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This is What Pain Feels Like

From the diary of a 16-year-old girl named Katya, Mariupol, Ukraine

We all lived together in one cellar. In that cellar we all went to the toilet, slept, and ate any leftover food we could manage to get. Once Uncle Kolya caught a pigeon. I believe it was on the fifth or sixth day of the occupation. We cooked that pigeon and we ate it. After that we all vomited for hours.

When our neighbor died, we could not remove her body. It began to stink. When it got quiet (meaning they were not shooting outside), Uncle Kolya carried her body outside to bury her. He stepped on a landmine, and it exploded. Mama cried and cried. After my father died, Uncle Kolya had become close to us… Corpses stink so bad. They were everywhere. I covered my little brother’s eyes with Mama’s scarf so that he could not see.

Mama held on the best she could, but three days before they evacuated us, she died. I told my little brother that she was in a deep sleep and that he should not wake her up. But I think he understood the truth.

Do you know that feeling? That feeling when it hurts really bad? Once, I was in love with a boy, but he didn’t love me back. I thought that hurt. But it turns out that I had no idea what pain really was. When you see your mother die before your eyes, that hurts. My little brother kept snuggling up to her, saying, “Mama, don’t sleep, you’ll freeze.”

We will never see our mother’s grave. She was left behind just where she lay in that dark dank cellar.

I hate Russia. My real uncle lives in Russia. Do you know what he said to me today when I called him on the phone? “Katya? What Katya? Girl, I don’t know who you are? What war are you talking about? What Katya?”

Then he sent me a text from a different phone number: “Dearest little Katya, please don’t write to me because that is dangerous for me and my family. You won’t get your mother back as it is, so don’t contact us.”

I hate him! That’s his sister he is talking about! His own sister! How could he?

Still, you know, I’m thinking to myself now that I will return to Mariupol, and I will live in the same place. And every day I will go down into the cellar and place flowers there.

This diary entry was originally written in Russian, then translated into Lithuanian by Giedrius Saulytis. I translated the diary entry from Lithuanian into English based on the translation by Giedrius Saulytis.

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