Famous Ukrainian health care workers describe the “hell” of Russian prisoners of war

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) β€” The glasses of a captive Ukrainian health worker have been taken away for a long time, and the face of a Russian man walking past her was blurred.

Julia Paievska has 21 people in a small 3 x 6 meter (10 x 20 ft) cell that she shared for what her life was in exchange for and what she felt like eternity. I only knew that I was leaving the woman. Her joy and relief were alleviated by the feeling that she had abandoned them in her uncertain fate.

Before she was captured, Paievska, well known as Tyra throughout Ukraine, Recorded over 256 gigabytes A disastrous body camera footage showing her team’s efforts to save the injured In the besieged city of Mariupol. She used a small data card to deliver the footage to the Associated Press journalist, Mariupol’s last international team.

Journalists fled the city on March 15th The card is embedded in a tampon and passes through 15 Russian checkpoints. The next day, Taira was occupied by pro-Russian troops.

3 months have passed Before she appeared on June 17thHer thin and annoying body is lighter than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) due to lack of nutrition and activity. She said an AP report, along with Mariupol’s civilians, which also showed care for Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, was essential to her release.

She chooses words carefully when discussing the day she was captured, and even more carefully when discussing prisons. Endanger Ukrainians who are still there.. But she is clear about the impact of the video released by AP.

“You took out this flash drive, and I thank you,” she told the AP team, including Mariupol’s journalists, in Kyiv. “Thanks to you, I was able to leave this hell. Thank you to everyone involved in the exchange.”

She still feels guilty about what she has left and said she will do her best to free them.

“They are all I think,” she said. “Every time I drink coffee or light a cigarette, my conscience afflicts me because they can’t.”

Tyra, 53, is one of the thousands of Ukrainians believed to have been taken prisoner by Russian troops. The mayor of Mariupol recently said 10,000 people had been captured from his city or disappeared trying to escape. The Geneva Convention selects both military and civilian health workers, “For protection in all situations.

Ping is an oversized Ukrainian personality, famous for her vocational medic, and is instantly recognized by the impact of blonde hair and the tattoos that surround her arms. Her release was announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Despite the weight loss and everything she has endured, she is still lively. She smokes constantly and she ignites cigarettes one after another, as if she had nothing for three months. She speaks quietly without malicious intent, and her frequent smiles illuminate her face deeply with brown eyes.

Tyra, a demobilized military medic who suffered back and hip injuries long before the Russian invasion, is also a member of the Invictus Games team in Ukraine. She plans to swim with archery in April of this year, and her 19-year-old daughter was allowed to compete on her behalf instead.

Tyra received a body camera in 2021 and shot a Netflix documentary series about inspirational figures produced by Prince Harry of England, who founded the Invictus Games. However, when the Russian army invaded in February, she trained the lens in the scene of the war.

The camera was on when she intervened to treat an injured Russian soldier called “Sunlight”. She recorded the death of her boy and her successful efforts to save her sister, who is now one of the many orphans in Mariupol’s. That day she fell on the wall and cried.

After reviewing the video, she said it was a rare loss of control.

“If I had been crying all the time, I wouldn’t have had time to deal with the injured, so of course I got a little harder during the war,” she said. “I shouldn’t have shown that I’m out of order …. I can mourn later.”

She said she wasn’t treated by the children first or last. But they were part of the greater loss for Ukraine.

“When I remember how the city died, my heart bleeds when I think about it. It died like a man-it was painful,” she said. “Similarly, when a person is dying, I feel like you can’t help anything.”

A few hours before Taira was captured, Russian airstrikes struck Mariupol Theater, The main bomb shelter in the city. Hundreds of people have died. That same day, another bomb shelter, Neptune Pool, was also attacked.

Taira gathered a group of 20 people hiding in the basement of the hospital, mainly children, in a small yellow bus and took them away from Mariupol. The city center was on the verge of collapse, blocking all roads to which Russian checkpoints exited.

That was when the Russians saw her.

“They recognized me. They left, called, and came back,” she said. “As far as I know, they were already planning.”

She believes the children have arrived safely. She avoids disclosing the details of the day because she said she couldn’t explain it completely.

However, five days later, she appeared on a Russian news broadcast announcing her capture and accused her of trying to flee the city in disguise.

