For six weeks, a dark and damp basement of  Mariupol maternity hospital became a place where Tetyana and her fellow medical workers helped women go into labor and welcome arrivals of their babies.   During her grim extended shift,  taking care of her patients, the woman kept making photos to document their grim ordeal in the city suffering the Russian assaults.

She recounted her chilling war experience and the tragedies she witnessed in her home city  the for Nastoyashchee Vremya:

When the invaders seized the part of Mariupol, they tried to make the maternity hospital move to Russia. Tetyana had to undergo screening of Russia’s ‘filtration’ procedure, but managed to return to Ukraine.  Her biggest regret now is the loss of her war-time photos  – during the ‘filtration’ procedure she was made to delete the images in her mobile phone.

‘War came into my life when I was at work. At 5.30 am we heard sounds of heavy blasts. It was unclear what was going on.  The hospital windows got shattered. I came for my shift a week later, on March 2. After that we got no shift changes. We set up a surgery room, delivery and pre-delivery rooms in the basement. We were not able to sterilize instruments as the energy was cut off. We just have the insturments burnt on alcohol. It was  very cold. The major task was keeping newborns warm,’ said Tetyana.

When you give birth, milk comes in after 2-3 days, and due to that delay we had to think of ways how to feed babies, the midwife explained, adding baby formula was out of reach, and women who had breast milk fed other ladies’ babies.

‘The arrival of these 27 babies in the basement was life prevailing over death. They saved us, gave us hope, helped us to carry on,’ added Tetyana.

One day, soldiers rushed in carrying two injured women on the stretches. One of them had a soft tissue leg injury while another one, called Vika, had hand and leg injuries, and a minor abdominal injury.

‘She was faint, her blood pressure was dropping. It was the first time we had to carry out a caesarian in the basement. When we were putting on stitches, we ran out of diesel [we used for a portable power generator], which made us use mobile phones for light. Vika was 37 years old. It was her first pregnancy, she had dreamt of. She had gone through infertility treatment. And she had been in hospital  getting antenatal care for 9 months before this happened. And her still unborn child got shot down,’ said Tetyana.

The next day the midwife came up to Vika, breaking the news to her:

-Vika, you gave birth to a boy, his weigth is 3,7 kilograms. He is dead.

-I know, I understood it that very moment.

– Do you want to take a look at him?

Tetyana said that Vika was speaking in a calm voice.  It looked as if she had lost her ability to cry – she was all numb and burnt out as her city:

-Tetyana, I have thought about it for a long time, I have thought if I look at the baby, I will just go mad. And if I don’t, I will feel sorry about it the rest of my life

– Vika, you need to decide what we do now

– Let’s make it this way. You bring it here, I will take a quick look, but will not touch him with hands. Is it okay?

– Okay

The midwife brought the baby. Vika looked at him, took him by a hand and said: ‘His fingers.. He looks much like my husband’.

The young woman held the boy for about five minutes and gave him back to the midwife. She kept calm.

Tetyana bitterly recollected the moment when Russian state media crew had arrived at the place escorted by the armed stooges, and they were walking around in the unceremonious manner.  They approached Vika for an interview and it was only that moment when the young woman broke down.

‘I am here, but the memory comes up with these things. You stroll  around nice sunny Lviv, you see these toddlers, their moms. They are holding them by hands or riding in a stroller. You look at them and it is  heartbreaking and painful to think there were many babies in Mariupol who died in their baby carriages under the rubble. They have rested in eternal sleep,’ said Tetyana.