May 24, 2022


Original post: Translated and edited by our team.

On March 10, our city is already drowning in blood. We are at our friends’ house with no connection, no information, no gas, and no light.

On March 3, we left home to stay with friends. Our neighborhood began to be bombed with grads [multiple rocket launchers]. When the shells flew into neighboring houses, it became clear that we had to flee. We knew that the city was encircled and that we were in a cauldron. We went to our friends in the center of the city. We thought it would be quieter there. We arrived. For the first three days, we could hear explosions, but from far away. Then all hell broke loose. There’s a bomber circling over us for the second day. And it’s like you’re waiting to see if a bomb is going to hit our house or not. Quiet. No sound. The plane flies. Only explosions can be heard.

We had breakfast. Zhenya says that while it is quiet, we must go to the car and charge the girls’ tablets for the evening. Everything trembles, the walls shake, seconds, and I understand that this is it. This is it. An air bomb has been dropped on us. In a hazy consciousness, I see that Sasha and Lisa are unharmed. My thoughts are where are Vanya, Zhenya, and mom. Run into the room on the rubble. I am in a daze. I see my mother. She is covered with blood, screaming. I see Vanya. Lying down. On the floor. Glass, dust, stones, and a window frame. Right on his face. He’s lying there with his eyes closed. Thought that that’s all. My baby. I tear the frame off him in agony. He’s not talking. I shout, “Vanya, Vanechka, my son.” His eyes are blinking. He’s alive. My boy is alive. All covered in glass and blood. Eyes covered with dust and small glass pieces. I take him in my arms and take the frame off my mother. Her head is pierced. Shouting, “Beryoza! Zhenya! Where is my Zhenya?” I understood that if he did not come to us immediately, it meant that something bad had happened. There were ruins all around. Bombers kept flying over my head and dropping bombs. I shouted, “Is Zhenya alive? Where is he? Is his head all right? (for some reason, it seemed to me that if his head was unharmed everything else would be fine). I saw that they were trying to get Zhenya out from under our car. They put him on a blanket. He was twisted. He does not move. I run to him, shouting that everything will be ok, that I love him. He mumbled to go away with the kids.

We go down to the basement with the children. Lisa was crying, and, through the hum of planes flying above us, I heard, “Vanya, Vanechka, open your eyes, my baby, my darling, my brother. Mommy, mommy, why are his eyes closed? Mommy, is he dead?”
“My dear daughter, he’s alive.”


“He’s not going to die? My brother, don’t die, don’t die, Vanechka. I love you”.
All this time, I didn’t know if my Vanya had any injuries. He had fallen from a height from the blast wave.

In the basement, I found a rag. I mopped it up and tried to wipe his eyes and get the shrapnel out. I put him on my jacket and tried to see if he was moving his legs. All the while, planes kept flying, and bombs kept falling overhead.

I couldn’t wait any longer. I was worried about Zhenya. We got out of the basement. Everything around is destroyed. I see a police car. They are carrying Zhenya. I run after him. The whole street is blocked, the houses around are burning, and the roads are piled with slabs and glass. The street that was still there in the morning has just disappeared. It’s the kind of thing I’ve seen in end-of-the-world movies. I was barefoot, Vanya in my arms. We get in the car. The girls and my mother wait for another police car to bring them to us. The policemen ask for Zhenya’s full name and year of birth. I answer and make a mistake about the month. Zhenya shouted that it was not the 11th month but the 10th. Relief. He talks. So he will live. I am thinking. I wish he would live even if he were in a wheelchair, maybe without legs, but I wish my dear Zhenya were alive.

We drove up to the hospital. It was being bombed. Shells were flying above us. Under the sound of bombardment, I go to the emergency room and run to find a doctor to examine Vanya. Vanechka’s hat was covered in blood. I thought there were wounds and that they needed to be stitched up. I ran down the corridor, and there was death everywhere. People were lying half-alive in the corridor. Some on the floor, and some on a gurney. Without arms, without legs, without part of the head. Some are crying. Some are screaming. Finding a doctor was not an easy task. I found one.

