Hacking death: how paramedics save the lives of others at the risk of their own

Film directors, designers, and civil servants… People of different occupations, without medical education, who had to retrain and embark on the path of saving lives. All because of the aggressive war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

Hacking death: how paramedics save the lives of others at the risk of their own

The war in Ukraine began in 2014. First, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, and then fighting broke out in the East of the country in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Ukrainian army was not ready for such a development, it lacked the basics. This was the reason for the appearance of a strong volunteer movement in Ukraine. Here, everyone did what they did best: someone provided the military with food, someone sought ammunition for the Armed Forces, someone volunteered for the army, and someone saved lives in the newly created volunteer paramedical battalions. For example, Yana Zinkevych created “Hospitallers”, and Yulia Payevska – “Angels of Tyra”.

Military medics usually work on three lines. The first involves the evacuation of the wounded and dead from the battlefield. Here the task of the paramedic is to stop the bleeding, control the breathing and, most importantly, quickly bring people to a safer place, where qualified care will be provided.

The second line is ambulances. There are already people with medical education working here: doctors, paramedics, who can put in droppers or give appropriate painkillers.

And the third line is already hospitals where professionals perform operations and all the necessary manipulations for the wounded.

Most paramedic volunteers work on the front line.

“Volunteer doctors” go where no one wants to

Yevhen Titarenko, Ukrainian film director, nicknamed “Director”.

He was born in Odesa, studied in Kyiv, and had his own film studio in Yalta. But after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, he took his camera with him and went to the war zone in Eastern Ukraine. Initially as a documentary filmmaker. And then he joined the volunteer formation “Hospitallers” as a paramedic.

While in the war zone, he shot 120 hours of footage, which became the basis for the film “War for Peace.” The film was included in the lists of one of the Russian film festivals. No one has seen the film yet, but hysteria has begun among propagandists and politicians. Threats towards the organizer of the festival, accusations of the director of inciting hatred. In the end, a criminal case was opened against Yevhen Titarenko in Russia.

During 2017–2019, Yevhen Titarenko made documentaries “Dnipro – Outpost of Ukraine”, “Ways of Heroes”, “Battle for the Dnipro”, “Righteous”, “Chornobyl 35”.

In 2019–2020, thanks to a grant from the Ukrainian State Film Agency, Yevhen Titarenko was shooting the film “Evacuation”, which showed the entire path of the victims of the shelling from the line of contact to the hospital and to qualified medical care. The premiere took place in March 2021.

When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops began, Yevhen returned to his duties as a paramedic. “Our garden”, Yevhen signs a photo with his colleagues in the social network. He says the military calls them “volunteer doctors who go where no one wants to.” He was first in the Kyiv region, where the rascists committed their atrocities, and now serves in the Kharkiv region.

“We continue to evacuate the wounded, help the civilians and feed abandoned animals. Don’t t f*cking throw them away!” the Director asks in one of the posts.

He says that in modern conditions the main challenge for a paramedic is to save their own life:

– To kill a medic is a big perk for a Russian soldier,” says Yevhen Titarenko. “The death of one medic is equal to ten soldiers. After all, if there is no medicine, demoralization begins among the fighters. That’s why being a doctor is a dangerous thing today.”

The real problem for paramedics who take the wounded out of the line of contact is the lack of armored vehicles. Yevhen Titarenko showed on video a car that looks like a sieve from enemy bullets:

– In March, I recorded a video announcing a fundraiser for an armored car. The video quickly spread, gaining great popularity on the Internet. And while we were raising funds for the car, it became problematic to buy it. Because everyone somehow came to their senses: “Oh, sure, paramedics need an armored car” and rushed to buy them. Those who immediately had the funds were ahead of us. But we still managed to buy it.

Yevhen says that now it is much easier for military medics to work than in 2014–2015, because there is communication, there is transport: “The whole world helps us, if something is missing, the volunteers get it and deliver it.”

Having everything they need to work, paramedics can focus on improving their skills and abilities. Now the military medicine of Ukraine demonstrates significant achievements. Since the war has been going on for 8 years, there are many paramedics who have gained practical experience on the battlefield. Many professional doctors perform their work at a high level. “There has been an evolution in the field of military medicine,” Yevhen says. “Now they come to us from abroad to learn from our experience.”

According to Yevhen, the main thing for a paramedic is stress resistance: “It may happen that yesterday you drank tea with a person, and today the racists minced them.” It is necessary to take into account this specificity of work from the very beginning.

Becoming a paramedic, Yevhen was motivated by a desire to be involved in everything that happens in the country and at the same time be useful. That is why he chose to save lives and tell the world about it.

You have to go every time, as if it was the first time

Dmytro Subota, driver. Works with Yevhen Titarenko.Dmytro Subota, driver. Works with Yevhen Titarenko.

Working as a driver during an evacuation is no less responsible than being a paramedic:

– The driver’s job is to get from point A to point B, regardless of what is happening around: shooting or not shooting, Subota says. 

– I see everything that happens around through the windshield and rear view mirrors, and paramedics see only what happens around the wounded.

