May 12, 2022


Original post: Translated and edited by our team.

Since February 28, the city [Mariupol] has ceased to live its normal life. There was no more light, no tap water, no heat, and no gas. There was only daylight, though it is not always needed to see things: explosions, fires, columns of smoke, broken buildings, houses and stores, frames hanging from trees and hinges, doors, and the remains of furniture. Everything that made up our cozy everyday life just yesterday. Soon the scary reality was no more visible outside the window. The city was being bombed and shot at. There were raids, incursions, airstrikes, and bombings. All the survivors had to move into the basements and bomb shelters. By this point, even the most hoarders ran out of charge on their phones and power banks. There was no use for phones anyway. All fifteen cell phone towers in the city have been targeted and destroyed. 

And that’s where we came in. Family, friends, relatives, colleagues. People for whom Mariupol is a cozy childhood town, a new family nest after 2014, or just a sea haven of Azov Sea. We haven’t heard from our loved ones (in Mariupol) for days and knew nothing about them. We began to realize that it wasn’t just a burst pipe or a power outage for a few hours like we had before. We fell into despair when we imagined how our loved ones lived. We were ashamed to eat, drink, and wash ourselves. We were ashamed to open the water tap, light the gas, sleep under the blanket and look at ourselves in the mirror. All because they had nothing to wash their faces with, nothing to clean up the bad smell. They had nothing to boil water with and cook porridge with: kilos of cereals and raw meat become useless. They froze, they starved, they got sick. They also felt abandoned as they heard no news from the rest of the world. They just saw death all around them. There were only explosions, explosions, explosions everywhere. 

People started surviving as best they could. They collected rainwater from the sky when it rained or scooped it straight from the puddles. Under bullets and shells, they looked for stores with food though no stores were open. There was no heat and light anywhere, nowhere was safe. Very soon there were no locks anywhere as people would go into closed rooms themselves and take every crumb away. During the rare quiet moments, phones were charged from generators and car batteries. It was useless as there was no signal and no cell phone service. People began to move around the city in search of cell phone services. People started telling each other where they could find a better signal, and the number of civilian casualties increased dramatically. After one week of Mariupol blockade, we read about 2187 people dead.

Meanwhile, it got sharply colder, and rain turned into snow. People were happy as it’s easier to drink snow. They picked up snow in buckets and brought it to their basements, where people from their house and, sometimes, entire streets were hiding. They understand that in order to survive, they need to eat. And in order to survive in the winter and in sub-zero temperatures, the food must be hot. Mariupol residents cooked food in their yards. They helped each other, built hearths from bricks together, and built homemade braziers. They died from bullets and shrapnel right there in the yards of city houses. And all this time we looked for them, looked and looked.

We couldn’t find them. The city was under blockade, and there was no communication, no calls or visits. They helped us to find them, our relatives. They understood that they had to act, that there was nobody to repair communications, and that there won’t be a normal life for them there in the nearest future. After two excruciating weeks of obscurity and frightening visions before our eyes, we received a text message. We cried with happiness and joy. We looked at each other and started crying again from understanding what our loved ones had gone through in those two weeks. The first reports of evacuations, humanitarian aid, and safe exits from the city started appearing in the chats, and the death toll of civilians increased.

I hug thousands of people who lived through these past two weeks with us, people we knew and strangers, people close by and far, people who held themselves well, and people who got desperate. I hug everyone who helped us, checked on us, or stayed there for us silently. 

We will wait for our loved ones. They will be found. The city went away, but it will surely come back. Because people make up the city. And those people are the people of Mariupol. We wish everyone an easy and fast road, invisible cars, and a guardian angel over the head. May each one of us say to our loved ones, “Yay!!! It’s you!!! Finally!”

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