In the video, Taira looks moody and her face is hurt. The Nazis ridicule her as a Nazi when she reads her statement prepared for her.

Inside the prison system, she said detainees received the same kind of publicity. They heard that Ukraine had collapsed, the parliament and cabinet had dissolved, the city of Kieu was under Russian control, and the entire government had fled.

“And many people started believing it. Did you see how this happens under the influence of advertising? People start to despair,” Taira said. “I didn’t believe it because I knew it was stupid to believe in the enemy.”

Every day they were forced to sing the Russian national anthem β€” two, three, and sometimes 20 or 30 times if the guards did not like their actions. She now hates the national anthem even more, but she talks about it with a flash of humor and rebellion.

“I always wanted to learn to sing, so I thought it was a plus, and suddenly I had time and reason to practice,” she said. “And I found that I could sing.”

Her prison officer in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region pressured her to confess that she had killed men, women and children. Then they started with an organ trade accusation that she found insulting with their absurdity.

“I confiscated an organ on the battlefield. Do you know how complicated this operation is?” She dismissed the allegations in short, blasphemous words and asked. “It’s an invented, huge fabrication.”

She admitted nothing.

“I’m terribly stubborn in nature. And if I’m accused of not doing it, I won’t confess anything. You can shoot me, but I won’t confess.” She said.

After an endless repetitive rotting week of unsalted porridge with bacon, reconstituted mashed potato packets, cabbage soup, and canned fish alone, the flat is 3 x 6 meters (10 x 20). I found myself in a cell (feet), 21 other women, 10 baby beds, and few others. They were held in the largest prison without trial or conviction.

She doesn’t elaborate on how they were treated, but said they had no information about their families and had few toothbrushes or opportunities to wash. Her health began to decline.

“I’m no longer 20 years old. This body can be less than before,” she said mercilessly. “The treatment was very difficult and very rough …. the woman and I were all exhausted.”

Oleksandra Matobiichuk, head of the Ukrainian Civil Freedom Center, said Tyra’s experience was consistent with repeated violations of Russia’s international humanitarian law regarding the treatment of detained civilians and prisoners of war.

“Before the mass invasion, Russia tried to hide the breach. They tried to pretend not to be involved in the breach,” she said. “Russia doesn’t care now.”

At one point, one of her prison officers said she came to her and watched a video of her abusing Russian soldiers. She knew it was impossible and she requested to watch the video, but it was rejected.

Now seeing the image of her gently wrapping a Russian soldier in a blanket, she knows it was yet another lie.

“This is a video, here it is. I really treated everyone this way and brought them in and we stabilized them and did everything they needed,” she said.

At another point near the end of her prisoner, someone took her out and thought she was yet another pointless cross-examination. Instead, there was a camera.

“I was fine, I was asked to record a video that the food was okay and the conditions were okay,” she said. She added that it was a lie, but she did not find any harm in this. “After this video, they told me, maybe you will be replaced.”

Then she returned to her cell and waited. She dreamed of walking freely with her true feelings. But she didn’t feel much hope, so she wasn’t crushed if it didn’t happen.

More time passed until she was finally granted permission, blindly overtaking a Russian prisoner who had been exchanged for her.

A recent day in the Ukrainian capital, Tyra headed to Kieu’s archery field deep inside an abandoned Soviet-era factory. She accepted coaches and other athletes there, and she settled down for the first time since prewar days.

Her shot was aimed exactly at the paper target and hit the bullseye. However, she had to rely on her chronic injury support and she quickly got tired. She retracted into a cave-like workshop, chained smoke, smashed ashes into metal cans, and stared out the window.

Her husband, Vadim Puzanov, said Tyra remained basically the same despite three months of imprisonment and was open about what she endured.

“Probably long-term results, but she’s full of plans,” he said. “She is on the way.”

Those plans are clear and prioritized. She restores her health, participates in her next year’s Invictus Games and writes her book. This is a kind of self-help for those who want her not to need advice. She calmly smiled as she explained.

“I’m going to put together information about life in captivity,” she said. “How should they behave? How can I create conditions to make them intolerable? What is psychology?”

Asked if she was afraid of the death of a prisoner, Taira said it was a question her prison officer frequently asked, and she had a ready answer.

“I said no because I am right with God,” she told them. “But you will definitely go to hell.”


Associated Press writer Sarah El Dive contributed from Beirut.


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