May 12, 2022


Original post:

In the basement, I daydreamed. Especially, in the last days before my escape. I sat in an old chair, listened to the hum of the plane, and imagined that a miracle would happen. The bomb that the Russian pilot had dropped would fly back into the plane. It would explode right in the air and scatter over the sea.

In the last few days before leaving, I had turned into a frozen and indifferent substance. The only feeling that filled me to the brim was a sense of animal fear. I was doomed. Do you want to know how I survived the shelling? I, an adult, held my mother’s hand during the bombings and snuggled up to her as I did as a child when I wanted to take shelter after a scary fairy tale.

My life became a nightmare. Life in my town had become hell. There were heroes all around. I was weak and exhausted: struggling with panic attacks and thinking I was to blame for everything. I was afraid to admit to others that I was scared. And I wanted to be useful, at least to someone.

The week before, Natasha, a colleague of mine, came to me with her husband and son. They walked around the city and shot a video to show everyone this nightmare. I asked her, “What should I do?” She said: “Survive, Nadia. We have to survive. ” I asked her: “How can I help the city?” She replied, “I don’t know.”

The three of them would go to the children’s ICU, where the doctors stayed around the clock. They would take the phone numbers of their loved ones and send them messages during the rare service availability sessions. They reported that everyone was alive and well.

Then two mines flew into her apartment, and her husband died. It was the first death close to us. Only a day ago we saw a man. Alive. Healthy and strong. Calm and confident that he would live a long time. And now he’s gone. Just because some asshole shot at the house.

The night before we left, the bombing was non-stop. We were thinking about the ways to leave. We had one ghost car. Nine people and a dog to get out. And the minimal chance of getting to the garage. It was located close to the school, and there was gunfire of all kinds. The occupants were not shy at all. They picked a square on the ground and smashed it to rubble. The same high-rise building was hit dozens of times. I swear, there were never any of our troops there. Not one. Some civilians hoped the bombing would end and they would go out to get water or cook over a fire. About a dozen shells flew into these houses. The Russians were hitting hard. In the basement, we listened to these sounds and gasped in horror. They sounded like slaps. It was as if the houses were being hit with a huge scourge. The sounds of war played a symphony of death. First, the gnashing of the giant’s huge teeth and the slapping of iron on the roof. I think it was a warm-up. Someone was just getting ready to perform. Then came the melody of the ‘grads’. The ground trembled, and the walls shook. Huge blind killers were flying through us. We couldn’t tell which way. There were people everywhere. For some of them, this music was the last one. For me, the scariest thing was the hum of the planes. I never saw them. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be so scared. I covered my head with a pillow and wished I had been deafened by the heavy thud on the ground. The ground would sag, the plane would come around again, and we would die once more until the next explosion.

On March 15, my son’s birthday, I sobbed in the entryway that I couldn’t congratulate him or talk to him. What a ridiculous nuisance. I wept not because of the constant bombing, not because of the deaths, not because of the fact that tomorrow may not come. I wept that I could not talk to my son on the phone. And a small miracle happened. There was a connection right in the entryway. My basement neighbors were telling each other that Kyivstar (a telecommunications company) had been bombed, but someone on staff periodically turned on the generator and filled it with gasoline so that people could talk for at least a minute and get the news. Even though it was impossible to get through to people inside Mariupol, we were able to let our relatives in other cities know about us. Thank you, unknown man, who gave the people of Mariupol once a day the opportunity to tell people who were going crazy with uncertainty one single word: “alive”. It was on March 15 that we heard new sounds from the symphony of death. They were unlike any we had heard before. Two strong powerful explosions. They made everything inside turn over, my head felt huge and empty, and the basement walls vibrated for a while. I thought it was a weapon of mass destruction. And with horror, I thought about what I would see when I went outside.

Then we were told by people from a village near Mariupol that Russian warships were shooting at the city. We were being killed from the ground, from the air, and from the sea. We were being killed from everywhere. My city was consistently turned into ruins. We went to the surface less and less frequently. And on a penultimate day, before curfew, Lesha came to us. He started drinking heavily after he went to see his kids on the Left bank [district] of the city. When he came back from there, I was sure he wasn’t scared. But at the entrance to the basement, he told me how he was falling down when the mines started falling. “I didn’t hear the sound, but I saw them explode all around me”. I confessed to him then that I was very scared. He replied, “And you’re telling that to me?” I was glad he wasn’t a hero, that he was an ordinary man, and that he was scared, too. He just doesn’t show it. He’s still in Mariupol. He is sitting in the basement of our nine-story building. He can’t leave until he finds the children.

I am now in Chernomorsk, near Odessa. At my son’s place. It was very hard to leave. And not even because they bombed us and we were driving in a broken car, without windows and with holes from shells. Everybody was in shock then. Everyone in the car prayed that we would make it and not be killed by shells. The occupants stopped us and asked us some questions. They all sounded like mockery. For example, is it cold for your children in a car with broken windows? Or, close the windows, you will give the children a cold. What caring bastards. They bombed houses, rocketed residential areas, and bomb shelters with women and children, and now they’re worried that the little ones in Mariupol won’t get a runny nose. My insides were turned upside down by the gunshots. For some time, I thought that if I wrote [about it], everything would change. But unfortunately, no one is still taking people out of Mariupol, no one is closing the sky, and no one is declaring a ceasefire. I don’t understand who are the Russians fighting with? Women and children? Why are they killing peaceful people? Why are they turning the city into ruins? I am desperate. Thousands of people are suffering and dying in Mariupol. Please help them to survive.

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