Ukraine pays tribute to the Russian woman who fought for her side

KYIV, Ukraine – An honor guard fired three shots into the cloudy sky as friends and comrades gathered in Kyiv to bid farewell to a Russian woman who was killed fighting on the Ukrainian side in the war with her homeland. she.

Olga Simonova, 34, was remembered for her courage and kindness at a funeral in the Ukrainian capital on Friday.

Simonova’s coffin is covered with the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, with a cuddly toy lion on top. Her guerrilla name is “Simba”, like the main character in the Disney cartoon “The Lion King”.

Just days before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Simonova spoke to the Associated Press in a trench in the Donbas region, where she served for years alongside Ukrainian soldiers. fighting against the Russian-backed separatists.

Born in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, Simonova is very athletic and excels in both rock climbing and karate. She said she was always proud to play for Russia.

But she began to feel uncomfortable about her homeland after reading about Russia’s war in Chechnya and its actions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

With doubts that she “will be able to raise the flag of my country, my homeland” again, Simonova made a life-changing decision. She came to Ukraine to join the conflict in the Donbas on the Ukrainian side, first as a volunteer fighter, then as a medical worker and finally as an enlisted member of the Armed Forces.

“I have the inner feeling that I can handle it and that what I am doing is right and necessary, because I cannot turn a blind eye to the situation,” she said. “I only had to buy a one-way ticket. I bought it and I left”.

Simonova said she never hid her Russian roots from her colleagues and earned their trust by demonstrating her commitment to Ukraine on the battlefield. In 2017, she received Ukrainian citizenship.

She became a sergeant and was given command of infantry and artillery units.

Friends and colleagues say Simonova, who is unmarried and has no children, recently redeployed from the east to the southern Kherson region, where Ukraine has launched a counter-offensive against Russian forces. They say she died on September 13, after her car hit a landmine.

Dmytro Karabinovskyi, her former commander and friend, said: “She is not only respected as a commander, but also as a person.

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