My grandmother Lena was born (1931) and grew up in Mariupol. In our family archive there are photos of the old city, of her grandfather, my great-great-grandfather, with* the first car in the city.
Grandma told many stories of her childhood to all her grandchildren, but I am perhaps the only person in the family to whom she entrusted the terrible stories of the war. The war she saw as a child. Back then (as a teenager) these stories evoked a huge range of emotions in me. I asked a lot of questions as if I was trying to understand something. ..
Story 1. Before the fascists entered the city they bombed it mercilessly**. And very many civilians were killed. Among them all my grandmother’s girlfriend-neighbor died. In front of my grandmother Lena she had half her head blown off by shrapnel. .. I remember Grandma telling [me] and adding bitterly***, «Even now, after all these years, as an old woman, I remember the events of those years down to the last detail. . .»
Story 2. During the occupation the Germans made a sort of kitchen in my grandmother’s home. The children of her age and younger gathered up the scraps and parings. Grandma managed to save at least a small part for her mother, who was weak from disease. She said that the potato peels and burnt kernels of wheat saved [them] from starvation****.
Story 3. An SS detachment came to Mariupol. Grandma said that these soldiers were empty-eyed, as if soulless. Then mass shootings of civilians began. Even those who, in the opinion of the SS soldiers, «looked at them the wrong way"***** were shot on the spot: women, children, old people. ..
Story 4. There were concentration camps on the outskirts of the city and in the city itself. Grandma said it was the worst sight she has ever seen******. The camps were guarded and any move in that direction promised certain death. «Half-naked, emaciated, exhausted. . .» I have never told my children these stories. I was protecting their souls. On February 24 Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine. Cynically attacked a sovereign, peaceful state. My children were awakened by the explosion of a shell, which flew toward our building******* and miraculously hit a huge billboard. For 18 days we spent the night in a bomb shelter. ..
My Milana, at 11, knows about the horrors of Irpin, about Bucha, Kharkiv, and Mariupol. Mariupol, where my grandmother Lena was born and grew up. ..
I believe in our victory! In Ukraine! In our warriors! In our peaceful future! In our children! In us! Our Spirit is strong and everything will be Ukraine!