“I play the violin on a cruise ship to make people smile, but now it is hard. I am from Mariupol, Ukraine. My mother is still there. She lives half an hour walking distance from the city center. For the first two weeks of the war, I didn’t know if she was alive. She lives alone, but she is now staying in the basement with some of my friends. It is cold, and the food is about to end, but at least she is still alive. I only have my mom. I don’t have brothers or sisters. I have family in Russia, but they are trying to stay out of politics.
We are only an hour from the Russian border. Eight years ago, the Russians occupied the nearby Donetsk region. We got used to having Ukrainian soldiers around, but Mariupol still blossomed and became more beautiful. More people became real patriots loyal to Ukraine. People wanted to stay here. Now it’s destroyed. I read the news, but there is no one to contact in my city.
Mariupol is a sweet pie for the Russians, and we knew they would want it. We have a seaport and powerful steel factories. But nobody expected the killing of women and children or mass graves. My friends in Mariupol are hiding underground and can’t contact anyone. My best friend went to her aunt’s house–it soon became 16 people with small kids living together in the basement of that house.
They are trying to make green corridors for humanitarian help, but cars and buses with supplies were bombed trying to get to Mariupol. I am afraid my mom will run out of her blood pressure medicine. Russians say they are our brothers and are trying to save us. What are they saving us from? No one asked them to save us.
I want to get my mom out of Mariupol, but it’s too dangerous for me to go there and too dangerous for her to leave. She doesn’t want to leave her house. My grandparents built it in the 1960s, and she loves her garden there. It’s home where our memories were made. Why should we have to leave it? The kids from all around gathered in our street to play football and basketball. In the winter, we went skiing.
My mother was a piano player and kindergarten teacher. She also taught kids to sing. I started playing violin when I was seven. I had good ears and liked it. I played for five years in the orchestra in Mariupol. Now I get to travel around the world and play the violin. I learned how to speak English on the cruise ship.
I am supposed to get off in a few weeks to go home. But the city and life I knew have been destroyed. What will I return to? I can’t cry 24 hours a day, so I try to find ways to stay positive.”