The doctor examines Vanya. Everything is intact. Soft tissues were damaged. There were a lot of splinters on his face (now there are scars). Relief. I run out into the corridor. I see a wheelchair. My Zhenya is on it. He was still twisted. I walk up. I am afraid to see the inevitable. The doctor is nearby, and I hear Zhenya say that he can move his legs but not his arm. I calm down a little. I shout that I love him. He is not happy and, with clenched teeth, tells me to go to the children. My girls and mum run through the door. Zhenya is taken to the operating room. THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I SAW HIM.


We were sitting on the floor in the hallway. Mom’s head is oozing blood. She’s sliding down the wall, shouting, “It’s bad, help me.” She was taken away. They stitched up her head and arm. A man in a uniform comes up. I see the “State Emergency Service” on his shoulder. He asks us to go to the 2nd floor and wait there in the hallway. so the kids don’t see all that meat grinder. I get up, go to the place where they were stitching up my mother, and say that we’ll be on the 2nd floor.

We go in. Dark, very cold hospital corridor. There are mattresses on both sides of the walls. There are people on them. I find a bench and sit down. All around us are wounded. Someone is praying, and someone is talking about the war. My mother came. She was stitched up. I want to know how Zhenya is. I go down to the emergency room. The doctor explains how to get to the operating room, “Go through the crossing, run and get down. There is gunfire.” I go. There is a passageway. I remember this passageway. We came here, to this hospital, a couple of years ago. Zhenya, Lisa, and I. One of the best doctors in town was here. I remember everything. No windows. I run through the glass in my socks. I run in. It’s chaos. They would not let me in. “Miss, go away. There are injured people here. Go away, don’t interfere.” The door closes. I come out. I am running through a passageway. They bomb me. But I am not afraid. I wasn’t scared anymore.

In the evening, my mom found out that Zhenya had an operation and was in the intensive unit. We waited until morning to see him, but the anxiety was eating me up inside.
All night the hospital was bombed by planes. The operating room was completely destroyed. We were sitting on the cold floor. We were wearing jackets and hats, but it was so cold, that our bones seemed to freeze inside. We sat against the wall, leaning against each other. I distinctly remember telling the girls to put on their hats and hoods, which seemed to me to be the right thing to do at the time. The kids were scared. They were shelling right at us. The walls were shaking. And another hit. Windows in the corridor crumbled. Another blow, and windows in the rooms behind us flew out along with the walls and fixtures. One of the girls asked me, “Are we going to die now?” I reply, “I don’t know, honey. I don’t know.” I wasn’t scared. I asked God to take us all away at once. In one swoop. That no one would suffer. That they wouldn’t be covered in slabs. That we wouldn’t die in agony. I WAS SURE WE WERE GOING TO DIE. I WASN’T SURE HOW. I was afraid that I would survive and the children wouldn’t.


March 11, morning. We are alive. For some reason, I am afraid to go and ask for Zhenya. Mom is coming. Forty minutes feel as long as the length of my life. We are sitting on the floor. It is cold. The smell of blood and old whitewash permeates everything around us. I am breastfeeding Vanya. At the end of the corridor, I see my mother. She comes over. “How is Zhenya?” “I’ll tell you everything. Everything is fine. Give Vanya to Natasha (the girl who lived with us in the hospital).” My legs don’t feel good. I think my mom is going to say that Zhenya is alive, but he can’t walk. I keep replaying in my head how I calm down my mother and tell her the main thing is that he is alive. I give Vanya back to her. We go into the corridor.

“Olechka Olya. Our Zhenya is gone.
He’s dead, Olya.”

“He died yesterday. I didn’t want to tell you. You were in such a state,” the doctor said.
March 11, 12, and 13 are blackouts in my memory. I do not physically remember those days. My mother says I was delirious. I said that Zhenya was coming to bathe the children. I don’t remember anything.
There were soldiers at the hospital. They gave us food. I fed Vanya. I didn’t eat anything myself. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. And there wasn’t much to eat.
The girls were given cookies and cakes. They ate them.

The hospital was bombed for many more days and nights by planes. All the windows were blown out. It was freezing outside. It was 5 degrees in the hospital. The wind is blowing from everywhere. I lay Vanya next to me and feel the wind blowing over him.

People walk in the dark little aisle between us, shuffling their shoes right in front of our faces. Some on crutches, some on walkers. Sometimes bloodstained bodies were wheeled past on gurneys.
On one of our days in the hospital, a girl ran into the hospital with a baby in her arms. The boy had something wrong with his legs. The girl was crying profusely (we were similar in that). I even found it strange. The baby was alive, but she was crying. I found out later that their family had also been hit by an airstrike. One child had been rescued, and two others had been pulled out dead from under the rubble. I was hurt. For myself, for Zhenya, for her, for the children whose lives were taken away from them.

