Ukraine honors Olga Simonova, Russian girl who fought on its facet within the battle – PBS NewsHour

By | October 24, 2022

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An honor guard fired a three-gun salute towards cloudy skies as pals and comrades-in-arms gathered in Kyiv to bid farewell to a Russian girl who was killed whereas preventing on Ukraine’s facet within the battle together with her native nation.
Olga Simonova, 34, was remembered for her braveness and kindness at a funeral within the Ukrainian capital on Friday.
Simonova’s coffin was draped within the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag, with a cuddly toy lion on high. Her nom de guerre was “Simba,” like the principle character within the Disney cartoon “The Lion King.”
Only a few days earlier than Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Simonova spoke to the The Related Press in a trench within the Donbas area, the place she had served for years alongside Ukrainian troopers preventing towards Russian-backed separatists.
Born within the Russian metropolis of Chelyabinsk, Simonova had a eager curiosity in sports activities and excelled in each mountaineering and karate. She mentioned she was all the time proud to compete for Russia.
However she began feeling uncomfortable about her native nation after studying about Russia’s battle in Chechnya and its actions in Ukraine’s jap Donbas area and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
WATCH: Folks in liberated Ukrainian city recount harrowing tales of Russian occupation
Crammed with doubts that she “would ever be capable to elevate the flag of my nation, my homeland” once more, Simonova made a life-changing choice. She travelled to Ukraine to affix the battle within the Donbas on the Ukrainian facet, first as a volunteer fighter, then a paramedic and in the end as an enlisted member of the Armed Forces.
“I had this inside feeling that I may deal with it and that what I used to be doing was proper and essential, as a result of I can’t flip a blind eye to the state of affairs,” she mentioned. “I simply had to purchase a one-way ticket. I purchased it and I left.”
Simonova mentioned she by no means hid her Russian origin from her colleagues and gained their belief by displaying her dedication to Ukraine on the battlefield. In 2017 she acquired Ukrainian citizenship.
She grew to become a sergeant and was given command of each infantry and artillery items.
Mates and colleagues mentioned Simonova, who was single and had no youngsters, had lately redeployed from the east to the southern Kherson area, the place Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive towards Russian forces. They mentioned she died on Sept. 13, after her car hit a land mine.
“She was revered not solely as a commander, however as an individual,” mentioned Dmytro Karabinovskyi, her former commander and pal.
Left: A Ukrainian serviceman reacts subsequent to a coffin with the physique of his sister-in-arm Olga Simonova, who give up Russia in 2014 to struggle for Ukraine and was lately killed by Russian troops in Donetsk area, throughout a funeral ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 16, 2022. Photograph by Vladyslav Misiienko/Reuters
By Nick Schifrin, Alexis Cox
By Nick Schifrin, Dan Sagalyn
By Nick Schifrin, Volodymyr Solohub, Teresa Cebrian Aranda
By Elena Becatoros, Hanna Arhirova, Related Press
By Elena Becatoros, Hanna Arhirova, Related Press

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