Diary of War

28 February 2022

Day five

Vesna [Mariupol]

We’re completely surrounded. From Donetsk in the east, tanks have crept up on us. From the Azov Sea, warships keep us in their crosshair. It’s weird how vehicles can be so slow yet so effective. Even the sky is our enemy now.

My older brother, Aleksey, used to love Pocahontas when we were kids. “Steady as the beating drum,” they sing in the movie’s opening scene. Artillery hits my city now, steady as a beating drum. It’s a rhythm that has taken over my life, reverberating in my bones, taking over my heartbeat.

My brother and our neighbour checked the roof of our building for Russian tags yesterday. On Telegram, we had read that undercover saboteurs earmark buildings with signs for fighter jets to zone in on the targets. I don’t know if I should believe that or if the Russians are just bombing anything they feel like.

We spend most of our time in the common corridor of our building, hoping it’ll protect us from direct hits. We have all brought food, blankets and emergency bags into the hallway. There are at least 20 of us here, a few cats and many children. I’ve never seen them this quiet.

As surreal as it sounds, I’m grounded for leaving the house last Friday. I guess Mom wants to keep some sense of normalcy, even though she hasn’t yelled at me for leaving. The internet has been down most of the day anyway, and I have little else than a book to keep me busy while we shelter. It’s about magic and demons—but for the first time, I’m unable to escape the world around me. I put down the book and stare at the ceiling.

A light bulb hangs there, unadorned. Its yellow light reveals the tiredness on everyone’s face and casts shadows on the cold, humid walls. Then, the light goes out. No one screams like they do in the movies. There’s just one collective sigh.