By Miriam Kuepper
A Ukrainian student feels helpless as her parents fight for their life by building Molotov cocktails in a bomb shelter in Kyiv.
Mariia Radova, 23, is studying Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield. When the war started, her life was turned upside down.
At 3am on the 24 February, the day of the first attack, she received a message from her mother. It said: “Russians attacked. They are bombing us. I love you.”
19 days have passed since the war started. Ms Randova said: “I’m feeling very distressed. I would’ve hoped that I would feel a bit more to terms with the situation, but this is not happening.
“Things get even more violent every day as we speak. Quite often, I just feel helpless.”
Her parents, Tetiana, 45, and Denys Radova, 49, are currently hiding out in a bomb shelter in the outskirts of Kyiv.
They cannot leave as humanitarian corridors, leading to safer parts of the country, are constantly under sanctioning and the threat of missiles.
In some regions, there is already no food or water. “Luckily, my parents still have food at the minute, but it’s quite difficult to predict what’s going to happen next.”
When her parents left their home, they grabbed her 7-year-old cat, Alice, some clothes, and food.
All the photos and other memorabilia stayed behind – they thought they would be able to return.
Now, their family home is most likely destroyed, as it is in Kyiv’s city centre in the government district, which are popular targets for Russian missiles and shelling.
Ms Radova teared up when remembering the last time she saw her parents and said: “It was just before I boarded my plane in Innsbruck, Austria. I was sad, but I was telling myself that I will see them soon, because Easter is coming up. Little did I know.”
Her parents experience shelling every day and had to witness the death of their friends.
Their daughter said: “Every day, we get a message from someone saying this person died because they tried to flee the country through humanitarian corridors, which are supposed to be secure for travelling, but of course, this is not true.”
As the current situation makes it too dangerous to leave, her parents are planning to stay put in their bunker in Kyiv for now.
Ms Radova and her parents are talking every day. She said: “We’re usually talking about how they are. The question that I’m asking regularly, do you still have food? Do you have water? Have you made Molotov cocktails? Because without them, you cannot survive in these circumstances. They are essential weapons for you against armed violence, if you don’t have other weapons yourself.”
For security reasons, her parents cannot send Ms Radova pictures, as these could reveal their location.
Similarly, she cannot contact President Zelensky’s daughter, who she attended school with, to check up on her either.
Ms Radova’s family is part of the Russian speaking population in Ukraine and she is appalled by Putin using her community as a reasoning for the war.
“We don’t want them here. They should just leave us alone. The whole idea of this liberation is a lie, because there is nothing to be liberated from.”
She is everything her parents have now and vice versa. She said: “It’s just become a bit heavy on my shoulders. Either people are in denial or they want to kill themselves. At some point, I asked myself ‘why carry on?’. I thought the only thing that makes me stay alive is my parents.”
The thought of being unwanted is strong for Ms Radova, as she lost her home, her heritage and her social status. She said: “I always had some something to return to. Now I don’t have anything.”
Her parents are not receiving a salary anymore. Her father was an economics professor at the university and her mother a lawyer. Now, none of that matters anymore, as Ms Radova explained: “It’s all about survival now. Their thoughts and mine. You can’t really use your money anymore. They have been deprived of everything in a blink of an eye – it’s extreme.”
Her aunt and cousin have already fled to Germany, but her elderly grandmother in Crimea has health problems and will not be able to flee. “She’s taken care of by people in the church, but the problem is, the people who are attacking they have no moral, so they are bombing churches as well.”
She is touched by the feeling of community in Ukraine right now, as everyone cares for each other. “There is no such thing as part of my family anymore. People are united together. We all have our own conflicts between families, between communities, but in this matter, we are strongly standing together. Everyone is doing what they can to survive and to fight against people we did not ask to come.”