Friendly atmosphere near the hearth and death under the rubbles. Notes of the Mariupol journalist

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Journalist Alevtyna Shvetsova introduced the world to Mariupol before the war, with its diversity and beauty. Now, her diary depicts the city that has changed and the townspeople killed by the Russian occupiers.
photo: azov regiment page on

photo: azov regiment page on

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«February 24. The hell begins.

I went to the 23rd microdistrict to congratulate my brother on his 12th birthday and to stay there for 13 days.

The husband’s parents and his grandmother moved from the Skhidnyi [«Eastern» microdistrict] into the apartment on the subway.

On March 8, the shelling in my native 23rd did not stop for a minute, the windows were blown out, and my favourite parrot Chicha died (the children buried her in the yard under a tree), we (two children aged 8 and 12, my parents, my husband and I) walked to the centre under fire. There was a bomb shelter in the house on Myru Avenue, and it seemed that security was waiting for us there.

Read also: A story from Mariupol. How people are still living under the yellow-grey sky and waiting for salvation

This is what the houses in the Western microdistrict (23rd) looked like on March 3-8

March 16, 2022, the centre of Mariupol, Peace Avenue.

The house with a clock has become a refuge for many Mariupol men and women. The vault is filled not only with the inhabitants of this house. People came here from different districts, because Maria, the head of the condominium, takes care of everyone: duty is organized so that looters do not damage cars; a hearth for cooking is maintained throughout the day; a friendly atmosphere and warm communication distract from the harsh reality.

The first shell from the plane on March 10 near our house. Crater. The ground was scattered within a radius of 50 meters, which is visible at the intersection. View from the window. The university is on fire after the shelling

This way, we cooked food. A bomb will fly into the «stove» on March 16

March 16. 10:30. The little ones and I went up to the apartment on the 4th floor to get plates for a lean soup for lunch.

Read also: She stayed in Mariupol until the end and wishes to return. A story of the young mother from the ghost city

The daily view from the window – the city on fire. The window was broken later

And suddenly, the house shakes with extraordinary force, the ceiling cracks, dust in the nose and throat, I shout «DOWN, QUICKLY.» I run first, then the children, my mother… the crowd below, the cries that «PEOPLE ARE PRESSED». Vadym (his feet are pressed with ground and bricks) and Halya (unconscious, breathing with blood) are being pulled out from under the rubble. Men start clearing debris to get people. I take the children to the shelter and return. VANIA. A friendly neighbour, always with a smile. We start digging by hand. There is no pulse. A broken body with no single bone left intact. And Halya’s husband said that the wife did not survive.

Shell on March 16. There was a stove in the lower right corner. Mountain of earth, scaffolding, bricks. There is a possibility that people remained under the rubble.

My husband on the right pulled Ivan’s dead body out from under the rubble, and a neighbour who first saw her husband dead

On the same day, we left Mariupol on foot. But.

We left Mariupol on foot. The drama theatre is on fire after the shelling. We did not yet know the scale of the tragedy at the drama theatre

Part of the family grabbed their backpacks right away, but my parents and brother stayed in the basement under fire. My mother has back problems, and she said she just can’t walk. Her brother and father decided not to leave her alone. And (I cannot recall this) the six of us set off. I cried incessantly. After all, we were under fire, to the sounds of attacking planes. And more than the fear of this walk, I was afraid that I would never see my mother, brother and father.

We left Mariupol on foot. The drama theatre is on fire after the shelling. We did not yet know the scale of the tragedy at the drama theatre

It was not possible to pass that way in one day, and the probability of spending the night on the open air coast forced us to ask the residents of the village of Pishchanka to spend the night. Friendly Tetiana took us in. She fed us. My son immediately fell asleep in a warm house, and I looked at him for a long time and cried. Shots and explosions were heard, Russian planes hit the center of Mariupol…

March 17.

Miracle. A real miracle happened that day. In the morning, we continued our way, crossing the cursed Russian checkpoint on the way out of the city, reached the village of Portovske. I met an old friend and asked him: «don’t you know who can take out of town?», «I am going today» he answers. Beg him to take us with him. Agrees.

This is my mother and my brother, for whom I returned the next day

Within a day, the city suffered new destruction. I try not to think about the victims and pray. I pray to see my relatives alive now. The car can be parked only a few yards away, and smoke and explosions are closer to the house. I run to the entrance, open the door to the basement… and here they are, my relatives with frightened eyes… MOM, THREE MINUTES… in a moment grab some packages and as soon as we jump out into the street – the shelling begins. Shells are being fired at the Registry Office, in «Zhemchuh» [a trading cooperative], and we are miraculously hiding in the entrance.

On March 18, fate gave our family another magician. He took ours and several other families to Zaporizhzhia. Absolutely free, without even taking money for «gasoline». Belief in people. It is with these friends that we will rebuild our Mariupol and our country.

How many children survived, but held on bravely. Every night before going to bed, they dreamed of what they would eat when the Ukrainian army repulsed the Russian occupiers.

Today, in safety, the little boy remembers that «everything was in Mariupol, but now it’s hell.»

Alevtyna’s House today

The Russian occupiers killed my friends, destroyed my city and my life, crippled thousands of people, but did not destroy the love for Mariupol. After a dozen rushist checkpoints, I carried the Ukrainian flag and returned with it to the free Ukrainian Mariupol.»

Published on the Medium page of «Azov»

By Alevtyna Shevtsova, translated by Vitalii Holich

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.


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