It hurt that I was not there for him when he was going away. I could not hold his hand like he held mine thoughout our ilves. It hurt that he was lying there alone and dying to the sound of bombs and multiple rocket launchers.
I did not see Zhenya dead. He is alive. For me, he is alive.

Sitting in that cold, shattered hospital, with the smell of death everywhere, we never thought we would get out. Four days after we got there, the Russians came into the hospital.

They promised to take people out, but that was not an option for us.
We were no longer able to sit in that hell. The children began to get sick. The girls had a hell of a cough. Vanya had a fever of over 40 [Celsius].

There was no medication, no antipyretic. I was afraid that he would just burn out. My mom found Dimedrol and Analgin somewhere. We kept those ampoules for the night. Vanya was throwing up. There were no doctors. I ran around looking for someone who could help. There was a girl, a nurse. She called me back and came under the bombardment to listen to Vanya. It became clear that an antibiotic was needed. My mother (mother-in-law, but she’s like a mother to me) found some kind of vial with antibiotics, and we started administering it. There was no improvement. The temperature was tormenting my boy to the point of unconsciousness. He became very thin. In the eternal cold and with the cold wind blowing from everywhere, he was getting worse and worse.

He got otitis. It was difficult to carry him in our arms, as it was dangerous to walk along the corridor, but we still took turns carrying him with my mother.

On March 17, I asked a girl who was also sitting with us in that hellhole for a phone. To get a connection, I had to go up to the 8th floor of the hospital. I knew only two numbers by heart, Zhenya’s and my mother’s.
My mother was in Germany, and the hope of getting through to her was minimal. I didn’t get through but wrote a text message. In it, I wrote what happened to us and where we are.

On March 18, a text message came for us. “Looking for Olga Beryozka. She has three children, etc.” When we saw this SMS, my mom and I just sobbed profusely. It was an SMS from my sister Zhenya. She was looking for us all this time, as were many of my relatives and friends. There was hope, hope that we could escape. I knew that I had to get my children out of here. I understood that Vanya’s body was already at the limit, that the disease was simply wearing him out.

We knew we had to get out, but we had no documents with us. They remained where the bomb landed.


From the text message, we also learned that our documents had been saved and were located at a specific address. It was near the hospital. Mom wanted to go get them as soon as she found out. But there was gunfire outside. There was gunfire on the hospital porch, just where people usually went to get food. That’s why I didn’t let my mother go.

On March 21, it was my mother’s birthday. On that day, we decided that she would go to get the documents. The guys we were with at the hospital went with her to show her where it was. I was very worried because the shelling continued. Yes, not airplanes, but MRLs were still flying. Mom came back. I exhaled. With documents. She came and said, “Olya, they are taking us away. Should we go?”
“Mom, who? Where to?”
“Volunteers. We were walking, and they stood in a bus and said that they want to take people away, children and women.”
We understood that it either now or probably never. It was frightening because shelling did not stop ,and many of those who were leaving got hit. We had nothing to lose. We had to take the children out.

We packed up in 5 minutes, said goodbye to those who had become our family in those 11 days, and ran downstairs.
We were taken to Berdyansk. There we were met by our friend and godfather, Vanya.
The way from here was difficult and scary.

From Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhya, there were only checkpoints. At every checkpoint there was an inspection. We did not go by the Red Cross bus but by a convoy of 4 cars at our own risk. On the way, we saw burnt-out vehicles of those who also wanted to leave this hell but could not. We drove past the ruins, through the mines and roads that had been ripped apart by shells.

The door opens. I’m sitting there feeding Vanya. Beside me, Sasha, Lisa and my mother, exhausted from the road.
“You’re not happy that we came to fight to you, are you?” said a man with a Kavkaz accent.
“We just want to take the children to a place where they’re not shot,” I answered, afraid to look at them and say that I hate them with my whole heart.
“You are going to Ukraine, right?”
“Yes, to Dnipro.”
“I’ll tell you this: you go from one fucked place to another. It will be the same there. Tell this to your Vova [refers to Volodymyr Zelenskyy].

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