Mariupol, Alex’s siege: “Potatoes and cans, food shared with neighbors”

Of Andrea Nicastro

The story of a boy who escaped from the battered city. The days spent in the cellar, the roar of the guns, the fear of not making it: My city is dead, why stay?

FROM OUR REPORT TO ZAPORIZHZHIA On Thursday 10 March, more than a week after the siege of Mariupol began, Alex had managed to find some wave to send a Telegram message to Courier service.
He wrote: My family and I spend our lives sitting in the cellar … people have looted everything, even what they did not need to survive … there are long queues for water … when the word spreads that the Town Hall has baked bread, people remain in line even with the risk of bombs because is hungry…. That message was a rare glimpse of the conditions of the siege, but also the amazed look of a 21st century boy in front of the inconceivable he had to face: bombs, hunger, cold.

Alex is 23 and a digital designer. He had welcomed the possibility of working with a foreign journalist with the commitment of someone accustomed to doing things scrupulously. After that message, however, silence. On his accounts not even the check of delivery. P.
rigioniero with 300 thousand others in the city reduced to the time of the caves. After seven days of darkness, yesterday Alex arrived in Zaporizhzhia with his family. Except. I’m trying to rediscover that I am human – his greeting -. Not easy after a long time in which my life was worth nothing.

No complacency, no haughtiness from Rambo. I only really risked dying once. For the rest, like everyone, just a lot of fear.

In my memory as if there were two periods in the siege: the first week when there was still food in the unlit refrigerators and the guns were heard getting closer and closer. And a second, where the food was only potatoes and cans and the bombs were no longer just artillery, but the most frightening ones of aviation.

The whole condominium was in the cellars. At first we were scared by the roar of the guns, then we realized that they didn’t reach us and, somehow, we calmed down. We ate like for a picnic, everything was going bad. In the early days certain forms of courtesy were maintained, of social respect, then little by little groups of three or four families were formed, interested only in surviving. Until the day before, they were neighbors I met in the elevator without even remembering their name, then they became a second family. We shared everything we had. Mine and yours have ceased to exist. Only a small bag with documents and some valuables was exclusive, but the rest was ours: food, water, fire, the strength to chop wood, the car to go to the fountain or the river. My father had the car to offer, my mother the spirit. She talked, stitched up, explained, comforted.

In the cellar, there was no shortage of time to think.

We rationed the supplies. Even when we were joined by an aunt, daughter and their cat there were no problems sharing. Their building on Mir Street had been hit. Via Pace, ironic, was one of the chicest in Mariupol, now only one of the hottest. The hunger was in its place, without disturbing. When we left, we still had potatoes and cans to last at least another 2 weeks.

Shortly after sending that message to the Courier service, the worst time. I have found that it is one thing to hear a bomb from inside the shelter, another while you are out in the open. I had gone to find the telephone line and was returning. On one side I had a very long closed building, on the other an empty park. I heard the sound of the jet and I was paralyzed. The roar of the plane is frightening, they taught me that you have a few seconds to take shelter in an entrance hall, but I didn’t have shelters there. A Ukrainian soldier shook me screaming from afar to take cover against a wall. I had time to crouch when I saw the shock wave transform stones and bricks into soft matter, waving them like a flag. In a fraction of a second the windows swelled like soap bubbles, at the burst I heard all the noise I hadn’t heard before. The bomb had dropped 4-500 meters.

Mariupol no longer exists, a building if not in the center damaged or burned. I don’t know if 20 years will be enough to get back the city it was a month ago. dead, why stay? After the nightmare, the happiness of salvation. happened at the first Ukrainian check point after the many Russians. Where are you from? Mariupol. Go away, go. Pure joy. The cat got scared by our screams.

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