"22 women in a tiny cell" – paramedic Tayra opens up about Russian captivity
2 July, 2022

Ukrainian volunteer and paramedic Yulia Payevska with the call sign "Tayra" said that the Russian occupiers kept her and other captive women in terrible conditions. Despite everything, most Ukrainian women prisoners of war behaved with dignity, she said in an interview for Deutsche Welle.

The volunteer said that she was detained, in particular, in the Donetsk remand prison where many of Ukrainian prisoners remained.

"The food is more or less bearable – you cannot starve to death. But in the last week, they didn't even give us soap. That is, there are 22 women in a cell, a cell three by six meters, ten beds. Others also did not have any information about their family and children. Their psychological state was simply terrible. But most of them behaved very decently," said Tayra.

According to her, there were Ukrainian women from the ranks of the Armed Forces and the National Guard, and girls from the Azov Regiment in captivity. In addition, the occupiers keep captive a female doctor in her seventh month of pregnancy.

All this time, the volunteer had one set of underwear and was without access to telephone and medical assistance.

"At one later time, a paramedic helped me, and it was very decent of her, but only once. I will not talk about the torture and psychological impact – although it was terrible – until the investigation is completed," Yulia said.

According to her, the occupiers allowed them to sleep from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., but in reality they went to sleep later and were woken up earlier. You could sit only on small benches, where all 22 women would not fit: "A maximum of six thin girls can sit there. You have to change and it is constantly checked so that you are not sitting. If you sit down, they punish you – first they shout, and then they can come in and do something."

Tayra saw bodily injuries on some of the captives. In addition, the volunteer spoke about the "terrible moral condition" of the prisoners, most of whom do not have psychological training. Yulia herself believes that she was able to stay in "more or less good condition" thanks to her good physical condition and Ukraine's support.

"The fact that I felt that Ukraine exists, and I was very supported by the information. All three months very, very rarely – maybe once every two weeks – information came from the combat theater [...] The understanding that my country is so victorious, so cool that it resists this monster, supported me. I also felt that many people supported me, I felt this strength. I thank everyone," said Yulia.

Release from captivity

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said on June 17 that Ukraine managed to free Tayra, who had been held captive by the occupiers since March.

The president did not specify when exactly Payevska was released from captivity. "I am grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Tayra is already home. We will continue to work to get everyone out," Zelensky summed up.

More about Tayra

By education, Yulia Payevska is an aikido trainer and designer. However, since the beginning of the war in Donbas, she helped the wounded as a paramedic.

There, Tayra formed her own evacuation team called "Tayra's Angels". According to "ArmyInform", as of 2019 alone, it saved over 500 Ukrainian soldiers.

Since 2020, Tayra has been a member of the Ukrainian national team "Invictus Games". She was also awarded a number of state awards (National Hero of Ukraine, award of the President of Ukraine "For humanitarian participation in the anti-terrorist operation").