MADRID — My brother Evgeniy Tkachenko is now in Mariupol, Ukraine’s hottest spot. He and his colleagues from the Azov Battalion have been defending the city since the first day of the Russian invasion of our territory.
Despite the ambiguous opinion about the battalion itself, no one can deny that its soldiers are now sacrificing their lives to save civilians and our country.
My brother and I weren’t very close because of our age difference. He’s my only brother and he’s 14 years older than me.
But he’s been a real hero all my life. He worked for the police in Crimea until 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea, a region of Ukraine.
Zhenia (his nickname) returned home and joined the Ukrainian armed forces and took part in military operations in the Donbass region of Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists had taken control.
I will never forget my mother’s tears and his wife’s emotions when we learned that he was taking part in what our government called an anti-terrorist operation.
About a year ago he had the opportunity to work in Mariupol, where his family soon moved. He lived there with his wife Daria and their two little girls, now aged 4 and 6.
They had many plans for the future – my brother began to seriously study for a law degree, the girls dreamed of how they would go to school near their home, and in the summer we came to visit them visit with the whole family and go to the sea.
They just managed to settle in Mariupol, and in mid-February I went to visit them. It was my first time to this city and I was impressed by its beauty.
Another purpose of my visit was to get my very first tattoo in memory of my grandmother, and of course my older brother supported me, a secret from my mother.
On February 24, by a happy coincidence, my brother’s wife and their daughters arrived in Lozova to visit relatives. It was precisely the morning when I woke up at 6 am to the sound of bombs. It is truly a miracle that they were able to get out of it. Otherwise, no one knows where they would be now.
But my brother, like thousands of soldiers, stood guard at Mariupol. From the first days, they protected the city, and it was they who suffered the most. There is no water, food or electricity in the town, and it was impossible to evacuate injured civilians. There was no way to provide them with medical assistance, let alone the military.
Watching all of this on the TV screen is incredibly difficult, but knowing that your loved ones are there is even harder. Thousands of wounded soldiers and civilians, without a single building surviving.
Children, the elderly and our defenders are dying.
Ukraine’s parliament said “all remaining women, children and elderly people” were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant on Saturday, where many had taken refuge, but the army remained behind.
The bombardments do not stop for a moment. Evacuations are constantly interrupted and the bodies of the deceased lie in the streets – all this in the 21st century in a city of 446,000 people.
Mariupol is the pain of the whole country. And the pain is very personal to me and my family.
Since there is no connection with my brother, all that remains is to pray and hope that he is alive.
Once in a while, when someone gets a connection, they text, “I’m fine.
But there are still hundreds of wounded soldiers who, in addition to not having access to food and water, have continued to protect the lives of civilians.
Many countries are asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the blockade of Mariupol. More than 20,000 people are already dead and the army is calling for help and waiting. They have no contact with the outside world and don’t understand why no one comes to help them.
The families of the soldiers trapped there, as well as other Ukrainians, are powerless to support them. Disseminating information on social networks is not enough.
Ukraine asks the leaders of other countries to press for an “unblocking” in order to calm the situation.
My family has never been too patriotic. As we are from eastern Ukraine, we have been used to speaking Russian all our lives and have never been too radical in political matters. But when the issue of protecting our country arose and my brother was trapped in Mariupol, my father – an Afghan war veteran who received a disability there – said, “If my son protect the country, why am I going to stay in Mariupol? residence?”
It was then that my father entered the territorial defense of Lozova, my hometown.
My brother once posted on social media: “Choosing a military profession means giving up almost everything you are used to. It means forgetting a quiet life. Sometimes it’s not seeing loved ones for months. But despite the disadvantages, I love my job. I made my choice many years ago and I have no regrets.
I am proud of my family. I’m proud that when others were thinking about how to escape and avoid military service, my brother and father stood up.
I am proud and madly worried, waking up every day thinking about what is currently happening in Mariupol.
Every time I talk to my mother, she cries and asks me to tell the whole world what is happening to us, and every time I see stories from my friends about the headquarters of the Azovstal steel plant, where people are trapped and under fierce attack by Russian troops, my heart breaks.
Our soldiers give their lives for Mariupol. They refused to surrender when they had the chance. They said they would hold out until the end.
I, as a citizen of Ukraine and as a sister of one of the fighters, consider it my duty to help them, to call on the world to help them. I hope people will sign a petition asking the United Nations to act to save Mariupol.
My brother and other brave soldiers are hoping for an end to the blockade, and their children, wives and mothers are waiting for them at home.
Tanya Takachenko is a junior reporter for Youth Journalism International.