Every morning, Lena woke up around 5:30 to make coffee and catch up with her mother, who lived a few blocks away, while she applied her makeup and prepared for work. Lena worked at the hospital, which served mainly to stabilize wounded soldiers, tripling as a nurse’s aide, a lab technician and a cleaner.
Yegor and his mother often spent their days fantasizing about the end of the war — or at least a time when they could finally flee.
Plumes of black smoke dotted the surrounding farmlands where artillery rounds had landed in fields once fertile with wheat and sunflowers.
Some of Lena’s patients were civilians. Some were soldiers torn apart by shrapnel or dazed with concussions from artillery strikes; they were carried in on stretchers by fellow soldiers whose vacant stares seemed to say, “It could have been me.”
Yegor watched, internalized, sometimes asked questions, but mostly just tried to tuck away what he witnessed into a compartment in his mind reserved for when he was no longer a child. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “It’s scary. I feel bad for the guys. They are young. I feel bad.”
Before the war, Yegor and his parents spent summers at their farm some four hours away. Now only his father, Sasha, remained there, trapped behind Russian lines caring for the home and animals on the road out of Mariupol.
He defined his life by before the war and after. “The war separated me from many things: from friends, from my dad and everything, basically everything that made me happy,” Yegor said. “It took everything from me, that’s all. Separated me from my godfather, from my brothers, separated me from all this.”
By late May, the signs of the imminent counteroffensive were more evident. The arrival of wounded troops grew more frequent; Russian strikes increased in both frequency and volume — often zeroing in on the vicinity of the hospital and leaving debris and shattered glass around the grounds.
Lynsey Addario is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, a MacArthur fellow and the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.” She has documented war across the Middle East and Africa for the past two decades, and has most recently covered Ukraine for The New York Times since the beginning of the war.
Additional videos from Lena Yefremova, Yegor Yefremov and Angelina Dubrovskaya.