The driver’s task is to make the route safe. First of all, it is a question of light masking, as they often come for the wounded at night: “It is necessary to tape headlights, to tape all windows so that outside the work with wounded was not visible and the enemy didn’t fire the car.”

In addition, you should navigate the terrain well.

– You need to thoroughly study the road, drive confidently day and night, and know every hole. Especially at night, when you have to go with the lights off. The hardest thing is to go fast, but carefully, says Dmytro. 

– When you carry the wounded, you want not to hurt them too much, so that they are more or less comfortable, so as not to kill them.

Each departure may be the last, but we are lucky

Kateryna Halushka, 25 years old. A graduate of the Faculty of History of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She has three years of paramedical practice.

Kateryna has always been active, volunteering at a military hospital, communicating with the wounded, the military, and volunteers.

– I looked at all that pain, at their lives, and decided that I, too, should make some contribution to the victory of Ukraine. That’s why one day, when I was scrolling through a Facebook feed, I came across an ad for tactical medicine training from the Hospitallers, and I immediately decided to study. I had already heard a lot about the Hospitallers, I admired Yana Zinkevych, so I applied, and then took a 7-day course in tactical medicine, passed the theory and practiced in conditions closer to the field. It was then that I felt the need to save our soldiers. I went on the first rotation and so it began. Three years in a row.

On February 24, when Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, the question of what Kateryna should do did not arise. Until now, she worked as a civil servant, was associated with the Armed Forces. From February 24 she had to work 24/7 in Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel. Then they were transferred to the Donetsk region.

– We work on the front line. Our task is to jump to the line of contact and pick up the wounded and dead. Under fire. Sometimes there is a thought that this trip may be the last. But we are lucky.

Kateryna says that when the injuries are light and there are few victims, there are no difficulties: “We work like a taxi, only in dangerous conditions.”

But when there are many wounded, and in a car that can accommodate a maximum of three people, you need to fit five and pay attention to each one, check their condition, say a good word, then it is very difficult: “You understand that your algorithm will define someone’s life.”

The most difficult thing for Kateryna is the evacuation of civilians.

– The soldiers’ wounds are logical, no matter how cynical it may sound. They are at war, this is their job. And civilians do not hold weapons, do not command battalions, do not show aggression. They suffer only because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. At such moments, sometimes you think that it could be someone close to you, who is in the rear. And I am still “lucky”: I never took out wounded or dead children.

Three years of service as a paramedic had a severe effect on Kateryna’s psychological condition. A year ago, she sought help from a psychotherapist due to an exacerbation of PTSD.

– I could not fall asleep, because the night is associated with danger. Constant lack of sleep, in turn, affected the state of health. Chronic anxiety appeared, followed by muscle spasms, stomach cramps, nausea, I could not eat properly. There are irritability and aggression your family can suffer from. At the beginning of January the therapy ended, I felt relief and here on February 24… This is the most difficult period in three years. This is a completely different war. Mass use of artillery, tanks, armored personnel carriers. More serious injuries.

A separate blow for Kateryna was a personal loss: “During the rotation near Mariupol, a man I love died. Another person very close to me was blocked at Azovstal. Now his fate is unknown.

For the past two months, while Kateryna has been on rotation, she says she has learned to stay in control.

– The main thing is a cold head. You exclude all emotions. You think of step-by-step tasks that you have to do. You don’t make ill-considered decisions, you don’t think it hurts. The main task is to save a person’s life so that no one feels what I felt when the body of my beloved man was brought to me. So that no one would feel what his mother felt. I realize that iI possess the chance to get home, even a wounded but alive soldier, and everything else fades into the background.

To become a good paramedic, you need to think that you are not facing a person, but you have a task. Work out like on a mannequin. Purely by algorithm.

During this rotation, Kateryna improved her knowledge of paramedicine. She was first appointed commander of the entire team. This is a completely new experience and new challenges.

Now Kateryna has returned home for a re-rotation, and this is also difficult, because the emotions she had been holding back for a long time began to manifest, because time and opportunities appeared to them.

Tyra and her angels

Yulia Payevska was born on December 19, 1968.

Yulia’s friend Vasylisa-Yevheniya Zharikova-Kvyatkovska characterizes her as a creative person. Yulia created designs for book covers, worked in computer graphics.

Yulia loves to work on the ground and plant various greenery.

– Wherever she was, she always planted something, says a friend. 

– She dreamed of creating a garden of continuous flowering. I asked her, “Why do you need these flowers during the war?” And she said that it switches her, reboots.

According to a friend, Yulia perfectly sewed and embroidered, and professionally engaged in ceramics, interior design.

The path to paramedic began for Yulia Payevska with the Revolution of Dignity.

“Participation in Euromaidan was natural for us,” said Yulia’s husband Vadym Puzanov. 

– We were active participants in both the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity. My daughter was still young then, so we took turns with her at home.”

Since Yulia worked as an Aikido coach and had some knowledge of first aid, she joined the Maidan doctors. Then she was invited to take courses in tactical medicine.

