АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation:
27 April 2022
Not so long ago Olha Berezka’s family was an ordinary family from Mariupol. They had a house, a dog and a happy future. The bloody war changed their plans. It took away what she loved the most, something that cannot be measured in money… It took away the life of her husband and a father of her kids, who was everything to them. He solved any problems, Olha never thought or worried about anything with him. She fully devoted herself to the upbringing of their three children: Sasha, Liza and Vania. There will be no more peaceful life.
On March 10, our city was already drowning in blood. We were at home with friends, without any connection, information, heating or light. We came here on March 3, because our neighborhood was being shelled with “Grad” (multiple rocket launcher system – ed.). And when the shells hit the neighboring houses, it became clear that we had to flee. We know that Mariupol is completely closed for evacuation. We are completely surrounded. We decided it would be safer to stay with friends in the center of the city. For the first three days we could hear explosions, but far away. Then the hell began …
A fighter jet has been flying over us for two days. And you live waiting to see if the bomb will fall on your house or not. Quietly, silently. A jet flies, only explosions can be heard. We had breakfast. Zhenia (husband) said that as long as it is quiet, we should go to the car, to charge our daughters’ tablets for the evening. Everything trembles, the walls shake, a few seconds and I realize that this is it… An air bomb was dropped on us. Consciousness seemed to fade, I see that Sasha and Liza are safe. All I can think about is, “Where are Vania, Zhenia and mom? I run into the room through the rubble. What I saw just made me freeze. Mom was bleeding and screaming. I see Vania… He’s lying on the floor, my 10-month-old boy with his eyes closed! There was glass, dust, stones, and window glass all over him. Right on his face. I take the window glass off his face in agony – he’s silent. I shout: ” Vania! Vaniushka! Son!” His eyes blinked, my boy is alive! He’ s all in glass, blood, his eyes are covered with dust and small pieces of debris. I take him in my arms, and take the frame off my mother. Her head was cracked open.
Zhenia! Where is my Zhenia? I realized that if he hadn’t run to us immediately, it meant that something bad had happened. The ruins are all around, the jets are flying overhead and the bombs are being dropped down. I scream: Is Zhenia alive? Where is he? Is his head okay? ( for some reason I thought that if his head was intact, everything else would be fine). I see that they are trying to pull Zhenia out from under our car, then put him on the blanket. He’s all twisted up and doesn’t move. I run to him and yell that everything is gonna be okay, that I love him! He growls that I should go to the kids. Together we go down to the basement.
“Vania, Vanichka, brother, open your eyes! My baby, my darling, my brother! Mommy, why are his eyes closed? Mommy, is he dead?”, daughter Liza cries out through the rumble of jets flying over us.
“Daughter, he’s alive…,” I reply.
All this time she kept asking me if my brother would die and telling me how much she loved him. And I didn’t know if my son had any serious injuries, he fell off a height caused by the blast wave.
“I found a rag in the basement, moistened it with spit and tried to wipe his eyes and get the debris out. I put him on my jacket and tried to see if he was moving his legs. The sounds of jets and falling bombs didn’t stop”.
I couldn’t wait any longer, I was worried about Zhenia. We get out of the basement, everything around is destroyed. I saw a police car. They are carrying Zhenia. I run after him. The street that was there in the morning has simply disappeared: the houses are on fire, slabs and glass everywhere. I have only seen this in movies about the end of the world. I am barefoot. Vania is in my arms. My daughters stay with my mother, waiting for the next brigade of law enforcers.
The policemen ask me Zhenia’s surname, first name, middle name and year of birth, I answered and got the month wrong. I say “10”, and Zhenia corrects me – “11”. Relief. He speaks, which means he will be alive. In my mind, I have only one thing: let him live, even in a wheelchair, but let him just be alive. My Zhenka…
We drive up to the hospital, it’s being shelled. Shells are flying over us again. To the sound of missiles, I go to the admission room and run to find a doctor who examines Vania. His hat was covered in blood. I thought there were wounds and they needed to be stitched up. I ran down the corridor, and there was death everywhere. People lying half dead, some on the floor, some on a gurney. Without arms, without legs, without part of the head. Some of them were crying and some were screaming. It turned out that finding a doctor wasn’t so easy. I found him!
The doctor examines Vania. Everything is intact. There is some soft tissue damage. There is a lot of debris on his face ( now it has scars there). Relief. I run out into the corridor, there’s a gurney with my Zhenia on it… still twisted. I walk up and I am afraid to see the inevitable. I hear from the doctor nearby that Zhenia can move his legs, but he can’t feel his hands. I calm down a bit, shouting that I love him. He, clenching his teeth, tells me to go to the kids. My daughters and my mother run in the door. Zhenia is taken to the operating room. That was the last time I saw him…
Sitting on the floor in the corridor. Mom’s head is bleeding, she’s sliding down the wall… I scream for help. They finally take her away. They sew up her head and arm.
A man in uniform came up, ” MES” (Ministry for Emergency Situations) written on his shoulder. He asked me to go to the second floor and wait in the hallway so the children wouldn’t see all the bloodshed. I got up, go into the place where my mom was being operated and told her we would be on the second floor.
We went in, and there was a dark and very cold hospital corridor. There are mattresses on both sides of the walls and people on them. I find a bench and sit down. The wounded are all around us: some of them are praying, some of them are talking about the war. Then my mother came, her head and arm were stitched up. And I want to know about my Zhenia.
