Stories that you confided to us

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Stories that you confided to us

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Svitlana Aleksandrova
"The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive"

I lived with the children by the sea. I deeply love my home. When the shelling attack began, I was sent to Mariupol.
The youngest son does not remember it, but the eldest daughter is still afraid.

Now when we gather on every family holiday, I remember the words of my grandmother and say, "Grandma, I'm sorry that we all laughed about this." The world is not just three letters, it is something much more.

We lived well before the war. Our village of Berdianske was rich. There was a school in a neighboring village, and a kindergarten. Work load was was always enough. Recreation and retreat centers  of Illichivsk Integrated Mill were there. That is, you could work on the spot. And I went to work in Mariupol. My eldest daughter wanted to study in Mariupol, because the level of knowledge is slightly higher than in the village. We and our neighbors took turns driving our children to school in our cars.

And now we are the last Ukrainian village. Shyrokyne is completely occupied by the military. There is a delineation, and  the DPR is just a few meters away. And we are an edging Ukrainian village.

The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive

"When I remember it, I always get goosebumps"

For me, the war began on 24 January 2014. I was at work when Skhidne was bombed. I knew then that this was no joke. This is no longer funny talks, this is very serious. 

Well, in 2015, I had no other options left, so I had to go here [to Mariupol]. I had to take my parents, because my father is a disabled person. He joined the army at the age of eighteen and lost his leg. My mother is already retired. Unfortunately, they are too shy to live with us. Grandpa has a prosthetic leg, and he doesn't want the kids to see all this inconvenience. They live in rented accommodation separately.

They help me because I'm still taking care of my child. My kidneys started to fail, and my son was born prematurely (seven months). There are good doctors in Mariupol. They saved me and my prince. I call him Tsar. He often gets sick — every month, or even twice a month, there is no way to go to work yet.

There are a lot of friends and good men found themselves in Kyivskyi Market during the bombing. My boss's wife got hurt, as well as other people.

People yanked off job without permission, went to pick up things and see if their homes were intact, and if their relatives were alive.

It touched everyone who lived in Livoberezhnyi District.

The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive

I was at work in Illichivskyi District, Mariupol. And my daughter was at school, in Livoberezhnyi District, practically on the other end of the city. And I knew I couldn't come pick her up. I can't even express how scared I was for my child! Communications were lost, I couldn't get through. When I remember it, I always get goosebumps. 

The car alarms in parking lots went off, and the ground was in a flurry. We thought it was somewhere nearby, but it turned out that Skhidne was bombed.

My colleague's house was damaged. We heard the news on the radio. Everyone at the plant had radios (I worked in security), and all the news of Mariupol was transmitted on the radio. We called our colleague, "Lyosha, is your house safe?" And he said," Oh, no, we are on fire, I have to go down into the basement." Thank God, he and his family was alive. The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive. 

The next day Mariupol was in mourning. Everyone was crying. We were so afraid that the situation might repeat.

My daughter still loses consciousness at the sound of bombing. She says, "Mother, where should we run?"

"Grandma said, "Granddaughter, the worst thing in life is to witness war"

Now we live side by side. Skhidne is 10 minutes away, within a stone throw. The last bomb hit several hundred meters away from my house. 

The road to our village of Berdianske was closed, and we were not allowed to enter for several days. Then they began to let in only local residents with a residence permit. The same rule is abided up till now. There are checkpoints.

The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive

I go there to see if the house is all right. There are still houses in the village, but it is impossible to live there. We arrived once in five years and fed the dog. A neighbor's grandmother, who is not taken away, was brought something to eat and left food for the dog. All the other houses are abandoned. Our house was heavily pierced. One day my father went to see if the dog was still alive. I collected huge fragments in the yard. The Foundation was covered in cracks and everything just got pinched.

I remember my grandmother, may she rest in peace. When we used to sit down at the table, my grandmother had a toast, "I wish that children would never see a war." We always laughed. I said, "Grandma, what are you talking about? Can you ever say something positive?" And she said, "Granddaughter, the scariest thing in life is to witness war. We survived it, we left you a peaceful country. So take care of it." Nevertheless, we didn't. 

Now when we gather on every family holiday, I remember the words of my grandmother and say, "Grandma, I'm sorry that we all laughed about this." The world is not just three letters, it is something much more.

My father said categorically, "I was born here, I will die here"

We were engaged in sea activities. We went fishing and attracted  vacationers. We have a very good resort area. People came to us even from abroad. The beach was pretty good, people took mud baths. It is very useful for skin diseases. 

