At 5:30 a.m., heavy gunshots rang out in the maternity hospital. It was unclear what was going on. Glasses were falling.
I went back to my shift on the second of March. Since then, there was no one to replace us. We organized a maternity room, an operating room, and a prenatal room in the basement. Without light, there was nothing to sterilize the instruments. We just burned them in alcohol. It was very cold. The main task was to keep the newborns warm.
Women gave birth, and their milk appeared on the second or third day, but the babies had to be fed all that time. There was no artificial baby food. Those women who already had milk were feeding other people’s babies. The birth of those 27 babies in the basement was the superiority of life over death. They saved us, gave us hope, and helped us live.
After one of the air strikes, two heavy women were brought to us on stretchers by the military. One woman had torn tissue on her legs.
The second woman’s name was Vika. She had shrapnel damage to her arms and legs and a small wound on her stomach. Vika was losing consciousness, and her blood pressure was dropping. That was the first time we performed a cesarean section in the basement. We were stitching, but we were out of diesel fuel. We applied stitches with flashlights. Vika was 37 years old. Her first, highly desired pregnancy. She was being treated for infertility. She was on pregnancy preservation for nine months. Her unborn baby was shot.
The next day, after lunch, I went up to her:
“Vika, you gave birth to a boy. He weighs 3700 grams. He’s dead”.
“I know. I knew it right away”.
“Would you like to see him?”
She spoke quite calmly. It was as if, in this grief, the person had lost the ability to cry. She just froze, just charred, like the whole city.
“Tatiana Ivanovna, I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time. I think that if I look at this child, I will just go crazy. And if I don’t look at it, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life”.
“Vika, you decide how we’re going to be, what we’re going to do”.
“I’ll tell you what. You bring it to me quickly, I’ll look at it, but I won’t touch it with my hands. Okay?”
I brought this baby, and she looked at it. Then she took him by the hand and said, “Oh, look at those fingers.” Then she turned her head and said, “He looks just like my husband!” She held him in her hands for maybe five minutes and then gave him back. She held on. She held on the whole time. Even later, when the Russian press came in, unceremoniously walking around with machine guns, taking interviews, it was only when they approached her, killing her child first, that she snapped. Hysterical. It took us a very long time to bring her to a calm state.
I’m here, but the memory gives out all the time. Walking through beautiful sunny Lviv, you see these babies and their mothers. They hold their hands and roll them in the stroller. Looking at them, your heart is torn with pain and despair, realizing that there, in Mariupol, many children were left lying in the same strollers under the rubble. They sleep eternal sleep.