Featured Image Credit: Alamy
The diary entries of a 16-year-old girl in Mariupol have been shared online amid Russia's bloody invasion of Ukraine.
We're now on the 39th day of Vladimir Putin's 'special military operation'. While Ukraine has taken back control of key areas across the country, the toll on civilians and troops has always come with a harrowing caveat: the real figures are likely to be far higher.
Mariupol, the besieged city in the south of Ukraine, first sparked war crime allegations when its maternity hospital was bombed by Russian forces. Since then, it's estimated that nearly 5,000 people have died there since the war began.
Lilia Podkopayeva, a former Ukrainian Olympian, shared the diary entries of Katya, a teenage girl whose mother died in the basement of their Mariupol home.
As translated and shared to Twitter by Daria Kaleniuk, executive director and co-founder of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre in Ukraine, they read: "You know that feeling when it hurts? I once fell in love with a boy, but he didn’t fall in love with me, and I thought it hurt. But it turned out that it hurts to see your mother die in front of you.
"My brother keeps coming up to mum, saying, 'Mummy, don’t sleep, you will freeze’.
“We will never visit her grave. She has remained in the damp and dark basement. We went to the toilet, slept, ate leftovers in the same basement.
"Once uncle Kolya caught a pigeon, and we fried it and ate it. And then we all vomited.
"Mum held on to the last, three days before our evacuation, she died. I told my brother that she was asleep and should not be awakened. But he seems to have understood it all.
"Our neighbour died, and we could not carry her outside, and she began to smell. When it got quiet uncle Kolya carried her out, and himself got killed on a trip wire. Mum cried a lot. After dad died uncle Kolya was the closest person.
"Corpses stink so much. They were everywhere. I covered my brother’s eyes with my mother’s scarf so that he would not see this. While we were running, I nearly vomited several times.
“I no longer believe in your God. Had he existed, we wouldn’t have suffered so much.
"My mum never, you hear, never did anything wrong. She went to church. Uncle Kolya quit smoking so that mum wouldn't be nervous that it's a sin. And your God took her away. The priest said my mum now serving God, but it'd be better if she were to serve him here, raising us.
“I hate Russia. My own uncle is there. Do you know what he told me on phone today? ‘Katya? What Katya? Girl, I don’t know you. What war, what Katya?’
"And then he wrote from a burner phone: ‘Katya, do not write to me. It is dangerous for me and my family. Your mum is gone.’
“I hate them! She was his sister!? How is that possible?... you know, I think that I will return to Mariupol. And I will live in the same place. And every time, on the same day, I will go down to the basement of a new house to lay flowers.
“It’s also scary when children cry. You can’t be heard. These freaks searched for people in basements and killed them. Those who survived said that the Russian military were able to rape children and the elderly, and even corpses. If there is a God, why does He allow this?
"I don’t want to live anymore. We’ll probably be separated now. And I might not see my brother. What for? Why was this Putin saving us?
"We lived well, we even bought a car. Uncle Kolya promised to teach me how to drive. They even burned the car. And the apartment is gone.
"I want to die, but I can’t... hug your kids! Otherwise, you may be gone, and they will not remember your smell. If I endure and later have children, I will be hugging them all the time."
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information