Today I finally got my thoughts together. I want to remember everything. It’s very difficult; there’s an emptiness and despair inside. How much do you have to hate people to kill them and destroy their homes? What did the children die for? And they are still dying. There are tears in my eyes that make it hard to write. It’s very bitter to think that these monsters have robbed you of everything. I never thought these «brothers» would treat us like this.
On February 24, we awoke to explosions. At first we couldn’t understand what it was. They were bombing the airport in Sievierodonetsk. It was horrible; we didn’t know what to do. On the second day, we lost water, electricity, and heat. The gas saved us. We warmed our tea and warmed the apartment. It was very cold. Nature, too, was protesting the war: the temperature was minus twelve Celsius.
We tried to keep warm in the apartment as best we could. There were explosions round the clock. My husband and I kept going from one room to another, depending on where it seemed safer. And at night we sat near the doorway of our apartment, which seemed like the quietest place to be. We could hear windows in the entryway coming down from the explosions. This was alarming: near the apartment door turned out to be dangerous, too. There was nowhere to go, the building has no basement. The windowpanes next door were coming down (the windows were still Soviet). We didn’t want to go outside. We live on the eighth floor, and the elevator was turned off right away. The stores were closed, and you could only buy bread next to the baking factory itself (very far from us). We spent days and nights like that. Our only interaction was with our neighbors. When the explosions got very loud, we all stepped out and stood in the hallway near the elevator (where we thought it would be safer).
We had to go out on March 8 — not to buy anything, just to charge our phones. This meant having to go to the old part of town, where there were still some normal human amenities. We met people along the way; they were looking for a place to charge their phones too. People were making their way in quick dashes. There were explosions one after the other.
We reached our destination, and we weren’t even there for an hour when the shelling began. The blast wave blew open the windows of the place we were located. You could hear people screaming outside. This was the beginning of terrible events in the city. Many people died that day in Sievierodonetsk. They came under fire in the street. There was a lot of destruction in the city, buildings were burning. We had to try to make our way home in breaks between the shelling. It was a difficult and dangerous journey.
We didn’t know if we would make it home alive. But it was scary at home, too, with shells falling nearby. My husband and I decided to look for a building with a basement. So we ended up in the basement of a building that still had light, water, and gas. But it was below zero in the basement, and my body was freezing through and through. It was impossible to sleep at night — it’s not so easy to sleep in a sitting position — and it was also bone-chillingly cold. The tenants of this building ran electric wires to the basement, and so we were able to plug in a space heater. So we warmed up near that.
But the basement was not at all adapted to human habitation. There was dirt and rubbish that had been there since the building was built (in the Soviet period). The bombing caused sand to keep coming down from the ceiling. The building quaked from shells hitting the courtyard. The food we brought from home ran out.
During this time, the neighborhood was being shelled day and night. It was hard for volunteers to deliver food to us. Still, twice a week they managed to do drive-bys, throwing boxes of groceries for us near the driveway. The boxes contained frozen chickens, packets of pasta, and canned beans and peas. Thank goodness for the residents of the building; they made us soup with the chicken and pasta. Then we got electric kettles in the basement. And that’s how we adjusted to a new life. We shared a bag of ramen among seven people and brewed it in cups. It was cold and we were hungry, but everyone put up with it and expected it to end soon, like in 2014. We kept listening to see where the artillery was coming from most often; it made us very happy when our guys hit the «liberators.»
It went on like this until March 17. We might have kept on, suffering in the basement, but I ran out of vital medications. I couldn’t go on without them. We left the city by shuttle van on March 17. What we saw when we came out of the basement for the first time horrified us. All the buildings in the city were damaged. All the way to the van, I cried. I didn’t know then that we were leaving our hometown for a long time.
Translated from Russian by A. S. Brown