Eight Minutes on the Beach

Maria’s City, a city by the sea, Mariupol… A city the whole world is talking about.

Mariupol sits on the Azov coast, and we, locals, never needed to go to Crimea for holidays, since we always had our very own sea. Shallow, salty, grayish-green, and only sometimes transparent — but it was ours. I went to the seaside in summer to eat corn on the cob, pick up jellyfish, and build sandcastles. I went to the seaside in winter, when the sun was setting over the horizon, painting the sky and the frozen surface of the sea into every shade of pink. But I will not go there this summer. And I do not know if I will go there in winter, either.

I have recently learned that my friend’s mother died on that beach. She and her husband were walking along the coast, exhausted, when she suddenly stepped on a landmine. Her legs were blown off in the blast, and her husband was thrown by the blast wind. For eight minutes, she was dying in his hands, begging him for water. She managed to take only one sip. He was kissing her face until the end. For eight minutes…

What do you feel in those eight minutes when you are lying on the beach, the blood running out of your body, mixing with the seawater? Anger? Shock? Hatred? Fear? I do not know because she is no longer here to answer that.

And what do you feel in those eight minutes when you watch a person you love take her last breath right before your eyes? Pain? Helplessness? Rage? Confusion?

He carried his wife all the way back home, having no idea what he should do, as the shelling wouldn’t stop. Rockets, bombs, bullets… A scorching hell! Fearing for their lives, his neighbors hunkered down in the bomb shelter and refused to help him bury her. But he did not want to bury his wife in his yard, so he walked away. He headed to the cemetery.

Out of despair, he yelled at the invisible enemy hiding behind their weapon: “Kill me! Just as you killed her!”

The shelling continued, but he did not care: all he wanted was to properly bury the woman who was his lifelong partner. Out of despair, he yelled at the invisible enemy hiding behind their weapon: “Kill me! Just as you killed her!” In the end, he buried his wife in a grave he dug out with his own hands.

It is a story of just one family from Maria’s City. There are thousands and thousands more. Someone had their eight minutes on the beach, others fifteen seconds under the rubble of the Drama Theater or hours in burning buildings. For each of us, the war is fifteen seconds, eight minutes, the eternity that all test our strength and resilience. Humanity, decency, and love, too. And admit it — Ukrainians have passed this test.

Author — Tania Kasian, human rights activist and writer

Translator — Hanna Leliv

Illustrator — Victoria Boyko

Editor — Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors — Julia Ovcharenko, Demyan Om

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