Surviving Mariupol's Siege: Diary of an Eight-Year-Old Boy

"My grandfather is dead, I have a wound on my back, my skin is gone. The sister has injuries on her head, and mom has no more flesh on her arm and has a hole in her leg," wrote eight-year-old Jehor in his diary

by Sededin Dedovic
Surviving Mariupol's Siege: Diary of an Eight-Year-Old Boy
© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Almost two years ago, a Russian siege descended on Mariupol, disrupting the peace of its streets and disrupting the lives of its residents. Amidst the chaos, humanitarian organizations sought to reveal the harrowing reality of those dark times.

Eight-year-old Jehor was among the witnesses. The poignant echoes of his experiences resound in his diary: Sunday, May 3: "I slept well, woke up, laughed, got up and read my book to page 25. My grandfather is dead, I have a wound on my back, my skin is peeling off.

My sister has head injuries and my mother does not more flesh on the arm and a hole in the leg." Monday, May 4: "Grandma went to get water and came back. Anyway, it's my birthday soon. I'm eight years old, my sister is 15, and my mom is 38 and needs bandages.

Two of my dogs died. So did my grandmother Halja and my favorite city Mariupol." These are the dark reflections that Yehor caught in the midst of the stormy Russian siege of Mariupol, as reported by the respected German newspaper Deutsche Welle.

Jehor's chronicles were saved by his cousin, photographer Jevgenij Sosnovsky, and his wife Svitlana, residents of a multi-story building in the heart of Mariupol. "I had a normal, comfortable life," recalls the 60-year-old.

"I had an apartment, a job, I had hobbies." But then, on February 24, 2022, Russia launched a massive siege of Mariupol, disrupting Sosnovsky's life along with countless others. For weeks, the city's residents endured relentless shelling by the Russian army.

There was no electricity, water, gas. People tried to provide the most necessary things. Russia besieged the city for months, claiming thousands of civilian lives, either in attacks, disease or wounds.

: A woman walks by destroyed buildings 20 miles west from the front lines of fighting© Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The challenge is to determine the full extent of the crimes during the months-long siege and after the annexation of Mariupol, a flagrant violation of international law.

Since Mariupol fell under Russian control, Ukrainian authorities and international investigators have been denied access to the city. It is impossible to get relevant and independent data. The Ukrainian non-governmental organization "Truth Hounds", in cooperation with organizations such as Human Rights Watch and "SITU Research", diligently collected evidence of Russia's brutal actions.

They interviewed residents, collected and analyzed hundreds of photos, videos and satellite images. The resulting report paints a chillingly dark picture. At least 8,000 people died in the Russian attacks on Mariupol. However, the actual figure is likely to be much higher, as some graves contain multiple bodies and certain locations may remain unidentified.

Ukraine claims that tens of thousands were killed, but precise figures elude them.

Devastation report

For "Truth Hounds", lawyer Marina Slobodanyuk investigated this incredible scale of crimes. She has been dealing with war crimes both in Ukraine and in conflicts around the world for years.

"Bombing was not new to me," she says. "But such widespread destruction and targeted attacks on civilians, I've never seen before in my life. I've never encountered anything like it." Slobodanyuk hopes that, thanks to her testimony, those responsible for these horrors will one day face justice before the International Court.

All the evidence is there; someone just has to collect it, she says, emphasizing the importance of her report. In their joint report, these organizations meticulously documented numerous Russian attacks that are clearly contrary to international law.

These included attacks on two hospitals, a renowned city theater, a food warehouse, a humanitarian aid distribution site, a supermarket and an apartment building that served as a makeshift shelter. Almost all residential buildings, schools, hospitals were destroyed
The report continued: "In none of these cases did we find evidence of a Ukrainian military presence in or near the targeted buildings.

Therefore, these attacks are arbitrary and therefore illegal. Or, if we did find a limited military presence, the attack was disproportionate and likely illegal." The report notes that by the end of the siege in mid-May 2022, 93% of all multi-story residential buildings in downtown Mariupol had been destroyed, along with all 19 medical facilities and 86 of the 89 schools identified by these organizations in Mariupol, which were also destroyed.

Memories of childhood in the war

Yevgenij Sosnovsky survived the attacks. His profession as a photographer proved invaluable, he says. If they all perished, some of them should be left, he thought. So he began to document life under Russian bombing and siege.

These photographs tell the stories of people in their daily struggles during brutal aggression. Among them is the story of his nephew Jehor. "I don't know where I found that notebook," says Sosnovski. "Maybe someone lost it." "I gave it to the child Jehor when we were in the basement," he recalls, "so that he could draw something, he would have something to distract himself from everything that was happening around him." But Jehor did not draw.

The adults noticed it later. Jehor wrote a diary. What he wrote brings tears to his cousin's eyes again. These are memories of childhood in the war. Jehor tells the story of his city, Mariupol, with Ukrainian residents who suffered heavy destruction unprecedented in Europe after World War II, surpassing Serbia's bloody aggression against Bosnia in the 1990s.