“Run through the passage and keep your head down, they’ re shelling”, – I go down to the admission room, and the doctor explains me how to get to the operating room.
I go. Through the passage. I remember this passage. We came there to visit my sick father a few years ago. Me, Zhenia and Liza. One of the best ENT doctors in the city was there. I remember everything. There are no windows, the wind bites your bones. I run across the glass in my socks. I get inside, and it’s chaos.
“Miss, go away, there are injured people here, go, don’t interrupt,” I was not allowed to enter the ward with these words.
The door shut. I got out and started running again through that familiar passage. They’re bombing but I’ m not scared, I’m not scared anymore…
In the evening my mom found out that Zhenia had an operation. We were happy, but the anxiety was burning me from the inside.
All night long the hospital was shelled from jets. The operating room was destroyed to the ground. We were sitting on the cold floor. We were wearing coats and hats, but it was so cold that it felt like our bones were freezing inside. We sat by the wall, huddling next to each other. I clearly remember telling the girls to put on their hats and hoods, it seemed necessary to me for some reason. The children were scared, because they were bombing right at us. The walls were shaking. Another hit – the glass in the corridor broke, another one – and the windows in the rooms behind us blew out, along with the walls and fittings.
“Mom, are we gonna die now or a bit later?” one of the girls asked me then.
“I don’t know, sweetheart… I don’t know,” I answered.
I wasn’t scared, I asked God to take us all away at once. Just in one go, so no one would suffer.
I was sure we were going to die, but I didn’t know how. I was afraid that I would stay and the children wouldn’t. March 11, morning. We are alive. For some reason I was afraid to go and ask about Zhenia, so my mother came. Forty minutes were life-long. We are sitting on the floor, it’s very cold. The smell of blood and old whitewash were everywhere. I breastfeed Vania and see mom at the end of the corridor. She comes up.
“How is Zhenia?” I ask.
“I’ ll tell you in a second, everything’s fine. Give Vania to Natasha,” my mother answers.
Natasha is the girl who lived with us in the hospital. My legs got weak. I thought my mother was about to say that Zhenia was alive, but could no longer walk. I’m running through my mind wondering how I’m going to calm my mother down. I give Vania and we go into the hallway.
“Olechka, Olia… Our Zhenia is gone. He died, Olia. He died yesterday…” she says. – The doctor said that he didn’t want to tell us this because we were in a terrible condition.”
March 11,12 and 13 – a blackout in my memory. I don’t physically remember those days. My mother says I was delirious, she thought I had lost my mind. I said that Zhenia was coming and would bathe the children, but I don’t remember any of that.
There were soldiers in the hospital who gave us food. I fed Vania, but I didn’t eat anything myself, because I couldn’t and didn’t want to. And there was nothing to eat. The girls were given cookies and candies, which they ate.
The hospital was being bombed for days and nights by jets. All the windows were blown out, the wind was blowing from everywhere. It was freezing outside and it was 5 degrees in the hospital. I put Vania next to me and I can feel the wind blowing over him.
People walk down the dark little aisle between us. Someone on crutches, someone on a walker. Sometimes bloody bodies are carried on gurneys.
One day a girl ran into the hospital with a child in her arms – the boy had problems with his legs… A girl was crying violently (we were similar in this). I thought it was surprisingly enough because the baby was alive and she was crying. Later, I found out that her family had also been under an air strike. Only one child was rescued, and two others were taken out dead from under the rubble. I felt pain for me, for Zhenia, for her and the children whose lives had been taken away.
It hurt me that I wasn’t there for him when he left… I couldn’t hold his hand like he held mine all my life… It hurt that he was lying alone and dying to the sound of bombs and missiles. I did not see Zhenia dead. He is alive, for me he is alive. I tried to go to him, to see him, to kiss him.
March 16. I go to find some of the doctors, nurses. The hospital is destroyed, there are almost no doctors. On the first floor I find a doctor.
“What do you want?” he asks.
“I want to see my husband. He died…”, I answer.
“You need to go to the morgue. But it’s dangerous to go there, it’s across the street, it’s being shelled. I will accompany you, but I can’t go with you. You’ll go in and look for him. They are all lying there…”, he explains.
We go outside through the glass, walk up the stairs and I hear a shell flying right above me. One, two, three explosions… The doctor takes my hand and asks me to excuse him. He says he won’t go any further with me.
I walked a few more steps and, after another explosion, I turned back. No, I wasn’t afraid to die from a shell. I was afraid to see my ZhenIa there, among the dead. We weren’t able to say goodbye to him, and that is very scary. Let no one ever feel that hellish pain that tears your heart from inside every minute. This is the hell on earth I live in now. They took from us what we loved the most. Nothing matters: not destroyed homes, not burned out cars, not money, not lost businesses. They took away love, faith, and hope.
On March 21, we managed to get out of the siege, out of the city. It was no longer a city, but its remains. Houses burned, all in burnt. Our shopping center looks like ruins, but not so long ago we used to come here on weekends with our family. We were happy then, and now we’re running away. We also didn’t have a shower for 11 days and fed 10-month-old Vania with soldier’s fish soup. We have nothing left, but we’re running nowhere, because the children don’t deserve to die, because Zhenia would tell me: Olia, get it together, it’s necessary! It’s the right thing to do, my love. Be strong!”
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Yulia Zarudnitska | Translation: