24 April 2022
When russian occupants began the full-scale invasion into Ukraine, Tetiana Raizova, with her husband Denis and her little son Cyril, stayed in Mariupol. Now one question never leaves her mind: “Why didn’t we flee the city?” She answers it herself: “We didn’t think it would be a real hell. We thought it would be over in a few days”.
We took all the essentials for a few days and our documents and went to my parents’ house. My husband was worrying, but I didn’t listen to him and even said: “Nothing will happen. Why are you taping the windows? Why are we taking with us all this stuff?” Yet the decision to go to my parents was rational, as we live on the fifth floor, the last floor of our house. Private housing areas are always quieter, the streets there are narrow and I feel calmer near my parents. My aunt (my mom’s sister) and her husband also came there. They lived in the eastern outskirts of the city that was already under the fire. Soon, my brother with his partner, Veronika, also joined us. We all hoped that it would end in a few days and we would be back home soon.
Days turned into weeks. The situation escalated: houses were burning throughout the city. However, our area was still quiet. One week passed, and the war became louder. We already wanted to flee but were afraid that we would be shot on the road. We decided not to risk it, the stories of our neighbours who had tried to escape and had been turned back made us fear even more. Electricity, gas and internet were already cut off. It was cold, but we still had some food. My Grandma made the stove so the house could be heated by firewood and coal. It was possible, as they had the stove before and we had everything we needed for it. It became warmer, and I could stop fearing that 3 year old Kiryusha would suffer from cold.
It became so loud on 10th of March. It was impossible and so frightening to flee. The shelling was all around us, with aircrafts dropping bombs nearby. We spent that night in the cellar although it wasn’t a very safe place. Again, I feared that Kiryusha would get ill from the cold and damp. When it became quieter, we went out to warm up a little bit and cook something.
…I took him out of the cold place to the place where he perished… I hate myself for this.
The battles were even closer now. Our Ukrainian troops put the cannons near our house; they shot and circled the area. Soon after a few shots, the response was bombing. When we heard a plane coming, I screamed and took my son. We were hiding in the corner, I was hiding him under me. My husband tried to cover both of us. Kiryusha was afraid. He screamed: “Don’t press on me”. He snuggled against me and curled up. Every time I recall his hugs, I want to scream at the whole world: “Why is he gone and how do I live without my son?”…
A few days before the worst incident Denis’s father and his wife had come to us. Their house also had been damaged. We also took to us Denis’s uncle Grisha who had been sitting in his basement for a few days ― under fire. There were 12 of us in my parents’ house.
We spent half a night in the basement and half a night in the house where it was warmer. It was very loud in the morning. Denis went to visit his mom and grandma because we hadn’t had any news from them for a few days. He was worried about them – as I was about him: how he could get there and back?
We had eaten and then gathered in one room. My dad was sitting near my mom on the sofa. Kiryusha was playing near me ― drawing or making something out of plasticine ― I don’t remember exactly, everything was a blur those days. I was sleepy and wrecked by the overwhelming sounds of destruction outside… Denis and Grisha went to visit his mom and grandma; my brother Slavik went out to close the gate. My Grandma was in the bathroom, cleaning – the bathroom being one of the few unharmed rooms left. At that moment, Kiryusha went to her but I took him back due to it being too cold. I took him back to the place where he died… I hate myself for this.”
In 3-5 minutes, we heard a loud explosion. It was the first hit of the nine-floor building nearby.
“Grab the baby! Grab the baby!” ― I was staring at my dad as he shouted to me. I quickly took Kiryusha to my arms, he had his back turned to me at that moment. We were running to the room with the entrance to the basement, but we wouldn’t make it…
We literally took five steps when there was the second explosion. Darkness, Tinnitus. My son was gone somewhere – I didn’t realize when and where. He was thrown away from me by the explosion and was under the debris. There was a smell of roasted meat and a severe pain. We were in the room with the stove at the moment of the explosion. That stove from the beginning of the story, can you remember it? It was already heated well with coal. That’s the cause of my burns.
I regained consciousness five minutes later, but darkness was still there – I couldn’t breathe. I tried hard to breathe deeply. I made it and opened my eyes. I felt something heavy on me. I couldn’t breathe deeply. Everything was hurting and burning. I wanted only to die. I heard the voice of my husband and begged to kill me, because the pain was unbearable. Then I realized that there was nothing over my head. The house had collapsed. I was just screaming all the time while they were excavating us from the debris. They asked me where Cyril was, but I didn’t know. I didn’t even hear him… I couldn’t believe that he could die. Why did they get me out, not him? Again I screamed and asked them to kill me. I heard a chainsaw over me and I was afraid to be cut by it. They sawed boards from the roof that fell on me. I could finally breathe. Someone took the nails out from my back, and I wanted to die again… They got me out and put me on my stomach and used a door to carry me like a stretcher. Then they got me to a car. It was so painful. It seemed to me that I had no legs and left arm more. I was guessing where my son could be. I couldn’t believe that he had already died…
While they were taking me out, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t pass out from the pain… I just wanted to die. All is over now and I don’t want to die anymore. But back then I thought it was the hell where I was tortured, where my brother and my parents were gone…
All the horrors only began after they got me out. Many of our neighbors also was killed by that bomb. My husband told me about that, since I don’t remember anything. Veronika, Slavik and I were put in the car of a stranger, who just wanted to help us.
