War in Ukraine, Mariupol’s letter from underground: “The flames and hunger, our hours shaking”

Of Alex *

The terrible story of the siege sent by Alex, a graphic designer who has lived with his family in the cellar of his apartment building since March 3, without electricity, water or gas, to seek shelter from the Russian bombs that fall on his city

* the author is a resident of Mariupol

D.as of March 3, my family and I spend our lives sitting in the cellar of our condominium. We have no electricity, running water or gas. The only way to call or text from my area is to approach the office of KyevStar. At certain times, they activate an antenna with a gas generator. But it is dangerous to go there. Almost every single shop, supermarket or kiosk was broken down, people looted everything, even what he didn’t need to survive. What do childless adults do with toys, diapers, baby rompers? Maybe it’s because they hope to trade them. Today in Mariupol a pack of cigarettes is worth a fortune. With that you can still get food and water.

To eat, we light a wood fire in the hall of our five-story building. Only in this way can we cook the food we had accumulated. And so we also heat the water for morning tea. We have no sources of information except what we get from an old Soviet battery-powered radio. In the first few days we picked up a couple of Ukrainian stations. Around 7 March they were disturbed by the Russians and now only their propaganda comes out of that old radio. There are no “green corridors” to escape: every single hope is erased. It is like that day after day. We have become convinced that Russia and those of the Donetsk National Republic do not want the people of Mariupol to evacuate to Ukraine and from there to Europe.

They just want us to go to Russia. Moscow, it is true, offers its “green corridors”, but they would be one-way tickets. Once we arrive in Russia, we are sure that we will no longer be allowed to leave. Many windows in buildings across the city center have been shattered. Some buildings were hit by Russian artillery, some burned to black, a lot of infrastructure has been destroyed. The outskirts of Mariupol are now completely demolished by cannon shots. There are long queues for the water and often it is not even drinkable or at least purified. Then when the rumor spreads that the town hall has baked bread, you risk being left in the queue for half a day or even more. At the risk of bombs. But people stay there because they’re hungry.

Those who die are wrapped in a cloth and placed on the sidewalk because no one can take him to the cemetery. They also bomb among the graves. Not all died from the explosions, many succumbed to fatigue, hunger, cold, fear. These are terrifying hours. We constantly live in fear. Usually, I’m a pretty calm guy, I hardly get fussed, but when I hear artillery fire and bombs explode near our apartment building, I start to shake. The legs move on their own, I can’t even stop my teeth.

Nobody knows when this nightmare will end and me I’m not sure Mariupol can really recover. What I want is a peaceful life for my family and for me. And water, electricity, gas in my apartment. I don’t want to wake up with artillery fire tomorrow. If life is hell for soldiers, it is hell multiplied by 11 for civilians. I take notes of each passing day and I want to keep them even when we are finally in a safe place. They will help me and my children not to forget.


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