We collect and digitally preserve the true stories of the people who survived the 2022 Mariupol siege by Russian occupiers.

The world should know what horrors the people of Mariupol went through. We want the world to understand, remember and prevent this terror from ever happening again. You may know of Anne Frank's diary - these are the genuine testaments from Mariupol.

This first story is of a mother sending text messages to her son Oleh, while staying in the shelter in besieged Mariupol. She did not have an internet connection - and so was sending them one way, in hope. She kept sending them almost daily until she finally managed to escape the city.

✏️  Original messages can be found here.

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“Son, I write this in case there’s a connection and my message can be sent. We are OK, but we only have gas left now. They say there will be no gas (methane gas which is used for stove and heating) soon though. They are bombing a lot. There has been no electricity and water for two days already, but we are holding on. Today [Name] came to us and we shared some food. The worst is when we do not know what's happening. We love you very much and hope you are well.” ”Good morning son! Now it’s 8:20 am, March 4th. We survived one more night. Last night we almost did not sleep, they were bombing so heavily and the bombings were very close. I'm afraid to die and to leave you alone. But it's morning already and we're alive. We still have gas, thank God, but that is all. We love you so much, please take care, dear!” ”Dear son, it is 9:33 now. We are OK. It is only 15 degrees in our house, but we have worked a bit and warmed up, and we’re so glad we were so thrifty. We have found a box with Christmas lights batteries and one flashlight! Now we have light. If our phone batteries get low let's agree that you will try to call Grandpa's phone at 12 PM and 9 PM, we will switch it on during that time. We love you.”
“Good morning son! I realize I'm keeping a diary as Anne Frank did. We are alive. Every morning we first check if there is gas and how much water we have. Thank God we have gas (methane) to cook. We still have four bottles of water. We switch off our phones and read a bit only in the evening. There is only one power cell left. We need to conserve it. Yesterday we got to the 12th floor twice with a phone and a tablet and found a cell signal. Although there was a weak signal our message wasn't sent and we couldn't call. Yesterday people came back home with empty water bottles. They didn't find water. We saw a man who scooped up water with a dustpan from a puddle.”
“What a horror! Every day I`m afraid, afraid of tomorrow. I`m afraid to sleep, fearing that they will bomb us tomorrow and we won't be able to hide while standing in line to get water. And we're so sick of looters. During the first days, they broke into every shop and robbed stores. They were just stealing and stealing–bags with perfumes from a perfume store (it was burnt), lambskin coats, boxes of herring, cabbage in the buckets, diapers. Even people from our house were stealing as well: Aunt Nina, the blonde one who is feeding cats. It's awful that we live among these people. All this happened because policemen were on the frontline. Dad heard that now it’s become possible to patrol. Looters are being caught and their trousers are taken off, so they walk around bare-assed. We love you very, very much. Take care, my dear. More than anything I`m waiting for the moment when I can hug and hold you tight, and for this hell to end. Kisses from me and dad. Write you tomorrow, my dear.”
“My dear son, hello! We are alive and our hell continues. We spent the night in the basement at [Name]. We’re grateful to them for hosting four of us. Yesterday there was a terrible explosion as a bomb was thrown from the plane at the maternity hospital. A window in the kitchen and a balcony door had been blown off. At that time we were lying on the sofa in the bedroom. We heard later on the radio that it was a bomb that left a crater with a diameter of 10 meters. We ran out of the apartment in our socks into the corridor. Then we realized: if we had such damage, then what about your grandmother? Dad ran outside and looked at their windows, which were all broken. We grabbed bandages in horror and ran to them. Fortunately, grandmother and [Name] were alive, crying, and they were already standing with bags at the door of their apartment, or rather its ruins. The explosion was so strong that all their windows were broken, the lock was broken out, the balcony was broken. Fortunately, they were not hurt. We grabbed their bags and took them to our home, all trembling with fear. Our houses have black holes instead of windows. The door of grandmother's neighbor, who’s in a one-room apartment, was broken.”
“We came back for our belongings and quickly grabbed the essentials, got into the car, and came here while there were explosions overhead. Here we’ve been sleeping in a basement, so cold that we were shaking. We’ve been sleeping on the floor, fully dressed, on polyfoam and a thin blanket. We grabbed some blankets but it was not enough for the four of us. Also, we brought some cooked food with us. There is broken glass everywhere on our balcony. Today we wanted to go to buy some food and clothes, but we could not due to the ongoing bombardment. We can't even cook the food, because we are all hiding in the basement. This is terrible. Today a nine-story building nearby was struck by a missile. It is very cold to sleep in the basement. Dad is worried about his kidneys. I don't know if we will survive. We hope you are well. Take care of yourself, my sweetheart.”
“We have a lot of raw potatoes, but we can't cook them. We don’t have enough water either. We are drinking peach juice in the morning to save water. We also listen to the news all the time. We hope for help. We only want to survive. It's very cold here, but we brought some blankets and my fur jacket from our house. We haven't showered for more than 2 weeks. We are dressed with many layers, we sleep with our hats on, in coats, with 5 sweaters and socks. We rarely talk, mostly we watch the news, or play card games. Yesterday we read a little under the light of the Christmas lights. Time is going slowly, everyone is half asleep. Yesterday Dad helped [Name] with the windows and doors on the third floor. I was very worried until he came back. I really want to survive and have a chance to hug you. Yesterday [Name] hugged [Name] and I was crying quietly because I was thinking of you, but I'm really glad that you are not with us now. I really want you to be happy and alive. We are praying for the bombings to stop and that we’ll be able to hug our relatives as soon as possible. We love you so much. Take care, my dear, you are the most important thing in the world to us.”
“Hello dear son! How are you? Are you all right? We are so worried about you. We heard that there are airstrikes in your area too, now. We really hope that you are safe. We are still alive. Today is Monday. We all are in the basement. It gets worse with each new day. Yesterday or the day before we might have risked going up to our home, but today we are too afraid to even go to the first floor to use the toilet. Somewhere near [Place] our soldiers have placed heavy weaponry and there are some horrifying sounds of shelling all the time. There are Russian Fascist planes in the sky. Pure horror. We are barely able to cook food, we have to do it outside near the garage, but it is really dangerous there. We are almost out of the water, but everyone is too afraid to go and get it. We don't eat much, one serving is enough for two. Dad is constantly hungry.”
“Son, my darling! I'm texting you from Dad's phone since my battery died long ago. It's March 13 today and we are still alive. I haven't been in touch for long; I’m trying to save the battery. I don't know where to start. You know what a nightmare we are in. The city seems to be completely destroyed. In addition to Grad rocket systems and other heavy machinery, the aircraft is constantly circling and bombing the city. Friends come to visit and tell us some news. Yesterday the general post office was bombed and the building was split in half and there were people hiding in the basements, and it remains unclear if they are alive. There's no one to rescue them. We, at risk of our lives, went home twice to get some food and blankets. Even brought two bags of potatoes, a few boxes of biscuits, some tea, and candies. We wanted to thank the people who are providing us shelter.”
“My darling son, today is March 17. My phone battery has some charge left. We are still alive, though there were many times we were sure we would die. We are in hell. We are being bombed, shelled with mortars. There isn't a building left that hasn't been damaged. The whole city is on fire. We are even afraid to leave the basement, where the whole town is hiding with children at night. We get little sleep; all the people in the shelter just stand and pray in the corner. We are terrified. Windows in our car were damaged and there is a big crater behind it. It is impossible to leave by car now. We don't know what will happen tomorrow if we survive. God, why has this happened to us? We are praying that we are safe in the shelter. [Name] has to cook for all of us, poor woman. She is a saint. Food portions keep getting smaller and smaller. Dad is hungry all the time. Cooking should be done in the garage but it's still very dangerous. Windows and doors are shattered. Dad and [Name] try to fix them while under fire.. It's really cold in here–the temperature is 5C–and it's constantly dark in here. We pray that you are well and happy. You are doing fine, you will handle everything. I really want to believe that we will survive and see you. We love you very, very much. Stay safe, dear son.”

