The diary entries of a 16-year-old girl in Mariupol have been shared online amid Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine.
We are now on the 39th day of Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation”. As Ukraine has regained control of key areas across the country, the civilian and troop toll has always come with a heartbreaking caveat: the actual numbers are likely much higher.
Mariupol, the besieged city in southern Ukraine, first sparked war crimes allegations when its maternity hospital was shelled by Russian forces. Since then, it is estimated that nearly 5,000 people have died there since the start of the war.
Lilia Podkopayeva, a former Olympian from Ukraine, shared the diary entries of Katya, a teenager whose mother died in the basement of their home in Mariupol.
As translated and shared on Twitter by Daria Kaleniukexecutive director and co-founder of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine, they read: “You know that feeling when it hurts? I fell in love with a boy, but he didn’t fall in love with me, and I thought it hurt, but it turns out that it hurts to see your mother die in front of you.
“My brother keeps coming up to mum saying, ‘Mum, don’t sleep, you’re going to freeze’.
“We will never go to her grave. She stayed in the dark, damp basement. We went to the bathroom, slept, ate leftovers in the same basement.
“Once Uncle Kolya caught a pigeon, we fried it and ate it. And then we all vomited.
“Mom held on until the end, three days before our evacuation, she died. I told my brother that she was sleeping and that she should not be woken up. But he seems to have understood everything.
“Our neighbor died, and we couldn’t carry her outside, and she began to smell. When everything calmed down, Uncle Kolya took her away, and he himself was killed on a trip wire. Mom cried a lot. After dad died, Uncle Kolya was the closest person.
“The corpses stink so badly. They were everywhere. I covered my brother’s eyes with my mother’s scarf so he couldn’t see it. As we were running I almost threw up several times.
“I no longer believe in your God. If it had existed, we would not have suffered so much.
“My mom never, you hear, never did anything wrong. She went to church. Uncle Kolya quit smoking so mom wouldn’t be nervous that it was a sin. And your God took her in. The priest said that my mother now serves God, but it would be better if she served him here, by raising us.
“I hate Russia. My own uncle is there. Do you know what he said to me on the phone today? “Katya? What is Katya? Girl, I don’t know you. What war, what Katya?
“And then he wrote from a phone on standby: ‘Katya, don’t write to me. It’s dangerous for me and my family. Your mother is gone.’
“I hate them! It was his sister!? How is that possible?…you know, I think I’ll come back to Mariupol. And I’ll live in the same place. And every time, on the same day, I’ll stay at the basement of a new house to put flowers in.
“It’s also scary when children cry. You cannot be heard. These monsters searched for people in the basements and killed them. Those who survived said the Russian army was capable of raping children and the elderly, and even corpses. If God exists, why does he allow this?
“I don’t want to live anymore. We will probably be apart now. And I may not see my brother. Why ? Why did this Putin save us?
“We lived well, we even bought a car. Uncle Kolya promised to teach me to drive. They even burned the car. And the apartment disappeared.
“I want to die, but I can’t… hug your children! Otherwise, you might be gone and they won’t remember your smell. If I endure and have children more late, I will hug them all the time.”
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicine and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to people in Ukraine, click here for more information