The legendary paramedic Yulia Paevska, call sign Taira, was captured in Mariupol on March 16. President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that she had been released on June 17.
NV explains why she is famous.
Athlete and president of the Aikido Federation
Yulia Paevska was born on December 19, 1968 in Kyiv. She graduated from the National University of Physical Education and Sports of Ukraine, has a fifth dan in Aikido, is in charge of the Mutokukai Aikido Federation of Ukraine and has taught Aikido for over 20 years.
Until 2014, Paevska worked as a designer, as well as working with ceramics, book illustrations and advertisements.
She won a gold medal in a swimming competition and a bronze medal in archery at the Invictus Games Ukraine 2018.
“The Invictus Games project is the perfect idea in my opinion,” she said in an interview with ArmyInform in 2019.
“I decided to participate in it in order to give a push and inspiration to the wounded brothers. Show that life doesn’t end with an injury. Yes, many people know me, that's why I came to participate. To support them to move forward and not to give up. So that after they watch the Games, my evacuees would join them next year. Perhaps this is how I can be useful to the country. Our bodies have all sorts of limitations, but not our spirits. The spirit is invincible. And that’s the exact slogan of the Games.”
Paramedic since Maidan
A 2018 Ukrayinska Pravda article about Paevskaya said that she learned how to apply tourniquets and dress wounds from the first grade of school. Her teacher was a school nurse who was a medical instructor during the Second World War.
“She was passionate about her work,” said Taira. “Every week she took the children from the first to the last grade – and taught them about dressings, tourniquets. Her approach was very serious.”
Taira became a paramedic on the Maidan on Dec. 1, 2013. And in March 2014, a friend called her on the phone and asked her to become an instructor in tactical medicine.
By April 2014, she had already gone to Donbas as a medic, realized that she was needed there more, and decided to stay.
Paevska led a group of doctors called Taira’s Angels. In 2018, the Ukrainian news website Ukrayinska Pravda reported that they had saved about 400 lives.
The publication reported that over the four years of the war, almost a hundred people became the "Taira’s Angels". People were working without having a financial interest, their unit as of 2018 was funded by philanthropists.
“We also take care of civilians in the conflict zone,” Paevska told Ukrayinska Pravda.
“Sometimes we take people in a very serious condition to hospital, because ambulances don’t go there, but someone has to do it. Military doctors are also gaining strength, which is good. I think they won't need us soon. I'll be glad. Maybe then I’ll join the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Her group also rescued wounded militants.
“I also take care of them, I make sure that everything is well,” she explained. “I can’t say that I have strong feelings for the separatists, but when you cut off the clothes from the wounded, you just see a wounded man in need of help while he is screaming how hurt he is. They also fill our exchange fund. If we keep them alive we can exchange them for our people in captivity.”
In November 2019, Taira signed a contract with the Armed Forces of Ukraine. At that time, she said that the number of people rescued by her unit was more than 500. Also at that time, she had trained more than 8,000 people in tactical medicine.
During one combat evacuation, Paevska injured her hip joints.
“While I was loading a very big wounded man into the car, I clumsily turned around, fell and could not get up,” she said. “I had to have both hip joints replaced. Got one titanium endoprosthesis installed, and then the second one later. I was fulfilling the doctor's orders and was on crutches for two months. Although I was ready to drop them earlier.”
Capture at the beginning of a full-scale war
After the start of a full-scale Russian invasion, Taira evacuated the wounded in Mariupol. On March 13, she posted the last message on her Facebook page before her captivity.
“Sorry I have no makeup,” she said, commenting on her picture.
On March 16, Paevska was taken prisoner in Mariupol.
“During these days, she helped hundreds of wounded civilians, because most of our ambulances were fired upon,” volunteer Oksana Korchinska said about Paevska after she was captured. “Civilian ambulances in Mariupol couldn’t go to pick up the wounded.”
On June 8, Taira's husband and daughter, during the evening show “Vechir with Ukraine” on the Ukrayina television channel said that they didn’t know any details about her.
“She has asthma, two prostheses in her hip joints, and her thyroid gland has also been removed,” said Taira’s daughter, Anna-Sofia. “She has to take hormones constantly. We doubt that she is being provided with the medical care she needs.”
Her husband added that propagandists on Russian television portrayed Taira as a monster, accusing her of brutal murders and harvesting human organs for sale.
While Tyra was in captivity, her daughter took part in the Invictus Games in her stead and won a bronze in novice archery.
On May 20, the Associated Press released a video taken with Taira's chest cam in early March 2022.
In the video, Taira helps people and shows the consequences of the attacks of the invaders on Mariupol. There is also a part where Russian invaders are taken prisoners. In response to the questions of local residents, about whether the prisoners will be given medical treatment, she says “yes.”
The release of Paevska on June 17 was announced in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s nightly video address to the nation.
“Taira is already at home. And we will continue to work to release everyone else,” he said.