A freed Ukrainian soldier testified to what she had to endure as a prisoner of war under Russian rule. “We were beaten with hammers, electrocuted, and even boiling water was poured over us,” Hanna says.
The 26-year-old lived under the yoke of the Russian occupier for more than five months. It was part of a major prisoner exchange that saw 108 Ukrainian women regain their freedom last week.
Hanna defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for a long time. “But we had to give up then, or else we would have killed the Russians,” it seemed.
This is when the nightmare really began. “The girls were beaten with hammers and electrocuted, which of course is the easiest performance of executioners. I also saw some of them hanged. And then I don’t even talk about food. You wouldn’t even give such sour food to a dog.”
When the Russians saw a tattoo, they wanted to cut it with a knife. We got boiling water everywhere because we speak Ukrainian. Because we already exist.”
Some of the women were also asked to give interviews in the Russian media. Those who refused were beaten.
In order to exchange prisoners, the whole group was transferred to Taganrog, a town near the Russian border. However, the women did not know what awaited them. “They have been telling us all the time that we will never be traded and that we will be locked up until the end of the ‘special operation.’ In the end, they said, we will be shot like dogs.” The relief came only when the women learned that only Ukrainian was spoken on the bus.
The ladies never see any of their belongings again, but they don’t care for a while. Seeing loved ones again led to tears of happiness. “I’ve dreamed so many times that I could go home again. I can’t believe he’s finally here,” Hanna concludes.
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