Mariupol, Ukraine

10 March 2022

Following the bombing of a maternity hospital


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Strangely, I wrote this piece of fiction on March 9th, imagining the trauma of a baby born during a bomb attack. The next day, tragically, the maternity hospital at Mariupol was shelled. The name in the piece is invented.

I am on the brink of my birth. Frightening, this journey from the floating dark into the bright light of being.

While I was forming, my mother talked to me. I was a part of her, yet her voice was apart, a soothing hum. Later, I will know that her words spoke of a world where women smoothed between folds, stitched up lives when the fabric was torn. She told of summer dances in village squares, of the sea-smell of rockpools, of smooth skin and rough sand, of the yellow blast of sunflowers, of the unending miracle of father and mother and ancestors, and the filaments that linked them all through the ages, to reach me. And in me, small as I am, the strands of all their beings would stretch out to the stars.
I am on the brink of being born.
Someone will slap me into sound, and my eyes, barely open, will be dazzled by new light.

This does not happen.
The darkness thickens.
A flash of light, some huge inhuman noise.
Then sudden total black.

My soul rises like smoke.
It spirals to a place of mist – here, past, present and future float like limpid dancers in this embryo of space.

I can see my mother’s future face.
She is crying and laying flowers on the ground beside a stone.
It says:

Alina Petrenko
Born 10 March 2022
Died 10 March 2022
Mariupol, Ukraine

Note: The reality is even worse than the fiction. Both mother and baby died four days later from the injuries they sustained in the bomb attack.  

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