Oleh with his mom in front of the Mariupol’s Dram Theatre, before the invasion Jan 2022


Mariupol Dram Theatre After the bombings Feb 2022

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Key events:

Oleh, 20, student of Kharkiv University, from Mariupol. In the first days of the Russian invasion Oleh evacuated from Kharkiv where he was studying to Lviv. However, his parents who lived in Mariupol could not evacuate because all the roads outside the city were already blocked.
Oleh’s mother (name hidden), 47, trade manager, from Mariupol. From March 4 to 17, his mother and father were hiding from shelling in the basement. From the first days of the war, all residents of Mariupol lost mobile and internet connection. They were later cut off from electricity and heating, and left without water and gas. All these days, Oleh's parents were completely unaware of the situation. They didn’t have any information on green corridors or evacuation of civilians. However, the mother never lost hope. All this time she kept sending messages to her son. In these messages, she shared personal experiences in her hometown under siege. On March 18, Oleh's parents together with a few other residents were able to evacuate from Mariupol which is still under a full Russian blockade.
On March 21, Oleh published screenshots of his mom’s messages on Instagram. Hundreds of thousands of people were moved by these letters.

You can help this family directly.

Following accounts belongs to Oleh and his family.

PayPal (preferred): koptsevoleg1@gmail.com
Revolut Card: 5354563130507757
USD Account IBAN: UA223220010000026204302087232 Receiver: KOPTSEV OLEH, ave. Liudvyha Svobody, build. 51, Housing. B, Kharkiv, Ukraine, 61000 Bank: JSC UNIVERSAL SWIFT: UNJSUAUKXXX
EURO Account IBAN: UA363220010000026202327186477 Receiver: KOPTSEV OLEH, ave. Liudvyha Svobody, build. 51, Housing. B, Kharkiv, Ukraine, 61000 Bank: JSC UNIVERSAL SWIFT: UNJSUAUKXXX
All stories are authentic and verified by our team.

Our team was on a call with Oleh, who shared his mom’s messages.