looted, how can you buy it?” I answered that all toy shops were unharmed, and all dolls were at their places.

I was looking at her round face, messy hair, little nose, neck with a scarf around it and thought, “What if I’m lying to her?” I was kissing her cheeks and dirty hands, and my heart hurt. I wasn’t sure that we would survive that night. Varya demanded the doll and asked, “Will you really buy it? When?”

Her brother Kirill almost didn’t talk to us. He was terrified when we were in another basement in a single-family house, and the bomb fell directly on its roof. The roof was on fire, and all the people had to leave the house. We were running to the garage under heavy fire. Everything around us was howling and exploding and Kirill was screaming louder than the mines, “Mummy, please, mummy! I want to live! I don’t want to die!”

Please, everybody, tell the whole world about Mariupol. Its residents are being killed. There were hundreds of children along with my nephews in basements. Many children are still there. They want to live. They are terrified.

March 18 at 9:10 pm

Russian Text by Nadezhda Sukhorukova, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team – Mar 27, 2022

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