These soldiers also didn’t live such a great life! They would ask for water, for something, and if you brought them a bottle of vodka, they would be ready to kiss you. We had a well in the yard, so we got non-drinking water there. I told the Russians: you must have tablets to clean the water. They said, yes, we had them, but they ran out a month ago. I asked: and what about your canned food? Do you still have any of the vegetable stew? They said, no. They ate the same repulsive porridge from the field kitchen that they gave to us. I noticed that they were all wearing different shoes: maybe they looted it, or found it, or it was in the humanitarian aid packages, but it was different shoes, different hats. Everything was dirty and worn out. Their leadership didn’t really provide for them.
I call the Mariupol tragedy the three A-s
The morning of April 25th a man came to our basement and called out my name. He took me to Bilosarayskaya Kosa. Even though I lost 10 kg, the main thing was not food, but a hot shower. It was the first time I took a proper shower. It’s been so long since I shaved last, that they jokingly called me Hemingway and Karl Marx. And when I shaved and cut my hair, I couldn’t recognize myself, I changed so much.
Then they moved us to Berdyansk. It was all through the Jewish community; I was part of the Hesed programs. Then we were brought to Crimea, to the village of Nikolaevka. I started getting better, although my mental health is messed up, and I don’t know when it will get better. Many of my friends and neighbors died after all.
In Crimea, they put us up in a small hotel with the help of some Jewish sponsors. They treated us well and cared for us. At one point, the woman who was cleaning got me off-balance. She cleaned very well, but one day she came wearing a T-shirt with the letter Z, maybe she just didn’t think about it. And then this family came from Moscow. Unlike us, they came for a vacation and paid quite a lot by Mariupol standards. They were a good family with two children. The woman was very nice. And the son (about 10 years old) was wearing a t-shirt with Putin’s portrait and a sign: if you hurt me, you won’t live more than three days. They seemed like nice people, and they didn’t get that there were refugees there, who had lost everything…
On June 1st, they got us on a plane from Mineralnye Vody to Tel Aviv. They gave us a warm welcome, provided everything: people bring clothes, shoes, even books. I’m crazy about literature and have read quite a bit over 70 years. I live in Netanya, the people here are very kind and offer help. I have not seen any pro-Russian people here. Although my nephew lives in Hadera, and he says that Russians started this whole thing so Americans wouldn’t get to Ukraine. But I haven’t seen any Americans in Mariupol, and I saw Russians every day.
I call what happened with Mariupol the three As: Abyss of hell, Apocalypse, Armageddon. I keep thinking of the historical analogies: when we were isolated it was like the siege of Leningrad; our house that was in the line of fire - the Pavlov House in Stalingrad. And of course Sodom and Gomorra, biblical associations. And Cato the Elder, who kept mumbling Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed). These are terrifying associations. Someone really wanted to destroy Mariupol and I think that Putin is in line for a new Nurenberg or Hague trial.
Recently I saw a video clip, saying that the city is coming back: the streets are being cleaned, the stores and hospitals are reopening. People got used to things, and it’s understandable. Not excusable, but understandable. If the Ukrainian army decides to get Mariupol back and there will be new shellings, people will start hating Ukraine. They survived so much, finally got back to a semblance of normal life, even though it’s worse than before. People from Donetsk and Lugansk said that their life is poorer than in Ukraine, including in Mariupol.
What else can I say? Honestly, I want to forget a lot: these memories are bad, full of grief and tears.