My parents rented out a house where my grandparents lived. They let vacationers in. They lived off it, because dad was disabled and couldn't do much else. No I can't go fishing, I can't fish without a leg. The other guys created fishing teams. 

Now they are all dead. Even if we recreate the teams... Well, who will go there? No one will do that – there is nothing there. I could have left the country. My father said categorically, "I was born here, and I will die here." He believes that everything will be rebuilt, everything will be fine. We will move there to live. There will be a school, a kindergarten. It will be fine, and we will stay there. We said, "Yes, dad, of course." And he lives by it. Maybe he understands it with his head, but his heart doesn't want to accept it. 

The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive

We stayed in Mariupol for our father's sake, hoping for the best. I don't want to leave, I really like our city, my native village. It is very beautiful.

Despite the disability, my father was very strong. Now his health has deteriorated drastically due to the news about his friends and classmates from Shyrokyne. If someone dies, he gets sick. We were as a whole and went to the same school. We are a diaspora. We communicate with each other. It is like he is waiting for it to happen to him next time. We said, "Dad, we need you, you have a grandchild, you have a granddaughter. Come on, grandpa, go ahead!" And he lives by the thought of it. 

He wants to come to Berdianske and restore the house somehow. He says, "I wish my grandchildren would come here, by the sea, and breathe fresh air."

"Mother, I dream that you are dead, that I am looking for you and I can't find you"

The children went into shells. It's like they put some sort of inner grating on. My daughter used to be very ambitious and communicable. She was so bright. She drew such beautiful pictures. And after all this happened,  she stopped drawing at all at one point, "I have nothing to draw about, I don't want to." She still doesn't like drawing.

There are no healthy people here a priori. We all all like this. Nerve cells don't regenerate.

My daughter started having headaches and lack of energy. We take medications to increase our appetite. The girl is 14 years old, and she weighs 32 kg. It is not because there is nothing to eat. It is because she has no appetite, she does not want to eat.

And when we lived in the village and felt fresh air, everything was good. We had our own fresh vegetables from the garden. We kept our own household. Chickens, eggs, we had everything we needed. And now...

The only thing we thought about was that everyone was alive

She sleeps badly, has bad dreams, and wakes up at night. She constantly dreams about losing me. It is because when Skhidne was bombed for the first, and she saw it, I was at work. And now she has a constant fear of losing me.  Mother, I dream that you are dead, that I am looking for you and I can't find you. Just three days ago, I had this dream.  She woke up, ran up, and kissed me, "Mom, are you all right? I dreamed you were dead." 

This is at the awkward age… Her peers are very complicated. They often play the bear. They even treat each other  aggressively. I don't know what this is all about. I think that it was most likely due to nervous suspension. We have a lot of displaced children in our class. We have experienced the same tragedy – and each in his/her own world. They have no contact with each other as such. Everyone experiences their own grief. We struggle. Thus, we see psychologists. Parents all try to help us in this or other way. They are our children, and no one needs them but us.

"The children ran along the village with their hands torn off"

I dream of peace. I would really like this to be one of those book stories, and not first-hand. So that they don't take him there, so that he doesn't see it all.

I remember children who ran through our village with their hands torn off. Dad would start the car and take them to Skhidne, where they  gathered. They escaped from Shyrokyne when the first attack was initiated. They ran down the hill, but they didn't know the way down there. If they had [run] down there, more kids would probably have survived…

In this full panic mode, someone did not even feel that limbs were torn off. Young boys aged 18. I am so afraid that this might repeat.

I'm raising my son alone. Grandmother and grandfather helped. I said, "You are a son of the regiment.  You are a strong man, and you will grow up on your own."

"We cannot get bank loans, because we are internal refugees"

"We express our sincere gratitude to the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. Son was born with major pathologies. He didn't breathe for several seconds, he was resuscitated. Brain swelling was feasible. No one gave me any guarantee that he would be a normal boy. We rallied our strength and came to Mariupol, to Newborn Pathology Polyclinic. We stayed there for a month lay. The treatment was terrible — a 20 day- treatment regimen, antibiotics injected  in the head, droppers, everything else…

Money wasn't very good. We pawned, transferred, sold everything we could, as well as borrowed from friends. We cannot get bank loans, because we are internal refugees.  And I was adviced to, at least, call the Foundation to ask for advice. They gave me a hotline number and I called them.

The girls from the call center immediately responded and explained everything. We know that we can call at any time if the operation or something else is serious. No one has ever been declined. My friends who came from Shyrokyne, classmates, were not declined either. Thank you all!

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