Diary of War

15 March 2022

Day twenty

Vesna [Mariupol]

Three days ago, Mom left to find some food and water. She never came back. 

I’m hungry and I’m tired. I’m alone. 

For the past two days, I have looked for her, turning around each body with even the vaguest resemblance. She cut her hand on a fence the day we lost Aleksey, so I focus on the hands of people scattered in the streets. There are so many bodies I lose count. 

Finally, I notice that more and more cars pass me. I think the corridors are open again—I should find out what’s happening. My voice croaks when I approach a family packing up their car. I haven’t drunk real water in a long time, mostly sipping on snow and ice. They agree to take me with them for free—I don’t even ask where they’re going.

We’re seven people crammed into a small Dacia car. The car windows have been blown out and plastic wrap is now taped onto the bodywork as a replacement. It slowly unravels, blowing in the wind.I make no sound, take up no space, afraid they’ll kick me out for being a burden. 

It takes us hours before I finally hear Ukrainian voices at the last checkpoint. These are our guys. The mother sitting in front turns around, looks at me and finally asks: “Where’s your mother?” “Gone,” I answer. “How old are you?”—”16,” I say.

“God bless you,” she mumbles when they pull over. I get out of the car and walk away.