Prince Harry inspired Ukrainian medic, 53, to keep fighting in war after she was tortured by Russians during three-month captivity
- Volunteer paramedic Yulia Paievska, 53, was kidnapped by Russian on March 16
- She was in humanitarian corridor in Mariupol when Russian forces seized her
- Ms Paievska spent three months in captivity and endured beatings and torture
- Her daughter raised her mother’s plight with Prince Harry at Invictus Games
- She was later freed in a prisoner exchange and received a call from the prince
A Ukrainian medic who was tortured and held captive by Russian forces for three months says a phone call from Prince Harry after her release inspired her to ‘continue fighting’ for her country.
Volunteer paramedic Yulia Paievska, 53, was kidnapped by Russian soldiers in March while she was heading to treat injured members of public after a bomb attack on a theatre in Mariupol.
Ms Paievska, a member of Ukraine’s team for the Invictus Games, received a phone call from the Duke of Sussex one week after she was released by her captors. She said he spoke ‘strongly and sincerely’ about the conflict in Ukraine.
‘He simply inspired me to continue to fight,’ said Ms Paievska. ‘He said that he supports Ukraine and all of us.’
Volunteer paramedic Yulia Paievska, 53, was kidnapped by Russian soldiers in March while she was heading to treat injured members of public after a bomb attack on a theatre in Mariupol
Ms Paievska, a member of Ukraine’s team for the Invictus Games (pictured here at a training event) received a phone call from the Duke of Sussex a week after she was released by her captors
Despite the trauma of her captivity, Ms Paievska says she is determined to carry on assisting Ukraine as it defends itself from continued Russian aggression.
She initially retrained as a paramedic in 2014 to help as tensions arose in the eastern Donbas region and founded Tayra’s Angels, the volunteer ambulance corps.
Within her home country, Ms Paievska has risen to fame after treating 500 Ukrainian soldiers in the Dombas as well as training 8,000 people in tactical medicine.
She and a colleague were driving an ambulance through an humanitarian corridor in Mariupol on March 16 when they were ambushed by Russian troops, who considered her a high profile target.
Ms Paievska soon found herself in solitary confinement with just half a glass of water to drink each day and no treatment for her thyroid and asthma conditions. She was later moved into a women’s cell measuring 10ft by 20ft, where she says the captives were routinely beaten and tortured with electricity.
She said: ‘I had absolutely no information about what was happening in the outside world, I didn’t even know if my family was alive or if my house had survived because the Russians were already in Kyiv when we left.’
Ms Paievska said she was ‘grateful’ to Prince Harry (pictured with wife Meghan) and that her interrogation and torture stopped after her daughter raised her plight during the Invictus Games
Volunteer paramedic Yulia Paievska, 53, was kidnapped by Russian soldiers in March while she was heading to treat injured members of public after a bomb attack on a theatre in Mariupol. Pictured: The destroyed theatre in Mariupol
According to Ms Paievska, the Russian guards fed prisoners false information that Ukraine was losing the war and the rest of the world had failed to intervene, proving nothing more than ‘rusty weapons’.
In order to preserve her physical and mental health, she says she stuck to a daily regimen of ab crunches, yoga and meditation to survive.
While her was detained, her 19-year-old daughter Anna-Sofia Puzanova competed in her place in archery at the Invictus Games, winning a bronze medal.
The young woman also raised her mother’s plight with the board of Invictus Games, which led to a phone call from Prince Harry upon her mother’s release.
Ms Paievska added: ‘I am very grateful to Prince Harry because it was after the Invictus Games… that the Russians stopped interrogating and torturing me. I think spreading the word to the whole world influenced their decision to trade me in a prisoner exchange.’