As a tacmed instructor, Julia realized that her knowledge and skills were needed at the front.

Julia created a volunteer group “Angels of Tyra”, which is engaged in the evacuation of the wounded from the collision zone.

The nickname Tyra appeared by accident. Back in peacetime, Yulia Payevska played the computer game World of Warcraft, where you had to name your character. The game offered its options, among them was Tyra. It moved Yulia. Tyra is an ancient family in Japan, and the spirit of Eastern philosophy feels close to her. 

The mission is to save lives

– Yulia is a fighter, a warrior for life, says Vadim Puzanov. – Her character is not easy. But which of the soldiers has a simple character? Needless to say about her humanity. What she does speaks for itself. She does not divide people into our own and strangers, she helps everyone: our soldiers, civilians, even captured Russians. She saves lives. And she sees her mission in this. That is why she was born.

Sport as a lifestyle

Yulia Payevska was seriously involved in swimming, archery, and Aikido. Aikido is not just a sport. This is a philosophy and a way of life. Tyra has 5 dan. She is the president of the Mutokukai-Ukraine Aikido Federation.

Professional sports and physical activity during the evacuation of the wounded seriously affected the joints. One day, pulling out one of the wounded, Tyra fell. After this case, it turned out that she needed surgery to replace the hip joints. And a few months after Tyra returned to training. Yulia came to the gym on crutches and was very happy that thanks to sports her body recovered quickly.

She is the only woman to become a member of the Ukrainian national team in the Invictus Games and one of four women in the Warrior Games, a competition for veterans and the military with disabilities. She has already won a gold medal in swimming and a bronze medal in archery at the national stage of the competition and was to take part in international competitions in The Hague. Tyra planned to take part in three sports: swimming, powerlifting, and archery.

Participation in this year’s competition was very important for her. Especially since in 2020 and 2021 the competition was canceled due to the covid pandemic. All hope was for 2022…

Captivity and propaganda

On March 16, the Russians captured Tyra. Tyra took part in the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.

– I have no opportunity to ask the person who was in a scene what happened there,  Vadym Puzanov says. – Based on the information I have, we can assume that Yulia evacuated women and children. They were stopped at a checkpoint near the village of Mangush near Mariupol. She and her driver were detained by the enemies who happily announced that they had caught the famous neo-Nazi.

Russian propaganda portrays Ukrainians as monsters who commit atrocities.

Yulia is best suited for such purposes. She is quite famous, she has awards, such as “People’s Hero”. She has recognition and achievements. It is useful for these propaganda purposes.

Tyra seemed to feel the danger and managed to pass a flash drive with video from the chest camera with the events in Mariupol to journalists of the Associated Press. The video shows the events that took place in Mariupol. Journalists made a clip from the video and made it public.

In one of the videos she is asking the Russian prisoner: “What have we done wrong to you, sunshine?” In another shot, a civilian woman asks if they will treat the Russians, and Tyra replies that “it will be necessary because they are prisoners of war.”

One of the accusations of Tyra made by Russian propagandists is that she is the chief of the Azov regiment.

– She was never a member of the Azov Regiment, says Vadym Puzanov. – It is easy to prove. She was no longer even in the military. Thus, from 2018 to 2020 she was the commander of the evacuation department of 61 mobile hospitals in Mariupol. But after the contract ended, she worked exclusively as a volunteer. And the fact that she has a photo with Azov, she has photos with a lot of people. And if she took the wounded out of the battlefield, it is logical that there could be Azov soldiers.

When the material was being prepared for publication, it became known that Yulia Payevska had been released from captivity. The long negotiation operation initiated by the country’s government yielded positive results. In a video message, Tyra thanked Volodymyr Zelensky for her release. Details have not yet been disclosed.

Tyra herself posted her first post on social media.

I will not take a selfie yet


My weight is now about 50 kg

I’m too exhausted and look awful

But I am taken care of by the best doctors and I will return to work soon

Again and again I want to thank you for the exchange, which was undoubtedly a miracle of the Lord, and all involved in this miracle

What hurts me the most is the fate of the boys and girls sitting in the prisons of the enemy – when you think there is no hope, and Ukraine no longer exists as a state.

It is necessary to ensure that all prisoners are protected by the International Convention on Human Rights, because when we are there, we are completely powerless as slaves.

We are not given any transfers, we do not have any information about the family, medical care is not available

The conditions of detention are reminiscent of a concentration camp, and I would not be very surprised to find myself once in a gas van. And I’m not kidding, unfortunately.

And that’s only a small percentage of what’s going on in the stone bags along the line of contact.

This topic is painful and acute.

All prisoners must be released.

It is necessary to develop a control system and an exchange algorithm

I am currently in a safe place under the supervision of the best doctors.

I’ll be back soon, but I need to regain my strength

Thank you for your prayers and help!

May the peace be upon you

Together we will overcome everything

We follow the events. To be continued…

Details of “Hospitallers”

Yevhen Titarenko 

Share this page
facebook twitter linkedin telegram viber whats-app envelope copy