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«When the internet and electricity went out, I knew it was over»

January 7, 2023, 12:35 76 theguardian.com The Guardian tells the story of 16-year-old musician David from Mariupol, who ended up in a russian orphanage, but managed to get out back to Ukraine.

The Guardian tells the story of 16-year-old musician

16-year-old David (whose surname The Guardian does not indicate in its material at the request of the hero) grew up in Mariupol with a mother who drinks, who did not like his outstanding vocal data. But other people recognized his talent early - David started singing in the church choir and became the first to receive money for it. Shortly before the invasion, he moved away from his mother and first spent the night with friends, and then began living with his grandmother.

Three days after the start of the full-scale war, David went to a pro-Ukrainian rally and sang the national anthem of Ukraine in the main square of Mariupol. At that time, the russian troops were already on the left bank of Kalmius, and shortly after the communication and electricity in the city disappeared on March 1, he realized that "everything is over" and he could no longer get out of the city. Mariupol was under constant fire; David admits that he, like his neighbors, had to rob shops in order to survive.

On March 8, David decided to visit his mother, who at that moment had started living with a new husband. David describes his as "absolutely pro-russian shit." The radio station in the mother's house received only two stations - pro-russian and Ukrainian, and the receiver was tuned to the first - all the time when the mother's new friend was awake. David had to put up with this, he could not sleep, could not restrain his aggression, endlessly listening to the broadcasts of Volodymyr Solovyov and other propagandists. According to him, the tone of the radio underwent a sharp evolution in a matter of days: from "normal guys" on these airwaves, Ukrainians quickly turned into "Nazis" who must be completely destroyed. Mother and her new partner agreed with this, accusing David of having "become Ukrainian". David found understanding only in his grandmother. On his way back to her, David saw corpses in various stages of decomposition in the courtyards and on the streets.

Soon russian soldiers appeared in the city. David was arrested while he was walking down the street and singing. The military forced him to undress and stand with his back to the fence. During the interrogation, David was asked if he had seen "dills".

When the occupation authorities announced the evacuation of the besieged city in early April, David decided to take a risk. However, it was no longer possible to leave for the territory controlled by Ukraine. Then he met a woman who was his guardian during the "filtering" at checkpoints, but after crossing the border with russia she could no longer help him.

The plan to first get to russia and then quickly move somewhere else through Belarus did not work: when the bus from Mariupol reached its final destination in the western part of russia, the local authorities took David's passport, took him to an orphanage and told him that he would stay there until dawn age. Davyd did not like it at all in the orphanage: food, walks and sleep are strictly according to the schedule, it is difficult to be alone. In addition, he was immediately disliked by adults for his active pro-Ukrainian position and condemnation of the invasion, and other children even tried to beat him.

In his free time, he was engaged in recording music on the phone, which was given to him by his comrades from the Mariupol LGBT community through volunteers in russia. He managed to record two albums; on them he combines Ukrainian folk with electronica. You can listen to David's albums under the creative pseudonym Truffikss on SoundCloud. In the description of one of them, he says that, unfortunately, he is forced to compose music in exile in russia just as Taras — referring to the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko, who was exiled to russia with a ban on writing poems and painting.

At the beginning of October, David accidentally learned that he could leave the orphanage with his mother's written consent, which the staff did not immediately tell him. The same russian volunteers who brought him a phone volunteered to help David. However, it took several weeks to persuade his mother in Mariupol to go to the notary for permission. David moved from volunteer to volunteer for a week until he finally ended up in Kyiv. Currently, he is preparing to record his third album. His grandmother did not wait for him: she died two weeks after David left Mariupol.

David is one of several thousand Ukrainian children who ended up in russia without their parents. According to russian official data alone, more than 400 Ukrainian children were adopted in russia. Ukraine calls the forced transfer of children from one ethnic group to another genocide.

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