Left: A wedding photo. Right: Anastasiya’s building. Photos from Anastasiya’s archives.
Left: Anastasiya’s building. Right: The cars burnt in the yard.
Left: Cooking on the open fire. Right: Explosion craters filled in with garbage.
Left: Lola. Right: The yard.

Funny story: the rats ran from the garages nearby two days before the war. Just left. I don’t know where.

My son couldn’t always take naps because it was so loud: the furniture was shaking and the windows were moving. When he couldn’t sleep, we just stayed awake under the blanket for a while.

Left: Two walls rule. Right: The damage.
Left: Looting. Right: Volodymyr cleaning a frozen fish he had managed to get.

He saw burnt corpses, and people with their limbs torn off. It was dark and smoky in the building, and ashes covered everything. Volodymyr tried to provide first aid wherever he could but sometimes he couldn’t tell a mannequin from a person on the floor.

We had no clue about what was happening in the city, leave alone in the country or the world. It could have been full-scale World War III or Ukraine could have fallen already but how would we know? All we had was just guesses. We left on March 17, the day after the Mariupol drama theater was bombed but we knew nothing about it.

Once we drove a bit further from Mariupol on our way out, we saw how exhausted and tired these Russian soldiers were. They cooked something on the fire in the garbage bins, with exhausted-looking dogs running around. I didn’t feel sorry for them. Go back home, why suffer?

I am alive, thank God, I still have my hands and legs, I think I can find strength and stand on my feet again.

Left: Mariupol before the war. Right: Anastasiya.

Why go abroad? Why do we have to leave? Ukraine is our home. This is our land.

Family photos.

Until the last minute, we believed that we would stay at home for three-four days, and then we will go on with our happy life. I have a feeling that I should wake up any moment now, but nobody wakes me up. The alarm clock just won’t work. I don’t understand how all this could have happened, in our age, in our times. It is improbable. I still cannot believe it.

Mariupol Icon of the Mother of God.



Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at

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