I still vividly remember every bump and every turn of the road – that was a wrenching ordeal for me. My bloody body was sliding on the door. They took us to the nearest hospital, but when they saw us, they said: “We can’t take you”. Veronika had 95% of body burns. I was praying for her. They took us to another hospital, or more accurately to the remains of it. Doctors there agreed to help us. I was carried on the door and placed in a corridor on the floor. It was very cold. I was lying there for so long and no one came to me. Again I started to scream loud. It was burning and it was hurt, my body was shaking from the cold and the pain.
A man in a white coat came to me and asked: “What’s troubling you? What hurts?” “Really? I ache all over”. I lay with my whole body on my burned left arm. The skin on it was burned together with the bathrobe. When they took my arm, I saw not only my burned bathrobe but Cyril’s clothes too. I started to cry and asked about my son.
They peeled off the clothes of my skin. Literally peeled off the bathrobe from my arm with meat and burned skin, from my back, from my glutes. My underwear melted to my skin. It was also taken off with my skin and flash. The clothes and skin on my legs were burned out completely, so there was nothing to peel off.
Someone died in the ward, so it was a free place for me. They took me from the floor, put me on the bed, wrapped in folium, covered with a blanket, and started to drip saline. There was already any medicine in the hospital, besides it was under fire. I constantly cried out of pain. There were loads of us, some people without limbs…
The next day Veronica died, her condition had been very critical. Worse than mine. She couldn’t bear it without adequate medical care.
Since the bomb shelter was occupied by our troops, I begged my husband to go somewhere else. But we didn’t know how and where. I wasn’t transportable at all, every movement, every touch caused unbearable pain. My husband insisted, so we tried to find something. Noone would have taken me out of that without him. I was put on a stretcher and then the stretcher was put in the boot of a car. We went to Cheryomushki (a precinct in Mariupol) to our relatives; we had nowhere else to go. The road was like hell. Shots and bombs explosions were everywhere; I felt every roughness on the road. We managed to get there, found a doctor and some medicine.
My husband and my brother tried their best to debride my wounds. They removed debris out of them; there were tile fragments and shells in my body. They treated my wounds with Furacilin and tried to clean them. I was constantly in pain. The wounds oozed, the bed clothing stuck to the wounds again. Tearing it off was a real ordeal, then dressing wounds…
This went on from 15th till 26th of March. All that time they tried to save me. They even managed to find a surgeon in a sailor settlement, who cut the pus out of my wounds with nail scissors. It became loud there on 26 of March. We set up in a day and went to Berdyansk. At least there was a hospital. Again I lied on the stretchers in the boot of the car.
My husband was looking for a doctor, for some medicine. They found an antibiotic for me and started to drip it. There was shooting all the time, then shooting back… We were already accustomed to it. The thoughts about the second bomb… They taped the windows, but I guessed it made no sense. In case of an air strike the Scotch tape wouldn’t help, we all just would die. I wouldn’t survive all this one more time.
“The next morning a nurse came to give me a shot. I begged her to let me hide in the basement, but she told me that there were corpses and there was no more room in the bunker due to our troops and doctors there”.
When husband asked doctors, if I would be able to walk again, they said: “You’d better ask, if she would be at least alive.” I can’t imagine how it was for him at that time. He got out of debris the body of our small son, the died body. He got out all the bodies of our relatives: my parents, his dad, and uncle Sasha. And then he buried them into the ground, what else could he do? I didn’t die on the third day as the doctor had told us. The bombings were so heavy that we had either to go further or to hide into bomb shelter.
We are often asked why we didn’t go to Berdyansk at once. My answer is the chances to get there for me were slim. Doctors said that. They didn’t know what to do with me, but they gave me an IV, ran numerous tests, placed catheters into my neck vein so the medicine could drip quickly. I had a blood and plasma transfusion, and I was bandaged. In intensive care I became stable, but they couldn’t help me with my burns and wounds. A specialized hospital could only help.
We needed to figure out where to go. The nearest hospital with burn units was in Zaporizhzhia. The roads there were blocked due to intense fighting… We had no time to wait, we needed to do something. We decided to go to another one in Donetsk.
…Here I was immediately in intensive care. In a week I had my first skin transplant surgery where the pus was Now I’m waiting for the next one.
I need to do a lot of rehabilitation. I should learn to walk again, move my arm. The ear surgery is needed for hearing. There are tons ahead, but I can, I bear it, I will live and walk. But still my sense of life isn’t with me…
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.