Ukraine POW, former army medic Yulia ‘Taira’ Paievska describes horror torture in speech to Sydney paramedics

  • Published November 22, 2023
  • Industries, 22 November 2023

A Ukrainian army medic who was captured by Russian soldiers has detailed the three months of abuse and torture she was subjected to.

A former Ukrainian army medic and prisoner-of-war has detailed the horror conditions she survived while she was tortured and imprisoned in a Russian prison for three months.

Yulia ‘Taira’ Paievska was captured after Russian forces besieged the Ukrainian port town of Mariupol in March 2022, where she was serving as a volunteer medic on the front line. She was then held captive, and tortured for three months before she was released in a prisoner-of-war exchange.

Speaking to paramedics at the Health Services Union’s Sydney headquarters in Sydney, Ms Paievska said she required a total of six surgeries once she was released, including an operation on her spine during this year’s Invictus Games, which meant she was no longer wheelchair bound.

“They actually torture us, and it’s beyond any comprehension of good or evil because of the lengths they go to,” she said, speaking through a translator.

“I thought that this was impossible in the 21st century but it turned out it was very possible.”

Ms Paievska also described the horrific effects of being denied vital daily hormone medication, which she required as a result of having her thyroid removed 15 years earlier.

Withdrawal from the hormone replacement pills leads to symptoms like severely increased anxiety and depression, sensitivity to cold, increase the risk of blood clots, heart attacks and stroke, and even lead to a coma.

“As someone in the medical field, I knew what was coming and I knew how awful that could have been. You’re just losing your mind,” she said.

While she managed to sneak a small supply in her pocket prior to being captured, Ms Paievska was forced to ration the medication, until her captives returned her medication after 10 days. Had this not happened, she said she would have contemplated suicide.

“If they didn’t return those pills, the effects would have been drastic,” she said.

“It was only after I started screaming at them (to) either given to me or shoot me now, (that) they actually gave (me back the pills).

“I think I would have committed suicide. I wouldn’t be waiting for the symptoms to start kicking in.”

She said Ukrainian medics and paramedics were specifically tortured until they were willing to admit to “idiotic” claims like they were “dealing in organ trafficking” while on the front line, and other things that “don’t make sense”.

“You would all know here what type of conditions you need to have in order to extract an organ … but these are types of the accusations that the Russians had wanted (us) to admit to,” she said.

Also at the speech, Ukraine Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko renewed calls for the international community to continue to support Ukraine.

“Some of the challenges we have to deal with are (more) enormous than they ever were,” he said.

“The Russians are destroying our infrastructure, electricity distribution, hitting our hospitals and schools. As we are getting to the winter, it’s going to be even more difficult for us.”