My friend Halya was a heroine of newspaper articles in the 1990s. Mariupol was proud of her. What’s more, at the end of the 90s, the young doctor from Mariupol won a prize in a very difficult competition among medics from the former Soviet Union—only two won out of hundreds of participants—and so she moved to Spain to improve her qualifications.
Halya studied a lot, worked hard and became a good physician in Spain. She used to tell me about her work in a way that made it clear that saving a life for her wasn’t just a job. Halya is an extremely positive and very, very gifted person: languages, music, sport—I don’t know how she managed to do all that while also studying constantly and having 24-hour shifts.
On February 19, she called me.
«Hey, I’m in Kyiv! Let’s get together!»
I couldn’t make it that day, but I knew that Halya was travelling to see her elderly parents in Mariupol. She was very worried about them. She helped them, treating them in Ukraine and in Spain, but her father had cancer and her parents returned to Mariupol: as if to say, when you’re home even the walls heal you.
«When do you plan to return from Mariupol to Spain? Let’s meet up on your return trip, then,» I suggested. I’ll never forgive myself for that!
Halya went off to Mariupol and the war broke out…
Yesterday, I managed by some miracle to get through to Halya’s mom.
She told me that her daughter had been with them all those days under shelling in the dark, cold basement of their apartment building, with her bed-ridden, dying father and aging mother. At first, their apartment was bombed and they moved her father to a neighboring one, but shells hit that one, too, and they had to quickly move him to the basement. They spent many days down there, without heat, food, water, electricity, or medications. One day, a neighbor risked driving his parents out of the city in his car and Halya begged her mother to go with him. Herself she stayed with her dying father in the dark, damp basement while shells fell all around. The pride of Mariupol, this wonderful person who had saved thousands of lives. I have no words… Only prayers… Lord, save and protect Mariupolites and all Ukraine.